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James Robinson v. State of New Jersey

June 27, 2011

JAMES ROBINSON, PETITIONER,
v.
STATE OF NEW JERSEY, RESPONDENT.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Bumb, District Judge:

NOT FOR PUBLICATION

OPINION

Petitioner James Robinson ("Petitioner") filed the instant Petition ("Petition"), seeking a writ of habeas corpus, pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2254(a), and challenging a judgment of conviction in the Superior Court of New Jersey. Petitioner was duly given notice, pursuant to Mason v. Meyers, 208 F.3d 414 (3d Cir. 2000). For the reasons expressed below, the Court will dismiss the Petition and will decline to issue a certificate of appealability. See 28 U.S.C. §§ 2253(c), 2254(a), (b), (c).

I. STANDARD OF REVIEW

Section 2254(a) of Title 28 of the United States Code gives the court jurisdiction to entertain a habeas petition challenging a state conviction or sentence only where the inmate's custody violates federal law:

[A] district court shall entertain an application for a writ of habeas corpus in behalf of a person in custody pursuant to the judgment of a State court only on the ground that he is in custody in violation of the Constitution or laws or treaties of the United States.

28 U.S.C. § 2254(a). "In conducting habeas review, a federal court is limited to deciding whether a conviction violated the Constitution, laws, or treaties of the United States." Estelle v. McGuire, 502 U.S. 62, 67-68 (1991); 28 U.S.C. § 2254(a); accord Barry v. Bergen County Probation Dept., 128 F.3d 152, 159 (3d Cir. 1997). "Federal courts hold no supervisory authority over state judicial proceedings and may intervene only to correct wrongs of constitutional dimension." Smith v. Phillips, 455 U.S. 209, 221 (1982). "If a state prisoner alleges no deprivation of a federal right, § 2254 is simply inapplicable. It is unnecessary in such a situation to inquire whether the prisoner preserved his claim before the state courts." Engle v. Isaac, 456 U.S. 107, 120 n.19 (1982). "[E]rrors of state law cannot be repackaged as federal errors simply by citing the Due Process Clause." Johnson v. Rosemeyer, 117 F.3d 104, 110 (3d Cir. 1997). Moreover, "it is well established that a state court's misapplication of its own law does not generally raise a constitutional claim." Smith v. Horn, 120 F.3d 400, 414 (3d Cir. 1997) (citation omitted); see also Smith v. Zimmerman, 768 F.2d 69, 71, 73 (3d Cir. 1985).

A district court must give deference to determinations of state courts. See Duncan v. Morton, 256 F.3d 189, 196 (3d Cir.), cert. denied, 534 U.S. 919 (2001); Dickerson v. Vaughn, 90 F.3d 87, 90 (3d Cir. 1996). Federal courts "must presume that the factual findings of both state trial and appellate courts are correct, a presumption that can only be overcome on the basis of clear and convincing evidence to the contrary." Stevens v. Delaware Correctional Center, 295 F.3d 361, 368 (3d Cir. 2002). Where a federal claim was "adjudicated on the merits" *fn1 in state court proceedings, § 2254 does not permit habeas relief unless adjudication of the claim (1) resulted in a decision that was contrary to, or involved an unreasonable application of, clearly established Federal Law, as determined by the Supreme Court of the United States; or (2) resulted in a decision that was based on an unreasonable determination of the facts in light of the evidence presented in the State court proceeding. 28 U.S.C. § 2254(d).

A decision is "'contrary to' a Supreme Court holding if the state court 'contradicts the governing law [as it is interpreted or] set forth in [the Supreme Court's, rather than in any state court's or any circuit court's] cases' or if it 'confronts a set of facts that are materially indistinguishable from a decision of th[e Supreme] Court and nevertheless arrives at a [different] result." Williams v. Taylor, 529 U.S. 362, 405-06 (2000).

In other words, under the "'unreasonable application' clause, a federal habeas court may grant the writ if the state court identifies the correct governing legal principle from th[e Supreme] Court's decisions but unreasonably applies that principle to the facts of the prisoner's case." Id. at 413. Whether a state court's application of federal law is "unreasonable" must be judged objectively, which means that an application may be incorrect, but still not unreasonable. Id. at 409-10.

A court begins the analysis by determining the relevant clearly established law. See Yarborough v. Alvarado, 541 U.S. 652, 660 (2004). Clearly established law "refers to the holdings, as opposed to the dicta, of [the Supreme Court's] decisions as of the time of the relevant state-court decision." Williams, 529 U.S. at 412. A court must look for "the governing legal principle or principles set forth by the Supreme Court at the time the state court renders its decision." Lockyer v. Andrade, 538 U.S. 63, 71, 72 (2003).

II. BACKGROUND

A. Petitioner's Challenges

Here, Petitioner raised four Grounds, reading as follows: Ground One: NEW JERSEY CONSTITUTION, ARTICLE I, PARAGRAPH 7, REQUIRES POLICE TO EXECUTE THE WARRANT IN[]A REASONABLE MANNER.

Supporting facts: POLICE ARRIVED AT 6:30 am TO EXECUTE A KNOCK AND ANNOUNCE WARRANT. THE TACTICAL TEAM OF 13 DID NOT PROVIDE SUFFICIENT TIME TO ANSWER THE DOOR, APPROX. 20 to 30 SECONDS BEFORE FORCIBLY BREAKING THE DOOR, AND DEPLOYING A "FLASHBANG DEVICE" WITHOUT ANY UNFORSEEN EXIGENT CIRCUMSTANCES WHICH NULLIFIED THE LEGAL EFFICACY OF A KNOCK AND ANNOUNCE WARRANT, IN VIOLATION OF N.J. CONST. ART. I, PAR. 7.

Ground Two: DENIAL OF MOTION TO SUPPRESS EVIDENCE.

Supporting facts: ON JANUARY 16, 2004, POLICE CONDUCTED A KNOCK AND ANNOUNCE WARRANT WITH APPROXIMATELY 13 OFFICERS. AFTER 20 OR 30 SECONDS BROKE THE DOOR, DEPLOYED A FLASH BANG DEVICE AND ENTERED. THEY SEIZED NARCOTICS, CASH, PAPER LEDGER AND A SCALE. ON JULY 5, 2005, A[]SUPPRESSION HEARING WAS CONDUCTED TO SUPPRESS EVIDENCE FROM THE SEARCH BASED ON THE USE OF ENTRY, WHICH CONSTITUTED A VIOLATION OF MATERIAL CONDITION AND RENDERED THE SEARCH UNREASONABLE AND UNCONSTITUTIONAL.

Ground Three: UNREASONABLE SEARCH AND SEIZURE, UNITED STATES CONSTITUTIONAL AMENDMENT FOUR. Supporting facts: THE POLICE CONDUCTED A SEARCH WARRANT ON PETITIONER['] APARTMENT, WHICH THE ENTRY WAS UNREASONABLE UNDER THE CIRCUMSTANCES PRESENTED IN THE "AFFIDAVIT OF PROBABLE CAUSE." THE AFFIDAVIT REQUIRED A DECL[A]RATION OF ANY EXIGENT CIRCUMSTANCES WHICH IS WARRANTED ...


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