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Edwards v. Mazzuca

October 15, 2007


The opinion of the court was delivered by: Richard J. Sullivan, District Judge


Charles Edwards (hereinafter "petitioner" or "Edwards") petitions this Court for a writ of habeas corpus, pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2254, challenging his conviction in state court. In a judgment rendered on February 9, 1994, following a jury trial in the Supreme Court of the State of New York, Bronx County, Edwards was convicted of six counts of rape in the third-degree, eight counts of sodomy in the first-degree, and two counts of sexual abuse in the first-degree, all arising from sexual misconduct involving his daughter. By order dated March 13, 2007, the Honorable Kevin Nathaniel Fox, Magistrate Judge, to whom this matter had been referred for review, issued a Report and Recommendation (the "Report"), a copy of which is attached hereto, recommending that this Court deny petitioner's application for a writ of habeas corpus. On May 8, 2007, petitioner submitted a twenty-five page document setting forth his objections to the Report. For the reasons stated below, the Court denies petitioner's application for a writ of habeas corpus.

I. Background

The facts and procedural history underlying the instant petition are set forth in detail in the Report. The Court presumes the parties' familiarity with the Report and the information recited therein.

II. Standard of Review

The Court may accept, reject, or modify, in whole or in part, the findings and recommendations of a magistrate judge. See, e.g., Silva v. Peninsula Hotel, -- F. Supp. 2d -- , No. 05 Civ. 8261 (RJH)(TJK), 2007 WL 2694616, at *1 (S.D.N.Y. Sept. 13, 2007); DeLuca v. Lord, 858 F. Supp. 1330, 1345 (S.D.N.Y.1994). As to those portions of a report to which no "specific, written objection" is made, the Court may accept the findings contained therein, as long as the factual and legal bases supporting the findings are not clearly erroneous. See Fed. R. Civ. P. 72(b); Thomas v. Arn, 474 U.S. 140, 149 (1985); Greene v. WCI Holdings Corp., 956 F. Supp. 509, 513 (S.D.N.Y.1997). As to those portions of a report to which specific written objections are made, the Court reviews such findings de novo. See Fed. R. Civ. P. 72(b); Hynes v. Squillace, 143 F.3d 653, 656 (2d Cir.1998); United States v. Male Juvenile, 121 F.3d 34, 38 (2d Cir.1997). However, if "the party 'makes only conclusory or general objections, or simply reiterates his original arguments, the Court reviews the Report and Recommendation only for clear error.'" Silva, 2007 WL 2694616, at *1 (quoting Sanchez v. Dankert, No. 03 Civ. 2276 (LTS), 2004 WL 439502, at *1 (S.D.N.Y. Mar. 9, 2004)); accord Johnson v. City Univ. of New York, No. 00 CV 4964 (WK), 2003 WL 21435469, at *1 (S.D.N.Y. June 19, 2003); Greene, 956 F. Supp. at 513.

III. Discussion

Here, the Court has, pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1)(B), reviewed de novo all portions of the Report to which plaintiff specifically objects, and reviewed the remainder of the Report for clear error. Thus, having reviewed the full record, including, among other things, the petition, the parties' respective submissions, the Report, applicable law, and petitioner's objections, the Court, for the following reasons, rejects petitioner's objections and adopts the Report in its entirety. Furthermore, for the reasons stated in the Report as well as the reasons stated herein, the Court denies the instant petition for habeas corpus relief.

A. The First and Eighth Objections

In his first and eighth objections, petitioner asserts that the magistrate judge erred by failing to "accept all of [petitioner's] claims as true and attribute all reasonable inferences in [petitioner's] favor." (Pet.'s Obj. at 4-5.) In support, petitioner cites to a portion of a decision by the Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit regarding vacating and remanding a district court's denial of a pro se litigant's motion to vacate a commercial arbitration. (Id. at 5 (citing Dluhas v. Strasberg, 321 F.3d 365, 369 (3d Cir. 2003).) For the following reasons, the Court rejects petitioner's argument as to the standard of review to be applied to the instant petition for habeas relief.

While it is true that, as a pro se litigant, petitioner's submissions should be liberally construed to present the strongest arguments possible, see, e.g., Williams v. Philips, No. 03 Civ. 3319 (KMW)(FM), 2007 WL 2710416, at *1 (S.D.N.Y. Sept. 17, 2007), this Court is under no obligation to accept petitioner's federal habeas claims "as true" or to draw "all reasonable inferences" in petitioner's favor. (Pet's Obj. ¶¶ 3-5, 26-27.) Instead, as noted in the Report, Congress has specifically prescribed a far more deferential standard of review for federal habeas challenges to state-court convictions. Pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2254(d)(1), as amended by the Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act ("AEDPA"), Pub. L. No 104-132, 110 Stat. 1214, a writ of habeas corpus "shall not be granted with respect to any claim that was adjudicated on the merits in State court . . . unless the adjudication of the claim . . . resulted in a decision that was contrary to, or involved an unreasonable application of, clearly established Federal law . . . ." 28 U.S.C. § 2254(d)(1). As such, "'a federal habeas court may not issue the writ simply because that court concludes in its independent judgment that the relevant state-court decision applied clearly established federal law erroneously or incorrectly. Rather, that application must also be unreasonable.'" Gilchrist v. O'Keefe, 260 F.3d 87, 93 (2d Cir. 2001) (quoting Williams v. Taylor, 529 U.S. 362, 411 (2000)). In other words, in order to grant habeas corpus relief, a district court must determine that the state-court decision contained "'[s]ome increment of incorrectness beyond error.'" Id. (quoting Francis S. v. Stone, 221 F.3d 100, 111 (2d Cir. 2000)) (emphasis supplied). As such, it is beyond doubt that the standard of review advanced by petitioner is inapplicable to the instant action. Accordingly, because the magistrate judge properly applied the AEDPA standard in reviewing the instant petition, the Court rejects petitioner's objections to the Report on that basis.

B. The Second, Third, and Fourth Objections

Petitioner's second, third, and fourth objections assert that, in the "Background" section of the Report, the magistrate judge failed to accurately recite certain facts relating to petitioner's filings in state court and to state court orders addressing such filings. (Pet.'s Obj. ¶¶ 6-17; Report at 1-10.) However, having reviewed de novo that portion of the Report as well as the portions of the record referenced therein, the Court finds that the Report offers an accurate description of the factual background and procedural history underlying the instant petition.

Thus, the Court rejects each of these objections as a basis to revisit any of the findings ...

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