("There is thus a lack of certainty with respect to state
application of [the 1995 PCRA amendments.] This lack of certainty
requires dismissal of the petition."); Peterson, 1998 WL 470139,
at *6 (August 11, 1998) (same). Only recently have the state courts
interpreted the 1995 amendments to the PCRA conclusively enough
that federal courts do not have to dismiss habeas petitions that
seem to be barred by the text of the 1995 amendments. See Lines v
Larkins, 208 F.3d at 164 (3d Cir. 2000) ("[I]t is now clear that
the one year limitation applies to all PCRA petitions including a
second petition, no matter when the first was filed."); Holman v.
Gillis, 58 F. Supp. 587, 594-96 (July 21, 1999).
C. AEDPA's Statute of Limitations Is Tolled Due To Pendency of
Petitioner's 1996 PCRA Petition.
It would be patently unfair if the federal statute of limitations
ran during the time in which Petitioner was not allowed to bring a
federal petition. Accordingly, AEDPA's statute of limitations was
equitably tolled while Petitioner's second PCRA petition was
pending from November 27, 1996 to July 29, 1999.
Petitioner's sentence was life without the possibility of parole
and was imposed when he was only seventeen years old. In applying
equitable tolling in a capital case, the third circuit stated, "In
a capital case such as this, the consequences of error are
terminal, and we therefore pay particular attention to whether
principles of `equity would make rigid application of a limitation
period unfair' and whether petitioner has `exercised reasonable
diligence in investigating and bringing [the] claims.'" Fahy v.
Horn, 240 F.3d 239, 245 (3d Cir. 2001) (citing Miller, 145 F.3d at
618). The Fahy court went on to state, "We elect to exercise
leniency under the facts of this capital case where there is no
evidence of abuse of process." Fahy, 240 F.3d at 245. Similarly,
this case calls for leniency since the consequence facing
Petitioner, the certainty of spending age seventeen until his life
ends in prison, is extremely grave. Should the court not toll
AEDPA's statute of limitations, then Petitioner will have to spend
life in prison without being allowed federal review of his claims.
See Fahy, 240 F.3d at 245. Accordingly, this court finds that
extraordinary circumstances exist in this case and that AEDPA's
one-year statute of limitations was equitably tolled while
Petitioner's PCRA petition was pending.
This court finds that Petitioner was entitled to statutory tolling
and equitable tolling while his PCRA petition was pending. Because
Petitioner's conviction became final before the enactment of
AEDPA, he had one year from April 24, 1996, excluding the period
in which the statute equitably tolled, to file his federal habeas
petition. See Burns, 134 F.3d at 111.
The federal statute of limitations ran from April 24, 1996 (the
date of the enactment of AEDPA) to November 26, 1996 (the day
before petitioner filed his PCRA petition) and from July 30, 1999
(the day after the Pennsylvania Supreme Court declined to review
the Pennsylvania Superior Court denial of his PCRA petition) until
late December, 1999 when Petitioner filed his federal habeas
petition. Given the one year statute of limitations, Petitioner
had until December 24, 1999 to file his federal
Petitioner dated his federal habeas petition December 22, 1999.
The clerk of the court marked Petitioner's petition as filed on
December 27, 1999. The prison mailbox rule states that the
petition is deemed filed when a prisoner gives his petition to
prison officials. See Burns, 134 F.3d at 113. Since the
Commonwealth does not argue otherwise, this court assumes
Petitioner gave his petition to prison officials by December 24,
1999 making his federal habeas petition timely filed.
AND NOW, this 7th day of June 2001, upon consideration of
Petitioner's objections to the report and recommendation of
Magistrate Judge M. Faith Angell, and the Commonwealth's response
thereto, it is hereby ORDERED that the report and recommendation
is DISAPPROVED. This court will proceed with consideration of the
merits of the petition.
The Supreme Court has recognized the special gravity of life
without the possibility of parole, noting that the sentence "is
far more severe" than a life sentence and that only "capital
punishment . . . exceeds it." Solem v. Helm,
463 U.S. 277, 297 (1983).
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