The opinion of the court was delivered by: JAMES McCLURE JR., District Judge
Robert Allan Smith filed this pro se habeas corpus action
pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2254 with respect to convictions and/or
sentences which occurred in Cumberland, York, Dauphin and Perry
counties. Service of the petition was previously ordered. Smith
has notified the Court that he was granted parole effective
September 7, 2004. See Record document no. 24.
By Memorandum and Order dated April 18, 2005, this Court denied
Respondents' respective arguments that this matter should be
dismissed for the Petitioner's failure to fully exhaust state
court remedies. The Memorandum additionally directed the Respondents to file supplemental
responses which in part should address the question of whether
Smith still satisfied the in custody requirement of
28 U.S.C. § 2254(a). On May 12, 2005, this Court denied requests for
dismissal on the basis that Petitioner no longer satisfied the in
custody requirement due to his release on parole. See Record
document no. 32.
Petitioner states that while being held in the Cumberland
County Prison, he was interviewed by detectives from Cumberland,
York, Dauphin, and Perry counties. Those law enforcement
officials purportedly promised Smith that if he admitted to his
participation in some unsolved burglaries which transpired in
those respective counties, they would make sure that all charges
against him would be consolidated into a single proceeding. Based
on that alleged promise, the Petitioner apparently confessed to
committing a number of burglaries in the four counties during a
one (1) month span. Smith notes that consolidation of criminal
charges is permissible under Pennsylvania state law even if the
offenses occurred in different counties. His present petition
contends that the law enforcement officials reneged on their
agreement and he was improperly subjected to separate criminal
prosecutions in each of the four counties.
Smith concludes that the Commonwealth's failure to consolidate
all of his pending charges violated the prohibition against
double jeopardy. He also seeks federal habeas corpus relief on the grounds that his defense
attorneys provided ineffective assistance by not requesting that
all of the pending criminal charges be consolidated into a single
"The Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act of 1996
modified a federal habeas court's role in reviewing state
prisoner applications in order to prevent federal habeas
`retrials' and to ensure that state-court convictions are given
effect to the extent possible under law." Bell v. Cone,
535 U.S. 685, 693 (2002). Specifically, when a federal-law issue has
been adjudicated on the merits by a state court, the federal
court reverses only when the decision was contrary to, or
involved an unreasonable application of, clearly established
Federal law, as determined by the United States Supreme Court.
28 U.S.C. § 2254(d)(1).*fn1
See generally, Gattis v.
Snyder, 278 F.3d 222
, 234 (3d Cir. 2002); Moore v. Morton, 255 F.3d 95
(3d Cir. 2001). The Court has held that the "contrary to" and
"unreasonable application" clauses of § 2254(d)(1) have
independent meaning. Williams v. Taylor, 529 U.S. 362
(2000). As explicated in Bell, 535 U.S. at 694:
A federal habeas court may issue the writ under the
`contrary to' clause if the state court applies a
rule different from the governing law set forth in
our cases, or if it decides a case differently than
we have done on a set of materially indistinguishable
facts. . . . The court may grant relief under the
`unreasonable application' clause if the state court
correctly identifies the governing legal principle
from our decisions but unreasonably applies it to the
facts of the particular case. . . . The focus of the
latter inquiry is on whether the state court's
application of clearly established federal law is
objectively unreasonable. . . .
This deferential standard of review applies to state court
decisions on ineffective assistance of counsel claims. Id. at
694-98. Furthermore, resolution of factual issues by the state
courts are presumed to be correct unless the petitioner shows by
clear and convincing evidence that they are not.
28 U.S.C. § 2254(e)(1).
In summary, the appropriate inquiry for federal district courts
in reviewing the merits of § 2254 petitions is whether the state
court decisions applied a rule different from the governing law
set forth in United States Supreme Court cases, decided the case
before them differently than the Supreme Court has done on a set
of materially indistinguishable facts, or unreasonably applied Supreme Court
governing principles to the facts of the particular case. State
court factual findings may be set aside only if rebutted by clear
and convincing evidence. This Court will address Smith's claims
in accordance with the above standards.
As noted earlier, Petitioner claims that the failure of the
Commonwealth to have all his outstanding criminal charges
consolidated into a single proceeding violated the Double
Jeopardy Clause. The Double Jeopardy Clause of the Fifth
Amendment provides, "No person shall . . . be subject for the
same offense to be twice put in jeopardy of life or limb." The
Clause serves the function of preventing both "successive
punishments and successive prosecutions." United States v.
Usery, 111 S.Ct. 2135, 2139 (1996). It "prohibits the government
from punishing twice or attempting a second time to punish
criminally for the same offense." Id. at 2139-40, see also;
United States v. Rice, 109 F. 3d 151, 153 (3d Cir. 1997). The
Double Jeopardy Clause is applicable to the States through the
Fourteenth Amendment. Benton v. Maryland, 395 U.S. 784 (1969).
In Commonwealth v. MacPhail, 692 A.2d 139, 141 (Pa. 1997),
the Pennsylvania Supreme Court recognized that multiple charges
stemming from the same criminal episode, even if some of the
charges were filed in a different county, may be consolidated
into a single prosecution in order to avoid substantial
duplication and waste of judicial resources.
However, in Cicchincelli v. Shannon, 2001 WL 1352331 (E.D.
Pa. Oct. 31, 2001), the Eastern District of Pennsylvania
correctly noted that while the Double Jeopardy Clause prohibits
multiple prosecutions for the same conduct, the underlying
criminal activity must be part of a "single and uninterrupted
course of conduct." Id. at *5. The activities "must be
inherently continuous to constitute a single criminal
transaction." Id. The Eastern District concluded that a
defendant's sexual assaults of the same victim which ...