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Eddings v. Levan

April 20, 2006

HENRY PERNELL EDDINGS, PETITIONER
v.
THOMAS LEVAN, RESPONDENT



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Judge Caldwell

MEMORANDUM

I. Introduction

We are considering the pro se petition of Henry Pernell Eddings, an inmate at SCI-Dallas*fn1 , for a writ of habeas corpus pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2254. He has also requested that counsel be appointed to represent him. Petitioner raises the following claims in his petition: (1) that his sentence pursuant to 42 Pa.C.S.A. § 9714 violates the ex post clause of the United States and Pennsylvania constitutions; (2) that § 9714 is unconstitutionally vague; (3) that § 9714 violates the due process clause of the United State Constitution; (4) that § 9714 violates due process by failing to establish the burden of proof required to determine what is "insufficient to protect public safety" when determining a sentence; and (5) that he is exempt from the mandatary sentencing provisions because his prior convictions occurred more than seven years prior to his current conviction. For the reasons that follow, we will deny the petition.

II. Background

On June 2, 1997, Eddings was sentenced to a term of twenty-five to fifty years by the Dauphin County Court of Common Pleas stemming from a conviction for third degree murder. (Doc. 1, 2254 Petition, p. 5). On direct appeal, the Pennsylvania Superior Court found that the Court of Common Pleas should have "determine[d] whether [Eddings] was convicted of a prior crime of violence...within seven years of the date of commission of the instant offense [of murder]...." Commonwealth v. Eddings, 721 A.2d 1095, 1100 (Ps.Super. 1998). As a result, the Superior Court vacated the sentence and remanded to the Court of Common Pleas for resentencing. Id. at 1101. The Pennsylvania Supreme Court affirmed the Superior Court decision on May 21, 2001. Commonwealth v. Eddings, 565 Pa. 256, 772 A.2d 956 (Pa. 2001).

The Petitioner was resentenced in the Dauphin County Court of Common Pleas on August 8, 2001. (Doc. 14, Resp. Exs., Ex. M). The Court of Common Pleas found that, excluding the time periods when Eddings was incarcerated, on probation, or on parole, he had committed a prior crime of violence seven years before the murder for which he had been convicted. (Id.). Therefore, Eddings was again sentenced to a term of twenty-five to fifty years imprisonment. The Superior Court affirmed Petitioner's sentence on August 6, 2002. Commonwealth v. Eddings, 809 A.2d 955 (Pa.Super. 2002)(table). The Pennsylvania Supreme Court denied his petition for an allowance of appeal on February 13, 2003. Commonwealth v. Eddings, 572 Pa. 748, 816 A.2d 1102 (Pa. 2003)(table).

Eddings filed his first petition for relief under Pennsylvania's Post Conviction Relief Act (PCRA) on June 26, 2003. (Doc. 39, Resp. Supp., Ex. T). Counsel was appointed for the Petitioner and on August 8, 2003 counsel moved to withdraw arguing that Eddings claims were meritless as they had been previously litigated. (Id.). His PCRA petition was dismissed on October 7, 2003. (Id.).

On September 24, 2003, Eddings filed the instant 2254 petition. (Doc. 1, 2254 Petition). In his opposition brief, the Respondent argued that we should dismiss Eddings 2254 petition because he had only exhausted some of the claims raised in his petition. The Magistrate Judge recommended that the 2254 proceedings be stayed so that Petitioner could exhaust his state court remedies. We adopted this recommendation and stayed the proceedings.

On March 31, 2004*fn2 , Petitioner filed a second PCRA petition. (Doc. 39, Resp. Supp., Ex. T). On August 26, 2004, the PCRA court dismissed Eddings second PCRA petition. (Doc, 39, Resp. Supp., Ex. U). The Superior Court affirmed the order dismissing Petitioner's second PCRA petition on June 7, 2005, (Id. at Ex. W), and on December 30, 2005, the Supreme Court denied Eddings' request for an allowance of appeal. We lifted the stay of the 2254 proceedings on January 25, 2006 and ordered the Respondent to file any supplemental materials that would be required to resolve the instant petition. Eddings' 2254 petition is now ripe for disposition.

III. Standard of Review

28 U.S.C. § 2254 allows a person convicted of an offense by a state court to challenge their continued custody on the state offense "...on the ground that he is in custody in violation of the Constitution or laws or treaties of the United States." Thus, § 2254 is not intended to correct violations of state laws unless there is a federal constitutional violation. Smith v. Zimmerman, 768 F.2d 69, 71 (3d Cir. 1985). In order to seek relief under § 2254, a petitioner must be able to show that he has exhausted state court remedies, that there is no "...available [s]tate corrective process," or that an available state process would be ineffective to protect his rights. 28 U.S.C. § 2253(b)(1). A court cannot grant the relief sought in a § 2254 petition unless the state proceedings: 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 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 state-court decision will certainly be contrary to [the] clearly established precedent [of the Supreme Court] if the state court applies a rule that contradicts the governing law set forth in [Supreme Court] cases." Williams v. Taylor, 529 U.S. 362, 405, 120 S.Ct. 1495, 1519, 146 L.Ed. 2d 389 (2000). Additionally, if a state court confronts a set of facts "...materially indistinguishable from a decision of [the Supreme Court]..." and arrives at a different result, the state-court decision would be contrary to clearly established precedent. Williams, 529 U.S. at 406, 120 S. Ct at 1519-20. A state-court decision is an "unreasonable application of clearly established precedent" if the petitioner can show "...that the state court applied [the precedent] to the facts fo his case in an objectively unreasonable manner." Woodford v. Visciotti, 537 U.S. 19, 25, 123 S.Ct. 357, 360, 154 L.Ed. 2d 279 (2002). Finally, when considering whether a state court made a decision "based on an unreasonable determination of the facts in light of the evidence presented" a "...federal court [must] presume that all determinations of fact made by the state court are correct and...the petitioner [is required to] present clear and convincing evidence to rebut this presumption." Hunterson v. DiSabato, 308 F.3d 236, 246 (3d Cir. 2002)(emphasis in original)(internal quotation omitted).

IV. Discussion

A. Ex Post ...


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