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Hudson v. Commonwealth

January 20, 2009

WILLIAM LAMONT HUDSON, PETITIONER
v.
COMMONWEALTH OF PENNSYLVANIA; DISTRICT ATTORNEY OF ALLEGHENY COUNTY, RESPONDENTS



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Amy Reynolds Hay Magistrate Judge

MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

HAY, Magistrate Judge

William Lamont Hudson was, at the time of initiating the present proceeding, a pre-trial detainee, in the Allegheny County Jail, awaiting trial. He was awaiting trial on charges of one count of rape, one count of involuntary deviate sexual intercourse, one count of incest, three counts of aggravated indecent assault, three counts of indecent assault, one count of endangering the welfare of children and one count of corruption of minors in an incident involving Petitioner's daughter.

The court deems the present petition to be filed pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2241 given that Petitioner filed this habeas petition while he was in pre-trial detention.*fn1 The claims he makes in his petition are not entirely clear but the gravamen of the petition appears to be the factual claim that Petitioner was not brought to trial within the time required by Pa.R.Crim.P. 600. Related to that, is a claim of ineffective assistance of counsel for their allegedly seeking and obtaining continuances of the trial all without his consent. Alternatively, Petitioner could also be asserting a violation of his Sixth Amendment right to a speedy trial. To the extent that Petitioner is raising a violation of Pa.R.Crim.P. 600, such a claim is not cognizable herein. To the extent that he claims his trial counsel were ineffective for seeking and obtaining continuances without his consent, he fails to establish how he was prejudiced. To the extent that Petitioner is raising a Sixth Amendment delay of trial claim, he fails to sustain his burden. Because the four factors announced in Barker v. Wingo, 407 U.S. 514, 530 (1972) ultimately weigh in favor of the Commonwealth, Petitioner fails to establish a Sixth Amendment speedy trial violation. Hence, the petition should be dismissed. A. Relevant Factual and Procedural History

The factual background to this case is as follows. Petitioner's state criminal trial was originally scheduled for September 20, 2006. On September 18, 2006, petitioner, through Patrick Sweeney, Esquire, of the Office of Public Defender, filed a Motion for Postponement. Petitioner's case was rescheduled for January 30, 2007. Due to the unavailability of the trial court, petitioner's case was rescheduled for April 10, 2007. On March 6, 2007, petitioner filed a pro se motion. On March 17, 2007, petitioner filed a pro se Motion/Letter captioned as Notice of Complaint of Ineffective Assistance of Counsel in Conjunction with Motion for Bill of Particulars. On March 22, 2007, petitioner filed a pro se Motion for Appointed Counsel. On March 25, 2007, petitioner filed a pro se Writ of Habeas Corpus in the state court.

On March 29, 2007, Attorney Sweeney filed a Motion for Leave to Withdraw as Counsel. On April 3, 2007, the Honorable Donna Jo McDaniel granted Attorney Sweeney leave to withdraw and appointed the Office of Conflict Counsel to represent petitioner.

On April 10, 2007, petitioner, through Veronica Brestensky, Esquire, of the Office of Conflict Counsel, filed a Motion for Postponement. Petitioner's case was rescheduled for August 6, 2007. On May 1, 2007, petitioner's case was moved to September 11, 2007. On July 24, 2007, Angela R. Carsia, Esquire, was appointed to represent petitioner. On August 22, 2007, Attorney Carsia filed a Petition to Withdraw as Counsel, which was ultimately denied on September 4, 2007. On September 4, 2007, petitioner, through Attorney Carsia, filed a Motion for Postponement. Petitioner's case was rescheduled for September 19, 2007.

On September 13, 2007, petitioner, through Attorney Carsia, filed an Omnibus Motion and a Motion to Compel Production of Discovery. On October 1, 2007, petitioner, through Attorney Carsia, filed a Motion for Postponement. Petitioner's case was rescheduled for January 7, 2008. On November 14, 2007, petitioner filed a pro se Writ of Habeas Corpus in state court. On November 17, 2007, petitioner filed a pro se Motion to Set Nominal Bond Pursuant to Pa.R.Cr.P. 600(A). On November 22, 2007, petitioner filed three (3) pro se Omnibus Motions. On November 25, 2007, petitioner filed a pro se Amended Motion to Quash Indictment. On December 5, 2007, petitioner filed a pro se Ineffective Assistance of Counsel claim.

On January 7, 2008, petitioner appeared before the Honorable Donna Jo McDaniel and proceeded to a jury trial. Attorney Carsia represented petitioner. Assistant District Attorney P. Christopher Hoffman, Esquire represented the Commonwealth. A Judgment of Acquittal was sustained at one (1) count of aggravated indecent assault and one (1) count of indecent assault. On January 17, 2008, the jury adjudged petitioner guilty of corruption of minors and the jury could not reach a verdict on the remaining counts. Apparently the Commonwealth sought to retry Petitioner on the counts which the jury failed to reach a verdict.

Petitioner's re-trial case was then scheduled to be tried on May 7, 2008. However, according to the docket of the Court of Common Pleas of Allegheny County, it does not appear that Petitioner's re-trial took place on May 7, 2008, nor has it yet taken place as of the writing of this opinion.

It appears that Petitioner executed the instant habeas petition on or about October 12, 2007. Dkt. [8] at 1. However, the Clerk of Courts did not receive it until December 11, 2007 and it was not formally docketed until January 18, 2008, after Petitioner cured some deficiencies in his motion for leave to proceed IFP. The Respondents filed an answer on February 15, 2008. Dkt. [11].

B. Discussion

1. Violation of Pa.R.Crim.P. 600 is not Cognizable

To the extent that Petitioner seeks to directly raise herein a claim that his rights under the Pennsylvania Rules of Criminal Procedure were violated, namely Pa.R.Crim.P. 600, he may not do so. Violations of state law do not, as a general rule, provide a basis for the grant of federal habeas relief. Engle v. Isaac, 456 U.S. 107 (1982); Wells v. Petsock, 941 F.2d 253 (3d Cir. 1991); Peterson v. Krysevig, Civ. A. No. 07-947, 2008 WL 4372940, at *11 (W.D.Pa. Sept. 22, 2008)("the issue was raised solely as one of state law and not of constitutional law, i.e., a violation of Pennsylvania Rules of Criminal Procedure 600 and not of the United States Constitution. Such a claimed violation of state rules of criminal procedure fails to state a claim cognizable in federal habeas proceedings."). Petitioner alleges nothing that would take his case outside of this general rule.

2. No Speedy Trial Violation has Occurred

To the extent that Petitioner intended to and did raise in the state courts a claim that Petitioner's speedy trial rights under the Sixth Amendment were violated, the petition should still be denied as Petitioner fails to merit relief.

The basic contention of the petition, as liberally construed, is that Petitioner's Sixth Amendment rights to a speedy trial have been violated.

The Sixth Amendment provides in relevant part that "[i]n all criminal prosecutions, the accused shall enjoy the right to a speedy trial."*fn2 The Court in Barker v. Wingo, 407 U.S. 514 (1972) set forth the governing standard for determining whether an accused's right to a speedy trial has been violated. The factors are: (1) the length of delay; (2) who is responsible for the delay; (3) whether the accused asserted his right to a speedy trial in the state tribunals and (4) whether the delay caused prejudice. Barker, 407 U.S. at 530; Heiser v. Ryan, 15 F.3d 299, 303 (3d Cir. 1994). However, the court cautioned that the Barker analysis is not simply a mathematical or mechanical test. Rather, the Court instructed that the right to speedy trial is a more vague concept than other procedural rights. It is, for example, impossible to determine with precision when the right has been denied. We cannot definitely say how long is too long in a system where justice is supposed to be swift but deliberate. . . . Thus, as we recognized in Beavers v.

Haubert, supra, any inquiry into a speedy trial claim necessitates a functional analysis of the right in the ...


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