Searching over 5,500,000 cases.


searching
Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.

Munchinski v. Wilson

August 26, 2009

DAVID JOSEPH MUNCHINSKI, PETITIONER,
v.
HARRY WILSON, WARDEN OF STATE CORRECTIONAL INSTITUTE AT FAYETTE; AND ATTORNEY GENERAL'S OFFICE OF PENNSYLVANIA, RESPONDENTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Lisa Pupo Lenihan United States Magistrate Judge

Magistrate Judge Lisa Pupo Lenihan

MEMORANDUM OPINION

Petitioner David Joseph Munchinski (hereinafter: Petitioner) filed this Petition for Writ of Habeas Corpus (Doc. No. 1) on December 15, 2007, seeking to challenge, under 28 U.S.C. § 2254, his 1986 convictions for two homicides in the Court of Common Pleas of Fayette County, Uniontown, Pennsylvania. For the reasons stated below, this Court finds that this petition constitutes a "second or successive" petition under the meaning of the Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act of 1996 (hereinafter: AEDPA). See 28 U.S.C. § 2244(b). Accordingly, pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1631, this Court respectfully transfers Petitioner's case to the United States Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit, in order that the court of appeals may determine whether said petition may proceed to be addressed on the merits in United States District Court. See 28 U.S.C. § 2244(b)(3).

I. BACKGROUND AND PROCEDURAL POSTURE

The background of Petitioner's case spans over thirty years. The portions that are relevant to this Order are as follows. On December 2, 1977, James Peter Alford (hereinafter: Alford) and Raymond Paul Gierke (hereinafter: Gierke) were murdered in Bear Rocks, Fayette County, Pennsylvania. See PCRA III Trial Ct. Op., Resp. to Pet for Writ of Habeas Corpus, Appx. 23 (Doc. No. 21-25), at 6. Nearly five years later, on October 22, 1982, Petitioner was charged with two counts of Criminal Homicide, 18 Pa.C.S.A. § 2501(a), and two counts of Criminal Conspiracy to commit homicide, 18 Pa.C.S.A. § 903, in connection with the murders of Alford and Gierke. See Doc. No. 21-25, at 6. Petitioner was tried, along with co-defendant Leon Scaglione (hereinafter: Scaglione), in April of 1983; however, the jury in that first trial was unable to reach a verdict, and a mistrial was declared on April 12, 1983. See id. Thereafter, the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania (hereinafter: the Commonwealth) dropped the conspiracy charges and the cases were severed for retrial.

Scaglione was retried in October, 1986, and was found guilty of two counts of first degree homicide and two counts of second degree homicide. Petitioner was retried in November, 1986, and was found guilty by a jury of one count each of first and second degree murder with respect to Alford, and one count each of first and second degree murder with respect to Gierke. See PCRA III Superior Ct. Op., Resp to Pet. for Writ of Habeas Corpus, Appx. 25-Part 1 (Doc. No. 21-33), at 7. On December 8, 1986, Petitioner filed a Motion for New Trial and Arrest of Judgment. See id. After oral arguments this motion was denied and, on June 15, 1987, Petitioner was sentenced to serve two consecutive life terms of imprisonment for the first degree murder convictions. See id. The trial court did not impose further penalty for the second degree murder convictions. See id.

On July 14, 1987, Petitioner filed a Notice of Appeal of the judgment and sentence with the Superior Court of Pennsylvania. See id. at 7. The Superior Court affirmed the judgment and sentence of the trial court on November 30, 1990. See Commonwealth v. Munchinski, 585 A.2d 471 (Pa. Super. Ct. 1990). Petitioner appealed this decision to the Pennsylvania Supreme Court, which denied allocatur on November 13, 1991. See Commonwealth v. Munchinski, 600 A.2d 535 (Pa. 1991) (table).

On April 16, 1992, Petitioner filed a Motion for Relief under the Post Conviction Relief Act (hereinafter: PCRA), 42 Pa.C.S.A. § 9541 et seq.*fn1 The trial court denied this first PCRA petition (hereinafter: PCRA I) by Opinion and Order in August 5, 1993. See PRCA I Trial Ct. Op., Resp. to Pet. for Writ of Habeas Corpus, Appx. 10 (Doc. No. 20-58), at 2. Petitioner appealed this decision to the Superior Court of Pennsylvania, which affirmed the denial of the PCRA I petition on December 11, 1995. See Commonwealth v. Munchinski, 674 A.2d 318 (Pa. Super. Ct. 1995) (table); see also PCRA I Superior Ct. Op., Resp. to Pet. for Writ of Habeas Corpus, Appx. 12 (Doc. No. 21-5), at 2. The Pennsylvania Supreme Court denied allocatur on August 30, 1996. See Commonwealth v. Munchinski, 683 A.2d 879 (Pa. 1996) (table).

On January 6, 1998, Petitioner filed his first petition for writ of habeas corpus, pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2254, in the United States District Court for the Western District of Pennsylvania. See Pet. for Writ of Habeas Corpus, Munchinski v. Price, No. 98-0010 (W.D.Pa. Sep. 30, 1998) (Doc. No. 1). This petition was denied as being untimely See Mem. Order Dismissing Pet., Price, No. 98-0010 (Doc. No. 31). Upon appeal, the United States Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit affirmed the dismissal by the district court on January 24, 2001. See Munchinski v. Price, 254 F.3d 1078 (3d. Cir. Jan. 24, 2001) (table); see also Munchinski v. Price, No. 98-3551, (3d Cir. Jan. 24, 2001).

On May 12, 2000, during the pendency of his appeal of the dismissal of his first petition for writ of habeas corpus, Petitioner, acting pro se, filed another PCRA petition. See Pro Se PCRA Petition, Resp. to Pet. for Writ of Habeas Corpus, Appx. 16 (Doc. No. 21-9) . This petition was dismissed just six days later, on May 18, 2000, after the trial court determined that Petitioner was still represented by counsel, and it would be unlawful for the matter to proceed on a hybrid basis. See Doc. No. 21-33, at 11. On July 27, 2000, Petitioner filed, through counsel, another PCRA petition (hereinafter: PCRA II). See PCRA II Pet., Resp. to Pet. for Writ of Habeas Corpus, Appx. 17 (Doc. No. 21-11). In it, Petitioner alleged the existence of newly discovered evidence uncovered during the course of the litigation of his first habeas petition. See id. at 2. However, instead of addressing this new evidence on the merits, the PCRA II trial court concluded that it lacked jurisdiction to hear the matter because of the pendency of Petitioner's first habeas corpus petition in the United States Court of Appeals. The PCRA II trial court informed Petitioner on August 3, 2000, that it would dismiss this PCRA petition unless Petitioner responded to the court within ten days. Petitioner failed to respond and, on August 24, 2000, the PCRA II petition was dismissed. See Doc. No. 21-13, at 2 . There is no indication that Petitioner appealed this dismissal to the Superior Court.

On March 21, 2001, less than sixty days after the United States Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit affirmed the dismissal of Petitioner's first habeas petition, Petitioner filed his latest PCRA petition (hereinafter: PCRA III). This petition was addressed on the merits by Senior Judge Barry F. Feudale. In his 114-page opinion, Judge Feudale found the actions of the prosecution in Petitioner's 1986 retrial to be so egregious that they ". . .so undermined the truth-determining process that no reliable adjudication of guilt or innocence could have taken place." See PCRA III Trial Ct. Op., Resp. to Pet. for Writ of Habeas Corpus, Appx. 23-Part 3 (Doc. No. 21-27), at 31 (emphasis in original removed). Judge Feudale made a similar finding regarding the actions of the attorney representing the Commonwealth during Petitioner's first PRCA hearing. See id. at 35; see also PCRA III Trial Ct. Op., Resp. to Pet. for Writ of Habeas Corpus, Appx. 23-Part 4 (Doc. No. 21-28), at 1-7. In light of these findings, on October 1, 2004, Judge Feudale ordered that Petitioner's 1986 conviction be vacated. See Doc. No. 21-25, at 2. Petitioner was to be granted a new trial in the event that contested tape-recorded evidence could be provided for him by the Commonwealth within ten days. Id. In the event that the Commonwealth did not provide the evidence, Petitioner's conviction and sentences were to be vacated and he was to be discharged forthwith. Id. at 3.

The Commonwealth appealed the order of the PCRA III trial court on October 8, 2004. The Superior Court of Pennsylvania, in an unpublished 119-page opinion, reversed Judge Feudale on December 14, 2005. See Commonwealth v. Munchinski, 894 A.2d 821 (Pa. Super. Ct. 2005) (table); see also, generally, PCRA III Superior Ct. Op., Resp. to Pet. for Writ of Habeas Corpus, Appx. 25 (Doc. No. 21-34 - Doc. No. 21-37). Petitioner petitioned the Pennsylvania Supreme Court for allocatur on January 16, 2006, and was denied on February 8, 2007. See Commonwealth v. Munchinski, 918 A.2d 744 (Pa. 2007) (table); see also Pet. for Allowance of Appeal, Resp. to Pet. for Writ of Habeas Corpus, Appx. 26 (Doc. No. 21-37). No petition for certiorari to the United States Supreme Court was made. See Pet'r's Mem. of Law in Supp. of Application for Writ of Habeas Corpus (Doc. No. 4), at 20.

On December 15, 2007, Petitioner filed this numerically second petition for writ of habeas corpus, pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2254, with this Court. See Doc. No. 1. Petitioner consented to allow this petition to be adjudicated by a United States Magistrate Judge, pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 636(c)(1), on June 26, 2008. ...


Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.