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United States v. Martin

May 6, 2010

UNITED STATES OF AMERICA
v.
SYLVESTER MARTIN, DEFENDANT



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Yvette Kane, Chief Judge United States District Court Middle District of Pennsylvania

(Chief Judge Kane)

MEMORANDUM

Before the Court is Defendant Sylvester Martin's "evidence presented for extension of time in which to file a response to a order to file a rule 15.A amended and supplemental pleading." (Doc. No. 297.) Although the title indicates that the filing is a motion for extension of time to file supplemental pleadings to his § 2255 motion pending before the court, pages three through fifty-three of the motion appear to be the actual supplemental facts and pleadings Martin proposes to file.*fn1 The filing itself is undated, but was received by the Court a week after Martin's extended deadline to file supplemental claims.*fn2 Given that Martin is a pro se litigant dependent upon the prison mail system for filing, the Court will interpret the filing as a nunc pro tunc motion for extension of time to file the attached supplemental pleading and will accept the pleading as timely filed. See United States v. Miller, 197 F.3d 644, 648 (3d Cir. 1999) (liberally construing pleadings and filing of pro se litigants). In this memorandum, the Court will consider only whether Martin's proposed supplemental claims properly relate back to the initial motion and may be considered on the merits. A merits analysis of the claims will follow in a future memorandum concerning the entirety of Martin's § 2255 motion.

I. Standard of Review

Section 2255 motions may be amended or supplemented pursuant to Rule 15 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, however, AEDPA limits amendments that occur after the one-year statute of limitations. Only those amendments which relate back to or clarify the grounds for relief asserted in the initial petition may be raised. Hodge v. United States, 554 F.3d 372, 378 (3d Cir. 2009) (finding that claims may be added provided they "arise from the same conduct, transaction, or occurrence described in a timely filed 2255 motion"); United States v. Thomas, 221 F.3d 430, 435-36 (3d Cir. 2000) (Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 15(a) applies to habeas proceedings). Additionally, the Court is obligated to read the supplemental claims and assure itself it does not "plainly appear . . . that the petitioner is not entitled to relief" prior to requiring the Government to respond. Thomas, 221 F.3d at 437 (applying Rules Governing § 2255 proceedings to supplemental claims).

II. Analysis

A. Conspiracy During State Court Proceedings

In the supplemental filing, Martin expends the first twenty-five pages detailing the conspiracy allegedly propogated against him by his defense attorneys, Judges Cherry and Hoover of the Court of Common Pleas of Dauphin County, and the district attorney prosecuting his case. (Doc. No. 225 at 4-27.) The facts alleged in this section relate to the same conspiracy Martin alleges in his initial § 2255 motion and appear to serve only to clarify the conspiracy alleged,*fn3 thus they relate back to Martin's initial pleadings. The majority of the new facts and allegations pertain to errors in his state court proceedings, which were nol prossed prior to commencement of the federal case for which he is now incarcerated. Though the Court will consider the additional factual allegations, the newly-pled facts do not support an additional basis for relief under § 2255 and need not be served on the Government for additional response. See Fed. R. § 2255 Proceedings 4(b). The Court will address the overall merits of the conspiracy argument in a forthcoming memorandum on Martin's § 2255 motion.

B. Faulty Indictment, Vindictive Prosecution, and Statute of Limitations Violations

Next, Martin argues that Assistant United States Attorney Kimberly Kelly violated his rights when she held sealed grand jury proceedings and issued an indictment against him after the conclusion of his state court proceedings. He also claims that the federal prosecution violated his rights because it was barred by the statute of limitations and was the result of vindictive prosecution. As with the prior section, the Court finds that the new allegations Martin raises relate back to his initial motion but do not raise a new basis for relief and thus need not be served on the Government.

In Martin's initial motion, he raises the statute of limitations issue in Ground One. (Doc. No. 286 at 4.) He also argues that the indictment violated his constitutional rights because it was issued under seal without his knowledge, it was the result of vindictive prosecution by Attorney Kelly, and it violated the Double Jeopardy Clause. (Doc. No. 286 at 7, 8, 11.) All of these grounds are proposed bases for relief in Martin's initial motion, thus they are legitimate bases for amendment under Hodge and Thomas, and the Court will consider the amendments. Nonetheless, because Martin only reiterates or expounds upon the allegations he already made, the Court finds that a new response from the Government is not required.

C. Competency to Represent Himself at Trial

Martin's supplemental pleading also alleges the new claim that the Court erred in allowing him to proceed to trial pro se because he was incompetent to represent himself. This claim differs from the claim made on direct appeal and in the initial motion because Martin alleges for the first time in this motion that his incompetence prevented him from capably waiving his right to counsel.

Before turning to the merits of such a contention, the Court must determine whether this new claim may be raised in a supplemental pleading. As stated, a new claim must "arise from the same conduct, transaction, or occurrence described in a timely filed 2255 motion." Hodge, 554 F.3d at 378. Put otherwise, the new claim must be "tied to a common core of operative facts" of ...


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