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McLaughlin v. Shannon

August 10, 2010

JAMES MCLAUGHLIN, PETITIONER,
v.
ROBERT SHANNON, ET AL., RESPONDENT.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Eduardo C. Robreno, J.

MEMORANDUM

TABLE OF CONTENTS

I. PROCEDURAL HISTORY ........................................2

A. Prior Status .........................................2

B. Current Status .......................................7

II. LEGAL STANDARD ...........................................10

III. "MIXED" § 2254 HABEAS PETITION ...........................12

A. Dismissal Under Lundy ...............................13

B. Stay and Abey Under Rhines ..........................17

1. Good Cause .....................................18

2. Plainly Meritless ..............................23

IV. CONCLUSION ...............................................25

Before this Court is Petitioner James E. McLaughlin's "mixed" § 2254 habeas petition, in which his ineffective counsel claim has been exhausted in state court and his newly-discovered evidence claim remains unexhausted in state court. For the following reasons, the Court will deny Petitioner's motion for a stay and abeyance as Petitioner has failed to first exhaust all of his claims in state court and failed to meet his burden of demonstrating that equitable tolling of the applicable statute of limitations is appropriate here. As such, Petitioner's "mixed" habeas petition will be dismissed without prejudice.

I. PROCEDURAL HISTORY

Due to the complex history of this case, an overview of the procedural history and current posture of the claims is warranted.

A. Prior Status

On October 5, 1999, Petitioner was convicted of first- degree murder and recklessly endangering another person. At trial, Petitioner was found guilty by jury of shooting and killing Damon Hastings ("Hastings"). On November 9, 1999, Petitioner was sentenced to life imprisonment on the murder conviction, a concurrent term of three to twenty-three months on the firearms charge, and a consecutive term of one to two years on the reckless endangerment charge. After the Court of Common Pleas of Delaware County, Pennsylvania denied Defendant's post-trial motions on April 20, 2000, Defendant raised eight issues on appeal. See Commonwealth v. McLaughlin, Crim. No. 5370, doc. no. CP-23-CR-0005370-1998.

On April 16, 2002, the Pennsylvania Superior Court affirmed the judgment of sentence. Commonwealth v. McLaughlin, 803 A.2d 794 (Pa. Super. Ct. 2002). On March 30, 2004, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court denied Petitioner's petition for allowance of appeal. Commonwealth v. McLaughlin, 847 A.2d 1281 (Pa. 2004).

On March 21, 2005, Petitioner filed his first timely pro se petition for collateral relief under the Post Conviction Relief Act ("PCRA"), 42 Pa. C.S. §§ 9541 et. seq. Petitioner then filed an amended petition ("amended first PCRA petition"), on May 18, 2006, by way of PCRA-appointed counsel Henry D. Forrest, Esq. ("Mr. Forrest"). Therein, Petitioner alleged: (1) ineffective assistance of counsel in violation of his Sixth and Fourteenth Amendment rights; and (2) newly-discovered evidence unavailable at trial supported by a statement of Mr. Jameel Berry ("Berry").

On January 5, 2007, Petitioner's amended first PCRA petition was dismissed without a hearing.*fn1 Petitioner's trial counsel, Mr. Forrest, appealed the denial of Petitioner's claim of ineffective assistance of trial counsel. Mr. Forrest, however, did not appeal Petitioner's claim of newly-discovered evidence. The Court of Common Pleas then denied Petitioner's ineffective assistance of counsel claim alleged in his PCRA petition, which was affirmed by the Superior Court on January 4, 2008. Commonwealth v. McLaughlin, 2007 Pa. Dist. & Cnty. Dec. LEXIS 55 (Pa. C.P. Mar. 7, 2007). On July 10, 2008, Petitioner's Allowance of Appeal was denied by the Pennsylvania Supreme Court.

On September 8, 2008, Petitioner filed a second pro se PCRA petition and an extension for time to file an amended second PCRA petition was granted on January 30, 2009.

On October 17, 2008, Petitioner filed a timely habeas corpus petition before this Court, pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2254, collaterally attacking his sentence and asking the Court to vacate, set aside, or correct his sentence. Therein, Petitioner alleges that: (1) he was denied effective assistance of trial counsel in violation of his Sixth Amendment rights; and (2) newly-discovered exculpatory evidence was found that was not available at the time of trial.*fn2

On February 3, 2009, Petitioner filed his first motion to stay federal proceedings to permit exhaustion of claims in state court. On February 8, 2009, Respondents answered and requested that both the motion to stay and habeas petition ("Petition") be denied. Therein, Respondents argued that: (1) the state courts' decisions were not based on "unreasonable" determinations of fact, nor contrary applications of clearly established federal law; and (2) the Petition is procedurally barred from the Court's review for (a) failure to comply with the AEDPA's ...


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