The opinion of the court was delivered by: Judge Caputo
Petitioner, Felix W. Rodriguez, a state inmate incarcerated at SCI-Graterford in Graterford, Pennsylvania, has filed a pro se petition for habeas corpus pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2254. Mr. Rodriguez challenges his July 17, 1997, York County Court of Common Pleas conviction for murder of the third degree, criminal conspiracy to commit murder, and a related drug conviction. Rodriguez raises four ineffective assistance of counsel claims in his habeas petition. Doc. 1, Pet.
Respondents filed a Response to the Petition on December 24, 2008, asserting that Mr. Rodriguez failed to meet the one-year statute of limitations for the 2254 petition. Docs. 19-3 - 19-4, Respts.' Answer and Supp. Brf. Mr. Rodriguez did not file a Traverse. For the reasons that follow, we reject Respondents' argument that the Petition is untimely and direct that Respondents file a properly supported supplemental response addressing the merits of the Petition.*fn1
This case has an extended procedural history which is critical to addressing the timeliness of Mr. Rodriguez's Petition.
On August 29, 1996, Mr. Rodriguez was arrested and charged by the York County Police Department with two drug related offenses. See Commonwealth v. Rodriguez, CP-67-CR-0003541-1996 (York Ct. Com. Pl.)(docket sheet).*fn2 On October 11, 1996, the same police department arrested him for criminal homicide and other charges. See Commonwealth v. Rodriguez, CP-67-CR-0004073-1996 (York Ct. Com. Pl.)(docket sheet).*fn3 In January 1997, the cases were consolidated for trial. Id.
On July 14, 1997, Mr. Rodriguez, plead guilty to possession with intent to deliver and criminal conspiracy with intent to deliver. Sentencing was deferred pending the resolution of his homicide trial. See Commonwealth v. Rodriguez, CP-67-CR-0003541-1996 (York Ct. Com. Pl.)(docket sheet). In July 1997, a jury found Mr. Rodriguez guilty of third-degree murder and criminal conspiracy to commit homicide. See Commonwealth v. Rodriguez, CP-67-CR-0004073-1996 (York Ct. Com. Pl.)(docket sheet). He was sentenced to twenty to forty years imprisonment on each count and to be served consecutively. Mr. Rodriguez is presently serving an aggregate sentence of forty to eighty years. Id.
Petitioner then filed a direct appeal, which the Superior Court of
Pennsylvania rejected on September 2, 1998. See Commonwealth v.
Rodriguez, No 870 HBG 1997 (Pa. Super.)(docket sheet).*fn4
The Pennsylvania Supreme Court denied Mr. Rodriguez's request
for allocatur on February 22, 1999. See Commonwealth v. Rodriguez,
CP-67-CR-0004073-1996 (York Ct. Com. Pl.)(docket sheet). Mr. Rodriguez
did not petition the United States Supreme Court for certiorari.
On November 29, 1999, Mr. Rodriguez filed a timely pro se petition for post-conviction relief under the Pennsylvania Post Conviction Relief Act (PCRA), 42 Pa. C.S. §§ 9541-9546. The trial court denied relief on September 27, 2000. See Commonwealth v. Rodriguez, CP-67-CR-0004073-1996 (York Ct. Com. Pl.)(docket sheet). The Superior Court affirmed the trial court's PCRA decision on May 20, 2002. See Commonwealth v. Rodriguez, 1969 MDA 2000 (Pa. Super. 2000).*fn5
Petitioner filed a petition for allowance of appeal with the Pennsylvania Supreme Court which was denied on October 16, 2003. See Commonwealth v. Rodriguez, 754 MAL 2002 (Pa.)(docket sheet).*fn6
As early as November 11, 2003, Mr. Rodriguez filed two § 2254 petitions for writ of habeas corpus in the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania, Civil Action Numbers: 03-CV-6242 and 03-CV-6315. On January 5, 2004, the Eastern District consolidated both matters under 03-CV-6242 and granted Petitioner's Motion to Stay his habeas proceedings so he may file a second or subsequent PCRA Petition. See Doc. 3, Consolidation Order.
Petitioner filed a second PCRA petition on January 22, 2004. The trial court denied the petition on July 20, 2004. The Pennsylvania Superior Court affirmed the denial of the second PCRA on May 10, 2005. See Commonwealth v. Rivera, 1383 MDA 2004 (Pa. Super)(docket sheet). The Pennsylvania Superior Court denied Petitioner's Petition for Appeal on December 29, 2005. See Commonwealth v. Rivera, 628 MDA 2005 (Pa.)(docket sheet).*fn7
On June 9, 2008, the Eastern District of Pennsylvania reinstated Mr. Rodriguez's habeas petition. See Doc. 4. On July 17, 2008, Mr. Rodriguez's petition was transferred to this court noting that he is challenging a York County Court of Common Pleas conviction. Doc. 8. Mr. Rodriguez's original petition was then transferred from the Eastern District of Pennsylvania to this Court and opened under the present docket number. A show cause order was issued on November 13, 2008. ...