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Brentt M. Sherwood v. Jeffrey Beard

December 30, 2011

BRENTT M. SHERWOOD,
PETITIONER :
v.
JEFFREY BEARD, COMMISSIONER, PENNSYLVANIA DEPARTMENT OF CORRECTIONS, ET AL. RESPONDENTS



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Judge Conner

MEMORANDUM

Petitioner, Brentt M. Sherwood ("Sherwood"), a state prisoner sentenced to death following his convictions for first-degree murder and related charges,filed a petition for a writ of habeas corpus with this court pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2254.*fn1

Presently before the court is Sherwood's motion (Doc. 26) to stay the federal proceedings to permit him to exhaust his remedies in state court. For the reasons stated below, the court will deny the motion and dismiss Sherwood's habeas petition without prejudice.

I. Factual Background and Procedural History

Sherwood was convicted of first-degree murder and related charges in the Northumberland County Court of Common Pleas. The Northumberland County Court of Common Pleas sentenced Sherwood to death on July 30, 2007. Commonwealth v. Sherwood, No. CP-49-CR-0000342-2005 (Northumb. C.P.). On November 6, 2009, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court affirmed Sherwood's conviction. Commonwealth v. Sherwood, 982 A.2d 483 (Pa. 2009). The United States Supreme Court denied Sherwood's timely petition for certiorari review on May 3, 2010. Sherwood v. Commonwealth, 130 S. Ct. 2415 (2010). On August 11, 2010, Sherwood filed a pro se petition for post-conviction relief in Pennsylvania state court under Pennsylvania's Post-Conviction Relief Act ("PCRA") on August 11, 2010. (Doc. 26, at 2).

Sherwood initiated this federal habeas action on May 19, 2010. The court directed Sherwood to file his petition for a writ of habeas corpus on or before February 24, 2011. (Doc. 7). After four extensions of time, Sherwood filed his petition with the court on October 3, 2011. (Doc. 22). On October 14, 2011, Sherwood filed a motion (Doc. 26) to stay the federal proceedings to permit him to exhaust his remedies in state court. The motion has been fully briefed and is ripe for disposition. (See Docs. 27-28).

II. Discussion

A. Legal Framework

1. Exhaustion Requirement

The Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act of 1996 ("AEDPA") prohibits a federal court from granting a petition for a writ of habeas corpus unless "(1) the applicant has exhausted the remedies available in the courts of the State, (2) no such state remedy is available or (3) available remedies are ineffective to protect the applicant's rights." Henderson v. Frank, 155 F.3d 159, 164 (3d Cir. 1998) (citing 28 U.S.C. § 2254(b)(1)) (internal quotations omitted); see also Rose v. Lundy, 455 U.S. 509, 518 (1982) (noting that the exhaustion requirement serves interests of comity and federalism and holding that federal district courts may not adjudicate mixed habeas petitions).*fn2 Thus, the petitioner must fairly present all of his or her federal claims through "one complete round of the state's established appellate review process" prior to filing for habeas relief in federal court. O'Sullivan v. Boerckel, 526 U.S. 838, 845 (1999); see also Lambert v. Blackwell, 387 F.3d 210, 233-34 (3d Cir. 2004). To effectuate the "total exhaustion" requirement, federal courts must dismiss mixed habeas petitions without prejudice. See Lundy, 455 U.S. at 522.

2. Statute of Limitations

The AEDPA established a one-year statute of limitations for filing a federal habeas corpus petition.*fn3 See 28 U.S.C. § 2244(d)(1). AEDPA's one-year limitation period runs from "the date on which the judgment became final by the conclusion of direct review or the expiration of the time for seeking review." 28 U.S.C. § 2244(d)(1)(A); Pabon v. Mahanoy, 654 F.3d 385, 403 (3d Cir. 2011). To encourage petitioners to first proceed in state court, the AEDPA tolls its one-year limitation period when a "properly filed" application for state post-conviction or collateral review is "pending," but not during the pendency of a federal habeas petition. See 28 U.S.C. § 2244(d)(2); Duncan v. Walker, 533 U.S. 167, 181 (2001). An application is "properly filed" pursuant to § 2244(d)(2) when "it is delivered to, and accepted by, the appropriate court officer for placement into the official record . . . [and] in compliance with the applicable laws and rules governing filings." Artuz v. Bennett, 531 U.S. 4, 8 (2000).

3. Stay-and-Abeyance

The Supreme Court recognized an exception to AEDPA's total exhaustion requirement in Rhines v. Weber, 544 U.S. 269 (2005). See Heleva v. Brooks, 581 F.3d 187, 190 (3d Cir. 2009). The Supreme Court noted that the interplay between AEDPA's one-year statute of limitation and total exhaustion requirement risked forcing petitioners to choose between ...


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