United States District Court, E.D. Pennsylvania
MARY A. McLAUGHLIN, District Judge.
The petitioner, Jermaine Williams, is currently serving a life sentence in Pennsylvania for his state conviction for first-degree murder. Williams has filed a motion, pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 60(b), to reopen the Court's August 17, 2012 order denying his petition for a writ of habeas corpus. Williams argues that the Court was erroneous in concluding that four of his claims were procedurally defaulted and that the Court misapplied the federal statute of limitations to four of his other claims. For the following reasons, the Court will now deny Williams's motion pursuant to Rule 60(b).
In 1997, Williams was convicted, by a jury, of first-degree murder. The Pennsylvania state courts, through both direct review and collateral review pursuant to the Pennsylvania Post Conviction Relief Act ("PCRA"), 42 Pa. Cons. Stat. § 9541, et seq., upheld his conviction.
On February 26, 2007, Williams filed a pro se petition seeking federal habeas relief. On March 28, 2007, however, Williams filed a second PCRA petition alleging newly discovered evidence. Williams's habeas petition was accordingly stayed on March 29, 2007, pending the resolution of the second PCRA petition. The second PCRA petition was ultimately dismissed as untimely, and that decision was affirmed on appeal in the Pennsylvania state courts.
This Court granted Williams's motion to lift the stay of his federal habeas petition on June 14, 2010. The habeas petition asserted the following claims relevant to this motion:
(1) Ineffective assistance of trial counsel for the failure to:
(a) Request or secure funds for the retention of a fingerprint expert, who would review a handgun and ammunition magazine found near the scene of the crime (Ground A); and
(b) Investigate the origins of the handgun found near the scene of the crime (Ground B).
(2) Ineffective assistance of appellate counsel for the failure to:
(a) Challenge, on the basis of error or abuse of discretion, the trial court's admission of alleged hearsay testimony over trial counsel's objections (Ground E); and
(b) Raise trial counsel's ineffectiveness in failing to object to alleged prosecutorial misconduct alleging, during summation to the jury, that the petitioner's defense counsel used the right to discovery to present false testimony (Ground G).
(3) Commonwealth committed reversible error by using the "knowingly perjured testimony" of Officer Fox, who the petitioner claims lied about having used a "macro light" and a "fingerprint glass" to examine the handgun found near the scene of the crime for identifiable fingerprints (Ground K).
(4) Commonwealth violated Brady v. Maryland , 43 U.S. 83 (1963), by failing to disclose the results of Officer Fox's examination of the handgun by "macro light" and "fingerprint glass" (Ground L).
(5) Commonwealth denied the petitioner his rights to confrontation, due process, and the presentation of a complete defense by withholding evidence concerning an I.A.D. investigation into Officer Fox's testimony in an unrelated matter (Ground M).
(6) Ineffective assistance of appellate counsel for failing to raise trial counsel's ineffectiveness for failing to object and/or move for a mistrial because of the jury's inconsistent verdict (Ground N, raised in the petitioner's motion to amend his habeas petition).
United States Magistrate Judge Lynne A. Sitarski filed a Report and Recommendation ("R&R") on April 26, 2012 (Docket No. 45), recommending that the Court find Grounds K, L, and M procedurally defaulted for failure to comply with Pennsylvania statute 42 Pa. Cons. Stat. § 9545(b), and Grounds A, B, E, and G procedurally defaulted for failure to comply with Pennsylvania Rule of Appellate Procedure 2119. The R&R also recommended that the Court find Ground N untimely under the federal statute of limitations, 28 U.S.C. § 2244(d).
By order dated August 17, 2012, this Court approved and adopted the R&R and denied the habeas petition (Docket No. 50). This Court also denied the petitioner's request for a certificate of appealability. Williams appealed, but the Third Circuit denied his request for a certificate of appealability on February 12, 2013:
[F]or substantially the same reasons given by the District Court, we conclude that jurists of reason would not debate that Appellant has failed to make a "substantial showing of the denial of a constitutional right." 28 U.S.C. § 2253(c)(2). Furthermore, reasonable jurists would not debate the District Court's procedural ruling regarding Appellant's claims of prosecutorial misconduct.
Order, Williams v. Patrick, No. 12-3608 (3d Cir. Feb. 12, 2013) (Docket No. 55) (citations omitted).
Williams filed his Rule 60(b) motion on January 27, 2014 (Docket No. 57). Williams argues that the Court was incorrect in finding Grounds A, B, E, and G procedurally defaulted because the Court should not have concluded that Pennsylvania Rule of Appellate Procedure 2119 is an independent and adequate state procedural ground precluding federal habeas review. Second, Williams argues that the Court incorrectly dismissed his newly discovered evidence claims in Grounds K, L, and M on statute of limitations grounds. Lastly, Williams argues that his claim under Ground N should be entitled to an exception from the one-year statute of limitations period under the Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act of 1996 ("AEDPA"), 28 U.S.C. § 2244(d)(1), pursuant to the Supreme Court's decision in McQuiggin v. Perkins , 133 S.Ct. 1924 (2013). McQuiggin held that a claim of actual innocence, if proven, provides an equitable exception to the one-year statute of limitations. 133 S.Ct. at 1928.
A. Second or Successive Habeas Petition
The Court concludes that Williams's Rule 60(b) motion is not a second or successive habeas petition. In those instances in which the factual predicate of a petitioner's Rule 60(b) motion attacks the manner in which the earlier habeas judgment was procured and not the underlying conviction, the Rule 60(b) motion may be adjudicated on the merits. However, when a Rule 60(b) motion seeks to collaterally attack the petitioner's underlying ...