United States District Court, W.D. Pennsylvania
MAUREEN P. KELLY, Chief Magistrate Judge.
Tyrique Patterson ("Petitioner"), proceeding pro se, has filed this Petition for Writ of Habeas Corpus by a Person in State Custody, (the "Petition") pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2254, in order to challenge his convictions of, inter alia, Third Degree Murder which were obtained in the Court of Common Pleas of Fayette County.
Because Petitioner fails to carry his burden to show that the state courts' adjudication of Petitioner's claims, raised in the Petition, was contrary to or an unreasonable application of United States Supreme Court precedent, the Petition will be denied. In the alternative, we find that the Petition is time barred. A certificate of appealability will also be denied because Petitioner does not show that jurists of reason would disagree concerning the denial of the Petition.
I. PROCEDURAL HISTORY
This case has a long and complex procedural history in the state courts, with Petitioner's collateral appeal rights being reinstated by the Pennsylvania Superior Court in the course of Petitioner's third PCRA proceedings. The Superior Court provided a summary of the procedural history. ECF No. 7-4 at 2-4. As we write primarily for the parties, it is not necessary for deciding this Petition to repeat that long and complex procedural history.
Petitioner initiated the proceedings in this Court by the filing of the Petition. ECF No. 1. Respondents filed an Answer, denying that Petitioner was entitled to relief. ECF No. 7. Respondents attached much of the state court record as exhibits to that Answer. Petitioner also filed a Motion to Stay the Proceedings, ECF No. 10, which the Respondents opposed, ECF No. 11 and which this Court denied. ECF No. 12.
The parties have consented to the plenary exercise of jurisdiction by the United States Magistrate Judge. ECF Nos. 4, 9.
II. FACTUAL HISTORY
The Pennsylvania Superior Court recounted the facts of the crime as follows:
The testimony presented at the time of trial established that on November 29, 2002, Patterson was a patron of a bar in Brownsville when he and Justin Thomas, the victim's brother, became involved in a physical confrontation. Tony Thomas, the victim, was contacted by a friend to come to the bar and pick up Justin Thomas. Tony Thomas arrived at the bar with [his cousin], Don Durant. Tony Thomas and Patterson engaged in a verbal confrontation from a distance of over 300 feet. Patterson then left the bar to return home to South Hills Terrace. Tony Thomas, accompanied by... Don Durant, drove to South Hills as well and encountered Patterson and his girlfriend Tamika Withrow standing outside of Patterson's residence. Tamika Withrow was holding a gun in her left hand. Another verbal confrontation ensued between Patterson and Tony Thomas. During the confrontation, Patterson drew a gun, after which he shot Tony Thomas.
Tony Thomas turned away as Patterson was shooting, and the bullet hit him in the neck. According to Don Durant, Tony Thomas was dead instantly. Patterson fled the scene on foot to an automobile operated by Michelle Bannasch which was traveling toward the scene in the housing development of South Hills Terrace. Patterson held his gun to the head of Michelle Bannasch and ordered her out of the vehicle, and then did the same to her passenger. Patterson drove away in Michelle Bannasch's vehicle and then was discovered trespassing on the water company's property by a security guard. Patterson scaled the fence of the property and was apprehended several days later.
Pa. Superior Court slip. Opin., June 23, 2010, ECF No. 7-4 at 1-2. Petitioner was convicted of third degree murder, robbery of a motor vehicle, and criminal trespass. On July 22, 2003, the trial court sentenced Petitioner to an aggregate term of 22 ½ years to 45 years of imprisonment. ECF No. 1.
III. APPLICABLE LEGAL PRINCIPLES
The Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act of 1996, Pub. L. No. 104-132, tit. I, §101 (1996) (the "AEDPA") which amended the standards for reviewing state court judgments in federal habeas petitions filed under 28 U.S.C. § 2254 was enacted on April 24, 1996. Because Petitioner's habeas Petition was filed after its effective date, the AEDPA is applicable to this case. Werts v. Vaughn, 228 F.3d 178, 195 (3d Cir. 2000).
Where the state courts have reviewed a federal issue presented to them and disposed of the issue on the merits, and that issue is also raised in a federal habeas petition, the AEDPA provides the applicable deferential standards by which the federal habeas court is to review the state courts' disposition of that issue. See 28 U.S.C. § 2254(d) and (e).
In Williams v. Taylor, 529 U.S. 362 (2000), the United States Supreme Court has expounded upon the standard found in 28 U.S.C. § 2254(d). In Williams, the Supreme Court explained that Congress intended that habeas relief for errors of law may only be granted in two situations: 1) where the state court decision was "contrary to... clearly established Federal law as determined by the Supreme Court of the United States" or 2) where that state court decision "involved an unreasonable application of clearly established Federal law as determined by the Supreme Court of the United States." Id. at 404-05 (emphasis deleted). The Supreme Court explained the two situations in the following terms:
Under the "contrary to" clause, a federal habeas court may grant the writ if the state court arrives at a conclusion opposite to that reached by this Court on a question of law or if the state court decides a case differently than this Court has on a set of materially indistinguishable facts. Under the "unreasonable application" clause, a federal habeas court may grant the writ if the state court identifies the correct governing legal principle from this Court's decisions but unreasonably applies that principle to the facts of the prisoner's case.
Id. at 412-13. The United States Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit has also elucidated the "contrary to" clause by noting that "it is not sufficient for the petitioner to show merely that his interpretation of Supreme Court precedent is more plausible than the state court's; rather, the petitioner must demonstrate that Supreme Court precedent requires the contrary outcome." Werts, 228 F.3d at 197 (quoting Matteo v. Superintendent, SCI-Albion, 171 F.3d 877, 888 (3d Cir. 1999)(en banc)). Moreover, it is Petitioner's burden to prove the state court decision is either contrary to or an unreasonable application of clearly established federal law. See Matteo, 171 F.3d at 888; Werts, 228 F.3d at 197. Under the "contrary to" clause, the relevant universe of analysis is restricted to the holdings of United States Supreme Court cases as they existed at the time of the state court decision. Williams, 529 U.S. at 412. In contrast, under the "unreasonable application" clause, federal habeas courts may consider lower federal court cases in determining whether the state court's application of United States Supreme Court precedent was objectively unreasonable. Matteo, 171 F.3d at 890.
The AEDPA also permits federal habeas relief where the state court's adjudication of the claim "resulted in a decision that was based on an unreasonable determination of the facts in light of the evidence presented in the State court proceeding." 28 U.S.C. § 2254(d)(2).
Petitioner raises fourteen grounds on which he claims that he is being held in violation of the Constitution, laws or treaties of the United States.
Ground One: Petitioner submits that the weight of the evidence failed to prove the crime charged [i.e., third degree murder].... Petitioner submits... that the verdict was against the weight of the evidence and the law since the Commonwealth did not establish Malice and whether the evidence was otherwise insufficient to sustain the verdict as the Commonwealth failed to prove the charge against Petitioner beyond a reasonable doubt.
ECF No. 1 at 5.
Ground Two: Petitioner submits and urges the weight of the evidence did not establish [sic] [i.e., disprove] Petitioner acted in self defense.... Petitioner submits... that the verdict was against the weight of the evidence and the law since the Commonwealth did not establish that Petitioner did not act in justifiable self-defense, and whether the evidence was insufficient to prove otherwise beyond a reasonable doubt.
Id., at 7.
Ground Three: Petitioner submits that the verdict was against the weight of the evidence in that Petitioner acted in self-defense and under passion.... Petitioner maintains... that the verdict was against the weight of the evidence and the law since the Commonwealth did not establish that petitioner, if he did [not] act in justifiable self-defense, that the Petitioner acted under sudden and intense passion resulting from serious provocation from the victim and the degree of homicide only rose to the level of voluntary manslaughter and not to the level of third degree.
Id., at 8.
Ground Four: Petitioner submits that his conviction should be reduced from 3rd degree murder to voluntary manslaughter and sentence modified.... Petitioner maintains... that his conviction should be reduced from third degree murder to voluntary manslaughter and Petitioner's sentence modified where the sentence is excessive under the circumstances of this case.
Id. at 10.
Ground-(5). Petitioner submits... that trial counsel rendered ineffective assistance of counsel for failure in not calling to Petitioner's trial four eyewitnesses, these witnesses were available to testify and counsel knew of their whereabouts and their ...