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Dela Cerna v. Zappale

United States District Court, W.D. Pennsylvania

February 10, 2015

VINCENT DELA CERNA a cappella, Petitioner,
v.
STEPHEN A. ZAPPALE, JR. District Attorney; ELLIOTT C. HOWSIE Public Defender; W. TERRENCE O'BRIEN Judge Civil Division; BRIAN
v.
COLEMAN Gaoler, SCI-Fayette Prison; RONALD D. CASTILLE Chief Justice Pa. Steve Supreme Court, Respondents.

OPINION RE: ECF NO. 6

MAUREEN P. KELLY, Chief Magistrate Judge.

On October 18, 1991, Vincent Dela Cerna ("Petitioner") was convicted of first degree murder in the Court of Common Pleas Allegheny County ("the Sentencing Court"). On September 18, 1992, he was sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole. As a consequence, Petitioner is currently incarcerated in the State Correctional Institution at Fayette ("SCI-Fayette"). He has filed a Petition for Writ of Habeas Corpus (the "Petition") pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2254. Despite the fact that his conviction was deemed to have become final on April 24, 1996, and he had only until April 23, 1997 to file his Petition in this Court, Petitioner did not file the Petition until October 29, 2014. Because the Petition violates the Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act's ("AEDPA") one year statute of limitations, and because Petitioner failed to carry his burden to show entitlement to the extraordinary relief of equitable tolling, the Petition will be denied as time-barred and, so, the Respondents' Motion to Dismiss will be granted.

I. RELEVANT FACTUAL AND PROCEDURAL HISTORY

The parties to this Petition are well aware of the underlying facts of the crime and, as such, the Court will not recite them, especially given that they are not relevant to the disposition of this Petition.

Petitioner was sentenced on September 18, 1992. Petitioner did not file a direct appeal from his judgment of sentence.

On September 2, 1993, it appears that Petitioner filed a Post Conviction Relief Act ("PCRA") Petition ("the First PCRA Petition"), which was denied on March 17, 1994. Petitioner filed a second or successive PCRA Petition ("the Second PCRA Petition") on March 24, 2005, which was dismissed on June 7, 2006. Petitioner then filed a Petition for Writ of Habeas Corpus Ad Subjieciendum in the Court of Common Pleas of Allegheny County on March 10, 2014, which was treated as another PCRA Petition ("the Third PCRA Petition") and was dismissed on May 8, 2014 as being untimely filed.

Petitioner then filed the present Petition in this Court on October 29, 2014. ECF No. 1. The Respondents filed a Motion to Dismiss, ECF No. 6, pointing out that the Petition violates the AEDPA statute of limitations. The Court ordered Petitioner to file a response to the Motion to Dismiss. Petitioner filed his Response, ECF No. 8, and a Brief in Support, ECF No. 9, neither of which were responsive to the AEDPA statute of limitations issue.

The parties have consented to have the United States Magistrate Judge exercise plenary jurisdiction. ECF Nos. 7, 10.

II. DISCUSSION

A. The AEDPA Statute of Limitations

The Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act of 1996, Pub. L. No. 104-132, tit. I, § 101 (1996) 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 the Petition in this case was filed after its effective date, the AEDPA is applicable to this case. Werts v. Vaughn, 228 F.3d 178, 195 (3d Cir. 2000).

Respondents pointed out in their Motion to Dismiss that this Petition is untimely under the AEDPA. As relevant here, the AEDPA requires that state prisoners file their federal habeas petition within one year after their conviction became final.[1] Specifically, the AEDPA provides that:

(d)(1) A 1-year period of limitation shall apply to an application for a writ of habeas corpus by a person in custody pursuant to the judgment of a State court. The limitation period shall run from the latest of -
(A) the date on which the judgment became final by the conclusion of direct review or the expiration of the ...

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