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Coleman v. Superintendent Greene SCI

United States Court of Appeals, Third Circuit

January 5, 2017

PATRICK COLEMAN, Appellant
v.
SUPERINTENDENT GREENE SCI; THE DISTRICT ATTORNEY OF THE COUNTY OF PHILADELPHIA; THE ATTORNEY GENERAL OF THE STATE OF PENNSYLVANIA

          Submitted Under Third Circuit L.A.R. 34.1(a) September 19, 2016

         On Appeal from the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania (D.C. No. 2-14-cv-01683) District Judge: Honorable Stewart Dalzell

          Michael Wiseman, Esq. Counsel for Appellant.

          Max C. Kaufman, Esq. Philadelphia County Office of District Attorney Counsel for Appellees.

          Before: MCKEE, Chief Judge, [*] HARDIMAN, and RENDELL, Circuit Judges.

          OPINION

          HARDIMAN, Circuit Judge.

         This appeal involves a petition for writ of habeas corpus that was dismissed as untimely under the Anti-Terrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act (AEDPA), Pub. L. No. 104-132, 110 Stat. 1214. Despite his tardy filing, Appellant Patrick Coleman claims that it was a fundamental miscarriage of justice to deny him his day in court. Because Coleman cannot satisfy the actual innocence requirement of the fundamental miscarriage of justice exception to AEDPA, we will affirm.

         I

         Coleman was tried along with several other defendants for his involvement in a gang-related shooting that occurred at Tobin's Inn Restaurant on August 10, 1989. See Coleman v. Folino, 2015 WL 6379296, at *1 (E.D. Pa. Oct. 21, 2015). The month-long trial included 76 witnesses for the Commonwealth, only one of whom testified as to Coleman's involvement in the shooting. Id. Coleman was convicted of first-degree murder, two counts of aggravated assault, criminal conspiracy, and possession of an instrument of a crime. Id. at *1-2. Significantly for purposes of this appeal, Coleman was acquitted of violating the Pennsylvania Corrupt Organizations Act (PCOA), 18 Pa. Cons. Stat. § 991. Id. at *2. The Pennsylvania Superior Court affirmed Coleman's convictions, and he did not seek review by the Pennsylvania Supreme Court. Id.

         Two years after Coleman's convictions became final, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court held that the PCOA did not apply to an individual's participation in a wholly illegitimate enterprise. Commonwealth v. Besch, 674 A.2d 655, 655 (Pa. 1996).[1] Had Besch been the law when Coleman was tried, he could not have been charged with a PCOA violation because the gang to which he belonged was wholly illegitimate. Coleman, 2015 WL 6379296, at *3. Coleman failed to raise a claim under Besch when he twice sought post-conviction relief under Pennsylvania's Post Conviction Relief Act (PCRA), 42 Pa. Cons. Stat. § 9541.

         Coleman's PCRA petitions-a pro se petition filed in 2002 and a counseled petition filed in 2007-sought reinstatement of his appellate rights based on ineffective assistance of counsel. Coleman claimed his attorney had agreed to appeal his conviction to the Pennsylvania Supreme Court but failed to do so. Both petitions were denied.

         In 2014, Coleman filed a petition for writ of habeas corpus in the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania. Coleman argued that he was denied due process because the evidence introduced against his co-defendants was unfairly imputed to him. The Magistrate Judge recommended that Coleman's petition be dismissed as untimely under AEDPA, which imposes a one-year statute of limitation on applications for writs of habeas corpus. Although Coleman conceded his petition was filed well outside that period, he asserted that his claim should be considered under the fundamental miscarriage of justice exception and principles of equitable tolling.

         The District Court dismissed the petition with prejudice. The Court found that Coleman did not meet the requirements of the fundamental miscarriage of justice exception because he could not prove he was actually innocent. Nevertheless, the Court concluded that "reasonable jurists could disagree as to whether a conviction arising from a twenty-eight day trial where seventy-six witnesses were called and only one testified as to Coleman's participation in the Tobin's Inn Shooting can be considered a fundamental miscarriage of justice." Coleman, 2015 WL 6379296, at *6. Accordingly, the Court issued a certificate of appealability "on the sole issue of ...


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