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White v. Glunt

United States District Court, M.D. Pennsylvania

June 21, 2017

MYLES WHITE, Petitioner,
v.
STEVEN R. GLUNT, Respondent.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION

          Matthew W. Brann United States District Judge.

         I. BACKGROUND

         This pro se habeas corpus petition pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2254 was filed by Myles White, an inmate presently confined at the Rockview State Correctional Institution, Bellefonte, Pennsylvania, (SCI-Rockview). Service of the petition was previously ordered.

         Petitioner and Ralph Maldonado were charged on March 26, 2009 with criminal homicide, conspiracy, and robbery in relation to the robbery and murder of Blake Natal. Trial was originally scheduled for September 9, 2009 in the Court of Common Pleas of Monroe County, Pennsylvania. However, Petitioner's attorney filed a motion to sever his trial from that of co-defendant Maldonado on August 25, 2009. The motion was then withdrawn on October 13, 2009. On January 8, 2010, Petitioner's counsel filed a motion for continuance of trial which was granted on January 12, 2010 and trial was rescheduled for March 2010. As a result of a motion filed by Petitioner's co-defendant, the scheduling of trial was further delayed from the March 2010 trial term until June 3, 2010.

         On June 1, 2010, White entered a guilty plea to a charge of third degree murder. He was sentenced to a fifteen (15) to thirty (30) year term of imprisonment that day. Petitioner filed a direct appeal contending that his guilty plea was not voluntary and trial counsel was ineffective for failing to explain the element of intent and for failing to oppose the Commonwealth's use of inflammatory statements. See Doc. 8-12, p. 4. He also challenged the discretionary aspects of his sentence. The Superior Court of Pennsylvania denied relief on June 19, 2012.

         Petitioner subsequently sought relief via an action pursuant to Pennsylvania's Post Conviction Relief Act (PCRA).[1] White was appointed counsel and subsequently filed an amended petition. The amended petition asserted that trial counsel was ineffective for failing to file a motion under Pennsylvania Rule of Criminal Procedure 600 and that the guilty plea was not voluntary because Petitioner expressed doubt as to whether he acted with the intent necessary for a third degree murder charge. A PCRA hearing was conducted by the trial court on July 29, 2013. The PCRA petition was denied by the trial court on October 15, 2013. The Superior Court subsequently affirmed that decision on August 29, 2014. A petition for allowance of appeal was denied by the Supreme Court of Pennsylvania on April 24, 2015.

         Ground One of Petitioner's pending action claims entitlement to federal habeas corpus relief on the basis that his state court proceedings violated his constitutional due process, equal protection, and fundamental fairness rights because the state courts improperly calculated his speedy trial deadline under Pennsylvania Rule of Criminal Procedure 600.[2] See Doc. 1, ¶ 12. Ground Two asserts that White's trial counsel provided ineffective assistance by neglecting to inform him that he had a viable argument that the Commonwealth had violated his right to a speedy trial under Rule 600.

         Respondent seeks dismissal of the petition on the basis that Ground One has not been exhausted and both of White's arguments are meritless. See Doc. 8, pp.10-1 6.

         II. DISCUSSION

         A. Exhaustion/Procedural Default

         Respondent initially asserts Petitioner's Ground One claims are either unexhausted or procedurally defaulted and as such should not be entertained by this Court. The Respondent notes that the petition acknowledges that Ground One was not previously raised via either direct appeal or in White's PCRA action. See Doc. 8, p. 2.

         Title 28 United States Code Section 2254(b)(1) provides that an application for a writ of habeas corpus filed on behalf of a person in custody pursuant to the judgment of a state court shall not be granted unless the applicant has exhausted the remedies available in the courts of the State; or there is an absence of available state corrective process; or there are existing circumstances which render the state process ineffective. The exhaustion requirement is not a mere formality. It serves the interests of comity between the federal and state systems, by allowing the state an initial opportunity to determine and correct any violations of a prisoner's federal rights. Crews v. Horn, 360 F.3d 146, 151 (3d Cir. 2004).

         The United States Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit has stated that “[U]nder 28 U.S.C. § 2254(c), such a petitioner ‘shall not be deemed to have exhausted the remedies available in the courts of the State ... if he has the right under the law of the State to raise, by any available procedure, the question presented.' ” Wenger v. Frank, 266 F.3d 218, 223-24 (3d Cir. 2001).

         “A state prisoner is generally barred from obtaining federal habeas relief unless the prisoner has properly presented his or her claims through one ‘complete round of the State's established appellate review process.' ” Woodford v. Ngo,548 U.S. 81, 92 (2006) (internal citations omitted); O'Sullivan v. Boerckel, 526 U.S. 838, 844-45 (1999)(while exhaustion does not require state prisoners to invoke extraordinary remedies, the state courts must be afforded one full opportunity to resolve any constitutional issues via completion of the State's established appellate review process). The United States Supreme Court in O'Sullivan explained, that state prisoners must “file petitions for discretionary review when that review is part of the ordinary appellate review procedure in the State.” Id. at 847. The United States Supreme Court added that, in determining whether a state prisoner has preserved an issue for presentation in a ...


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