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Bennett v. Clark

United States District Court, E.D. Pennsylvania

December 29, 2017

CARLTON BENNETT, Petitioner,
v.
MICHAEL CLARK, et al., Respondents.

          MEMORANDUM

          GERALD J. PAPPERT, J.

         On July 5, 2016, Carlton Bennett filed a petition for a writ of habeas corpus pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2254. On February 1, 2017, Magistrate Judge Rice issued a Report and Recommendation (“R&R”) recommending that the petition be denied. (ECF No. 13.) Bennett filed objections to the R&R on April 20, 2017.[1] (ECF No. 19.) After thoroughly reviewing the record, Magistrate Judge Rice's R&R and Bennett's objections, the Court overrules those objections and adopts the R&R.

         I

         Bennett was convicted of second-degree murder, robbery, criminal conspiracy and possessing an instrument of crime in the Court of Common Pleas of Philadelphia County on January 27, 1993. Commonwealth v. Carlton Bennett, No. 51-933202-1991 (Pa. Ct. Com. Pl. Phila. Cnty. Jan. 21, 1993). The court sentenced Bennett to a mandatory life sentence for the second-degree murder conviction and concurrent terms of incarceration for the other offenses. Id. Bennett filed a direct appeal and the Superior Court of Pennsylvania affirmed his conviction on February 17, 1994. Commonwealth v. Bennett, 643 A.2d 701 (Pa. Super. Feb. 17, 1994). Bennett did not seek review from the Pennsylvania Supreme Court.

         Bennett filed a timely petition under Pennsylvania's Post Conviction Relief Act (“PCRA”) on March 17, 1995. Commonwealth v. Carlton Bennett, No. 253 EDA 2014, 2016 WL 545908, at *1 (Pa. Super. Feb. 9, 2016). The PCRA court dismissed the petition on April 10, 1997. Id. Bennett appealed and the Superior Court affirmed. Commonwealth v. Carlton Bennett, No. 1290 EDA 2000 (Pa. Super. Aug. 28, 2003). Again, Bennett did not seek review from the Pennsylvania Supreme Court.

         On April 25, 2006, Bennett filed a new PCRA petition, alleging that there was newly discovered evidence of his innocence. Commonwealth v. Carlton Bennett, CP-51-0933202-1991, 468 EDA 2007 (C.C.P. Phil. Co. Nov. 22, 2013). On January 24, 2007, the PCRA court dismissed Bennett's petition as untimely. Id. at 10. Bennett appealed, and on May 1, 2008, the Superior Court remanded Bennett's petition so that he could add a claim based on a new affidavit. After holding a series of evidentiary hearings, the PCRA court again denied Bennett's PCRA petition as untimely on November 11, 2013 and the Superior Court affirmed that decision on February 9, 2016. Id. at 18.

         On June 28, 2016, Bennett filed this pro se petition for a writ of habeas corpus, raising three claims. (ECF No. 1.) First, Bennett avers that his life sentence without the possibility of parole violates the Eighth Amendment in light of the Supreme Court's holding in Miller v. Alabama, 567 U.S. 460 (2012). Second, Bennett contends he is actually innocent and, finally, that the fundamental miscarriage of justice exception applies. (ECF No. 1 at 5, 7.) On February 1, 2017, Judge Rice issued his R&R, recommending that Bennett's claims for relief be denied because his habeas petition was untimely. (R&R at 1, ECF No. 13.) On April 20, 2017, Bennett filed two objections to the R&R: (1) that he is entitled to an alternative start date of the one-year statute of limitations under 28 U.S.C. § 2244(d)(1)(C) based on Miller; and (2) that the fundamental miscarriage of justice exception applies based on new evidence demonstrating his actual innocence.

         II

         A

         The facts of this case are set forth in detail in Judge Rice's R&R and need not be repeated here. “[F]or the portion of the R&R to which no objection [is] made, the Court reviews the R&R for clear error.”[2] Harris v. Mahally, No. 14-2879, 2016 WL 4440337, at *4 (E.D. Pa. Aug. 22, 2016). The Court reviews de novo the specific portions of the R&R to which a party objects. See 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1); see also Cont'l Cas. Co. v. Dominick D'Andrea, Inc., 150 F.3d 245, 250 (3d Cir. 1998). The Court “may accept, reject, or modify, in whole or in part, the findings or recommendations made by the magistrate judge.” 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1)(C).

         B

         The Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act of 1996 (“AEDPA”) imposes a one-year statute of limitations on applications for writs of habeas corpus. 28 U.S.C. § 2244(d)(1). The limitations period begins to run from the latest of the following:

(A) the date on which the judgment became final by the conclusion of direct review or the expiration of the time for seeking such review;
(B) the date on which the impediment to filing an application created by State action in violation of the Constitution or laws of the United States is removed, if the applicant was ...

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