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Priset v. Attorney General of Pa

United States District Court, M.D. Pennsylvania

May 18, 2018



          KANE JUDGE

         On February 23, 2017, the Court received and filed a petition for a writ of habeas corpus submitted pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2254 signed by Petitioner Matthew D. Priset (“Priset”). (Doc. No. 1.) Priset is incarcerated at the State Correctional Institution at Waymart, Pennsylvania (“SCI-Waymart”). (Id.) For the reasons that follow, the Court will dismiss Priset's habeas petition.

         I. BACKGROUND

         Priset is serving a term of life imprisonment imposed after he was found guilty but mentally ill of inter alia, first-degree murder. (Doc. No. 1); see also Commonwealth v. Priset, Docket No. CP-59-CR-405-2011 (Tioga Cty. C.C.P.); 1763 MDA 2012, 2013 WL 11254791

         (Pa. Super. Sept. 4, 2013).[1] The Superior Court set forth the background of the case as follows:

Between 2008 and 2011, [Priset] was hospitalized at various times and hospitals for mental health treatment. Prior to his hospitalizations, [Priset] had been the valedictorian of his high school class, attended Princeton University on scholarship, graduated with a degree in engineering, and had no history of mental illness. He obtained employment at J.P. Morgan in New York, when, in approximately 2008, he began to experience symptoms of psychiatric illness. Following repeated hospitalizations and the persistence of his mental health problems, [Priset] returned to live with his parents in Tioga County, Pennsylvania. [Priset] became acquainted with the victim, Clinton Perry, through mutual friends in Tioga County, and spent time in the victim's home on a few occasions prior to the murder.
On January 25, 2011, at approximately 10:36 p.m., [Priset] entered the basement of the victim's home and stabbed the victim in the chest with a knife, killing him. The victim's mother, Renee Perry, who was upstairs, heard the victim scream and ran to the basement where she saw [Priset] crouched on top of the victim. Mrs. Perry reached down to pull [Priset] away, and heard [Priset] yell that the victim was “a sadist”. In the ensuing commotion, Mrs. Perry was thrown against a closet, and the victim was thrown against a door. Mrs. Perry observed a large amount of blood on the victim's shirt, and a knife on the floor. Mrs. Perry retrieved an unloaded gun from the closet she had fallen against, and pointed it at [Priset], instructing him to get out. [Priset], however, pulled the gun from her hands and ran away. [Priset] subsequently disposed of the gun near a railroad. The victim died as a result of stab wounds to his chest. Following an investigation, [Priset] was arrested and charged with the aforementioned crimes.
On November 2, 2011, [Priset] filed a notice of his intent to pursue an insanity defense. A non-jury trial commenced on June 25, 2012, at the conclusion of which the trial court rendered its guilty verdicts.
On August 20, 2012, following a sentencing hearing, the trial court sentenced [Priset] to life imprisonment on the charge of first-degree murder, with a recommendation that the sentence be served in a facility that provides mental health services. Additionally, the trial court sentenced [Priset] to a concurrent sentence of 3-6 years for burglary, and a concurrent 1-3 years for theft by unlawful taking.

Priset, 2013 WL 11254791, at *1.


         Habeas corpus is an “‘extraordinary remedy' reserved for defendants who were ‘grievously wronged' by the criminal proceedings.” Dunn v. Colleran, 247 F.3d 450, 468 (3d Cir. 2001) (quoting Calderon v. Coleman, 525 U.S. 414, 146 (1998)). The exercise of restraint by a federal court in reviewing and granting habeas relief is appropriate due to considerations of comity and federalism. Engle v. Isaac, 456 U.S. 107, 128 (1982). “The States possess primary authority for defining and enforcing the criminal law. In criminal trials they also hold the initial responsibility for vindicating constitutional rights. Federal intrusions into state criminal trials frustrate both the States' sovereign power and their good-faith attempts to honor constitutional law.” Id. States also have a recognized interest in the finality of convictions that have survived direct review within the state court system. Brecht v. Abrahamson, 507 U.S. 619, 620 (1993).

         A district court may entertain an application for a writ of habeas corpus filed by a person in state custody “only on the ground that he is in custody in violation of the Constitution or laws of the United States.” 28 U.S.C. § 2254(a). If a claim presented in a § 2254 petition has been adjudicated on the merits in state court proceedings, habeas relief cannot be granted unless:

the adjudication of the claim - (1) resulted in a decision that was contrary to, or involved an unreasonable application of, clearly established Federal law, as determined by the Supreme Court of the United States; or (2) resulted in a decision that was based on an unreasonable determination of ...

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