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Matthews v. Cameron

United States District Court, M.D. Pennsylvania

June 19, 2018





         Thomas Harvey Matthews, an inmate presently confined at the Benner State Correctional Institution, Bellefonte, Pennsylvania (SCI-Benner) filed this pro se petition for writ of habeas corpus pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2254. Following the filing of a response to the petition, this Court issued a Memorandum and Order dated May 21, 2014 which determined that adjudication of this habeas corpus action should be stayed. See Doc. 15.

         By Order dated January 6, 2016, Petitioner was granted leave to file an amended petition containing only those pending claims which he had exhausted in state court. See Doc. 24. An amended petition (Doc. 26) and supporting memorandum (Doc. 25) were thereafter filed by Matthews and this matter was reopened. After being granted an extension of time, the Respondent filed a response to the amended petition.

         Matthews was convicted of two (2) counts of aggravated indecent assault, nineteen (19) counts of indecent assault, and two (2) counts of corruption of minors following a 2006 jury trial in the Pike County Court of Common Pleas. The charges stemmed from the repeated molesting of two minor girls between 1997-1999 at the Shohola Elementary School in Pike County, Pennsylvania.[1] During the relevant time period, Matthew was employed as the victims' third grade teacher.[2]

         Following a sentencing hearing, Matthews was designated as a sexually violent sexual predator and sentenced to an aggregate eleven and one half (11½) to twenty-four (24) year term of imprisonment in November, 2006.

         Petitioner's conviction and sentence were affirmed on January 4, 2008 following a direct appeal to the Pennsylvania Superior Court. See Commonwealth v. Matthews, 947 A.2d 828 (Pa. Super. 2008)(Table). On direct appeal to the Pennsylvania Superior Court, Petitioner raised the following five issues: (1) the evidence was insufficient to establish indecent assault against the two student victims; (2) the cases against the two victims should have been severed; (3) the trial court erred by not excluding the testimony of a third student; (4) the trial court erred in concluding that Matthews was a sexually violent predator; and (5) the trial court abused its discretion in imposing the statutory maximum sentence for each count. See Doc. 8-15, p. 6.

         The Pennsylvania Supreme Court subsequently denied Matthews' petition for allowance of appeal by decision dated October 1, 2008. See Commonwealth v. Matthews, 958 A.2d 1047 (Pa. 2008)(Table). Matthews did not seek further review from the United States Supreme Court.

         On August 20, 2009, Matthews file an action pursuant to Pennsylvania's Post Conviction Relief Act (PCRA).[3] Following appointment of counsel, submission of an amended PCRA petition, and an evidentiary hearing, relief was denied on April 26, 2010. Matthews filed a PCRA appeal to the Superior Court which raised three issues: (1) trial counsel was ineffective for not requesting a failure to promptly complain instructions; (2) the trial court erred in not providing the failure to promptly complaint instruction; and (3) trial counsel was deficient for introducing damaging evidence that was previously ruled inadmissible. See Doc. 8-22, Exhibit 18, p. 4.

         The PCRA appeal was denied by the Superior Court on March 22, 2011. See Commonwealth v. Matthews, 26 A.3d 1202 (Pa. Super. 2011)(Table). A motion for reconsideration was denied by the Superior Court on May 10, 2011. See id. By decision dated January 30, 2012, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court denied Matthews' petition for allowance of appeal. See Commonwealth v. Matthews, 38 A.3d 824 (Pa. 2012)(Table). This pro se petition was thereafter filed on August 27, 2012.

         After the initiation of this action, Petitioner filed a second PCRA petition on October 11, 2012 which was subsequently dismissed.

         Ground One of Matthews' pending Amended Petition claims entitlement to federal habeas corpus relief on the basis that trial counsel provided ineffective assistance by allowing the introduction of potentially damaging evidence which the trial court had previously ruled was inadmissible.[4] Petitioner further contends that his trial counsel failed to object to improper cross examination and present witnesses and documents that could have created reasonable doubt. See Doc. 26, ¶ 12.

         Ground Two claims that trial counsel was also deficient for not requesting that a prompt complaint instruction be given to the jury. See id. In a subsequent addendum (Doc. 33), Matthews additionally maintains that the trial court acted improperly by imposing a sentence in excess of the applicable guidelines.

         Respondent seeks dismissal of the amended petition on the grounds that it is untimely, many of Petitioner's claims were procedurally defaulted, and trial counsel's performance did not ...

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