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Williams v. Capozza

United States District Court, M.D. Pennsylvania

June 26, 2019

ROBERT C. WILLIAMS, Petitioner,
v.
MARK CAPOZZA, et al., Respondents.

          MEMORANDUM

          HON. JOHN E. JONES III

         On October 16, 2018, Petitioner Robert C. Williams (“Petitioner”), filed the instant petition for writ of habeas corpus pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2254, challenging convictions entered in the Court of Common Pleas of York County, Pennsylvania on November 16, 2012. (Doc. 1). In response to the petition, Respondents filed a motion (Doc. 12) to dismiss the petition as untimely. Although Petitioner has not filed a brief in opposition to the motion, in his petition, he acknowledges the untimeliness of the petition and argues that he is entitled to equitable tolling of the statute based on governmental interference and actual innocence. (Doc. 1, pp. 36, 37).

         For the reasons set forth below, the Court will grant Respondents' motion and dismiss the petition as untimely.

         I. BACKGROUND

         On November 16, 2012, after a jury convicted Petitioner of one count of second-degree murder and two counts of robbery, the Court of Common Pleas of York County sentenced him to life imprisonment without the possibility of parole. (Doc. 1; Doc. 12-1, p. 49). He did not pursue a direct appeal. (Doc. 12-1, p. 49). However, on July 9, 2013, he filed a Post Conviction Relief Act (“PCRA”) petition pursuant to 42 Pa. Cons. Stat. §§ 9541-46, which resulted in a reinstatement of his right to a direct appeal. (Id.)

         He filed a direct appeal on January 31, 2015. On March 9, 2015, the Pennsylvania Superior Court affirmed his judgment of sentence. (Id. at pp. 49-56). He did not seek discretionary review.

         Petitioner filed a timely PCRA on June 2, 2015. (Id. at 67). The PCRA court appointed counsel; counsel filed an amended petition on September 16, 2015. (Id.). Following a March 11, 2016 hearing, the PCRA court denied the petition. (Id.) Petitioner pursued an appeal and, on August 8, 2017, the Superior Court affirmed the PCRA court's denial of relief. Petitioner did not seek relief in the Supreme Court of Pennsylvania.

         On March 8, 2018, Petitioner filed in this Court a federal petition for writ of habeas corpus pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2254, Williams v. Wetzel, et al., Civil No. 1:18-cv-0551. (Id. at 81-95). In accordance with United States v. Miller, 197 F.3d 644, 649 (3d Cir. 1999), the Court issued an Order notifying Petitioner of the limitation upon his rights with regard to the filing of multiple habeas petitions. (Id. at 97-100). Specifically, the Court notified Petitioner that “if your current 2254 habeas petition is considered on the merits and rejected, you no longer have the right simply to file another 2254 petition in this Court raising other grounds for relief, even if you are attempting to raise grounds that you did not think of before filing the current petition. Instead, you would have to move in the Court of Appeals for a certificate allowing you to file that second 2254 petition.” (Id. at 97). The Order also notified him as follows: “If you do decide to withdraw your current petition with the intent of filing a comprehensive 2254 petition in the future, you are also advised that 28 U.S.C. § 2244(d) sets forth a one-year statute of limitations for filing a 2254 petition. This section also specifies the periods of time that are not counted towards the limitations period. You should consult this section for when the one-year period starts to run. The limitations deadline may affect your decision to either stand on your current petition or file a new, comprehensive one.” (Id. at 99). The Court directed him to file a Notice of Election within forty-five days indicating whether he would pursue the petition as filed or choose to withdraw the petition so that he may file one, all-inclusive petition under 28 U.S.C. § 2254 within the one-year statute of limitations applicable to such petitions. (Id.). Finally, the Court ordered “[i]f the limitations period would expire during this 45-day period, the limitations period is tolled from the date of this Order until Petitioner's notification is filed, or until forty-five (45) days have elapsed, whichever is earliest. In these circumstances, and if Petitioner decides to file an all-inclusive § 2254 petition raising all grounds for relief, Petitioner's response must also be accompanied by his new § 2254 petition.” Petitioner filed a Notice of Election on June 14, 2018, choosing the following: “I labeled my petition as a petition for writ of habeas corpus under 28 U.S.C. § 2254. I choose to withdraw the petition so that I may file one, all-inclusive petition under 28 U.S.C. § 2254 within the one-year limit for filing such a petition.” (Id. at 102). On June 21, 2018, the Court issued an Order voluntarily withdrawing the petition and closing the case. (Id. at 106).

         On October 16, 2018, he filed the instant federal petition for writ of habeas corpus pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2254. (Doc. 1).

         II. DISCUSSION

         The court shall “entertain an application for a writ of habeas corpus in behalf of a person in custody pursuant to the judgment of a State court only on the ground that he is in custody in violation of the Constitution or laws or treaties of the United States.” 28 U.S.C. § 2254(a). A petition filed under § 2254 must be timely filed under the stringent standards set forth in the Anti-Terrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act of 1996 (“AEDPA”), Pub.L. No. 104-132, 110 Stat. 1214 (Apr. 24, 1996). See 28 U.S.C. § 2244(d) (1). Specifically, a state prisoner requesting habeas corpus relief pursuant to § 2254 must adhere to a statute of limitations that provides, in relevant part, as follows:

(1) A 1-year period of limitation shall apply to an application for a writ of habeas corpus by a person in custody pursuant to the judgment of a State court. The limitation period shall run from the latest of-
(A) the date on which the judgment became final by the conclusion of direct review or the expiration of the time ...

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