United States District Court, M.D. Pennsylvania
SEAN J. HANNON, Petitioner,
COMMONWEALTH OF Pennsylvania, et al., Respondents.
H. RAMBO UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
Hannon, a Pennsylvania state prisoner, filed this 28 U.S.C.
§ 2254 petition asserting that (1) his sentence is
illegal as it exceeds the legal maximum term allowable, (2)
his attorney was ineffective for failing to explain the
sentence to him, (3) his plea was not knowing and voluntary
because he did not understand the nature of any potential
sentence, and (4) his sentence violates the United States
Constitution. (Doc. 1). Hannon's term of incarceration
arises from two separate criminal judgments resulting from
2008 convictions for simple assault and resisting arrest, and
a 2011 conviction for driving under the influence.
Id. at 1. Hannon acknowledges that he did not seek
review in state court of any of the issues raised in this
petition because he “did not have counsel, and . . .
[is] not versed in law or filing of motions and petitions or
appeals.” Id. at 12; see Id. at 5-12.
review of the Pennsylvania state court dockets reveals that
Hannon did not file a direct appeal of either criminal
judgment, but instead filed a petition for collateral review
pursuant to Pennsylvania's Post Conviction Relief Act
(“PCRA”) in which he challenged both judgments.
See Commonwealth v. Hannon, CP-35-CR-0002278-2008
(Ct. Com. Pl. Lackawanna Cty.); Commonwealth v.
Hannon, CP-35-CR-0001425-2011 (Ct. Com. Pl. Lackawanna
Cty.). Hannon's PCRA petition was dismissed on April 16,
2014. Id. Hannon attempted to file one interlocutory
appeal in late 2012, which was dismissed by the Superior
Court of Pennsylvania for lack of jurisdiction. See
Commonwealth v. Hannon, 2188 MDA 2012 (Pa. Super. Ct.).
Hannon did not, however, appeal the PCRA court's final
order denying his petition.
have filed a motion to dismiss, asserting that Hannon's
§ 2254 petition should be dismissed because Hannon: (1)
is no longer in custody pursuant to the 2008 criminal
judgment; (2) named an improper respondent; (3) failed to
exhaust his state court remedies; and (4) failed to timely
file his § 2254 petition or present adequate cause to
excuse his untimely petition. (Doc. 9). Hannon has not
responded to the motion to dismiss.
to filing § 2254 petitions, state prisoners must exhaust
available state court remedies. O'Sullivan v.
Boerckel, 526 U.S. 838, 842 (1999). To fully exhaust
remedies, a prisoner must “give the state courts one
full opportunity to resolve any constitutional issues by
invoking one complete round of the State's established
appellate review process.” Id. at 845. To
invoke one complete round of Pennsylvania's established
appellate review process, individuals must appeal an adverse
decision to the Superior Court of Pennsylvania, but
“need not seek review from the Pennsylvania Supreme
Court.” Lambert v. Blackwell, 387 F.3d 210,
233 (3d Cir. 2004).
exhaustion requirement does not apply, however, in cases
where the state courts would not consider the unexhausted
claims because they are procedurally barred.”
Slutzker v. Johnson, 393 F.3d 373, 380 (3d Cir.
2004). Thus, where state courts would refuse to consider an
unexhausted claim, a petitioner's “failure to
exhaust that claim is excused.” Id. In such
circumstances “the concomitant doctrine of procedural
default” applies and bars consideration of the merits
of a petitioner's claims unless “the petitioner
makes the standard showing of ‘cause and prejudice'
or establishes a fundamental miscarriage of justice.”
Id. at 381.
for a procedural default exists where something
external to the petitioner, something that cannot
fairly be attributed to him, impeded his efforts to comply
with the State's procedural rule.” Maples v.
Thomas, 565 U.S. 266, 280 (2012) (alterations and
internal quotation marks omitted). “‘Actual
prejudice' means ‘not merely that the errors . . .
created a possibility of prejudice, but that they
worked to his actual and substantial
disadvantage.'” Goldblum v. Klem, 510 F.3d
204, 215-16 (3d Cir. 2007) (quoting United States v.
Frady, 456 U.S. 152, 170 (1982) (brackets omitted)). To
establish a miscarriage of justice, “the petitioner
must typically show actual innocence.” Leyva v.
Williams, 504 F.3d 357, 366 (3d Cir. 2007) (internal
quotation marks omitted).
clear from Hannon's petition and the relevant
Pennsylvania state court dockets that he did not appeal to
the Superior Court of Pennsylvania either his criminal
judgments or the denial of PCRA relief. Moreover, because
more than one year has elapsed since Hannon's criminal
convictions became final, he is barred from pursing his
current claims in state court. See 42 Pa. Stat. and
Cons. Stat. § 9545 (b)(1) (PCRA petition “shall be
filed within one year of the date the judgment becomes
final”). Consequently, the Court may entertain the
merits of Hannon's petition only if he demonstrates cause
and prejudice or a fundamental miscarriage of justice.
Hannon fails to demonstrate cause and prejudice. Hannon
asserts that he did not raise his current claims in state
court because he “was unaware at the time” of the
existence of these claims and, by the time he became aware of
their existence, any PCRA petition would be time-barred.
(Doc. 1 at 5-10). However, it is well settled that “an
‘ignorant or inadvertent procedural default' does
not satisfy the cause element of cause and prejudice.”
Cristin v. Brennan, 281 F.3d 404, 420 (3d Cir. 2002)
(quoting Coleman v. Thompson, 501 U.S. 722, 752
(1991)). See also Murray v. Carrier, 477 U.S. 478,
486 (1986) (noting “the mere fact that counsel failed
to recognize the factual or legal basis for a claim, or
failed to raise the claim despite recognizing it, does not
constitute cause for a procedural default”).
Hannon has not demonstrated-let alone alleged-actual
innocence sufficient to excuse his procedural default. Hannon
makes no allegation that he did not commit the acts to which
he pled guilty, but instead raises issues related solely to
the sentence imposed and his awareness of the consequences
that would result from his guilty plea. (See Doc.
1). Because Hannon fails to demonstrate either cause and
prejudice or a miscarriage of justice, his claims are
procedurally defaulted and his § 2254 petition must be
dismissed. Finally, because it is beyond debate that
Hannon's claims are procedurally defaulted, a certificate
of appealability is not warranted. See Slack v.
McDaniel, 529 U.S. 473, 484 (2000) (setting forth
grounds for granting certificate of appealability).