United States District Court, M.D. Pennsylvania
MALACHY E. MANNION, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
Freeman William May, an inmate confined in the State
Correctional Institution, Coal Township, Pennsylvania, filed
the instant petition for writ of habeas corpus pursuant to
28 U.S.C. §2254. He attacks a 2014 conviction
imposed by the Court of Common Pleas for Lebanon County,
Pennsylvania. (Doc. 1). Following careful
consideration of the parties' submissions, and for the
reasons discussed below, the Court will dismiss the petition
as untimely. See 28 U.S.C. §2244(d).
was first convicted and sentenced to death in March 1991 in
the Court of Common Pleas of Lebanon County, Pennsylvania. On
direct appeal, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court affirmed the
conviction but vacated the death sentence and remanded it for
a new sentencing trial. Commonwealth v. May, 656
A.2d 1335 (Pa. 1995). Following a second sentencing trial in
December 1995, Petitioner was again sentenced to death.
Commonwealth v. May, 710 A.2d 44 (Pa. 1998). The
Pennsylvania Supreme Court affirmed the sentence on direct
appeal. Id. Petitioner then sought relief under
Pennsylvania's Post Conviction Relief Act
(“PCRA”), see 42 Pa. Cons. Stat. Ann.
§§9541 et seq. In May 2006, the
Pennsylvania Supreme Court affirmed his conviction, but
vacated Petitioner's sentence and ordered a third
sentencing trial. Commonwealth v. May, 889 A.2d 559
(Pa. 2006). In October 2008, Petitioner was again sentenced
to death in the Lebanon County Court. Commonwealth v.
May, 31 A.3d 668 (Pa. 2011). On November 23, 2011, the
Pennsylvania Supreme Court affirmed Petitioner's
sentence. Id. Petitioner's timely petition for
certiorari review was denied on October 1, 2012. May v.
Pennsylvania, 133 S.Ct. 190 (2012).
August 19, 2013, Petitioner filed another PCRA petition
asserting errors in his third death penalty trial. (Doc.
16-11 at 1). In a series of letters, submitted to Lebanon
County President Judge John C. Tylwalk, by defense counsel
through December 2013 and January 2014, Defense Counsel Jules
Epstein indicated the Petitioner was willing to accept a
sentence of life imprisonment in exchange for withdrawing all
pending and future appeals, and expressing concerns over
Petitioner's mental state and capacity. (Doc.
16-12 at 1-4). Ultimately, on January 24, 2014,
Attorney Epstein submitted a letter requesting a case status
listing with the Petitioner present; an in chambers hearing
was held before Judge Tylwalk on January 31, 2014. (Doc.
16-13 at 1).
the in chambers hearing, a competency hearing for the
Petitioner was scheduled for and held on April 17, 2014.
(Doc. 16-14 at 1-41). In this competency hearing, testimony
was presented by Dr. William F. Russel, Ph.D. regarding the
Petitioner's mental capacity. Id. Following the
hearing, Petitioner was declared an incapacitated person and
incompetent to proceed further in the matter. (Doc.
16-15 at 1). At this time, Judge Tylwalk directed
the Office of the Public Defender of Lebanon County to serve
as the guardian of the person of Petitioner. Id.
Based in part in consideration of the agreement between the
Commonwealth, Counsel for Petitioner, and Petitioner's
appointed guardian, by Order dated July 2, 2014,
Petitioner's death sentence was vacated, and he was
sentenced to life imprisonment without the possibility of
parole. (Doc. 16-18 at 1).
Order dated August 27, 2014, the sentencing court clarified
that Petitioner's life sentence was to run consecutively
to his prior sentence on docket 82 of 1983. (Doc. 16-19).
Petitioner filed no appeals after his sentence was imposed.
5, 2017, Petitioner filed the above captioned petition for
writ of habeas corpus. (Doc. 1, petition).
prisoner requesting habeas corpus relief pursuant to 28
U.S.C. §2254 must adhere to a statute of
limitations that provides, in relevant part, as follows:
(d)(1) A one-year period of limitations 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 for seeking such review . . .
(d)(2) The time during which a properly filed application for
State post conviction or other collateral review with respect
to the pertinent judgment or claim is pending shall not be
counted toward any period of limitation under this
28 U.S.C. §2244(d)(1)-(2)(emphasis added); see
generally, Jones v. Morton, 195 F.3d. 153, 157
(3d Cir. 1999). Thus, under the plain terms of
§2244(d)(1)(A), the period of time for filing a habeas
corpus petition begins to run when direct review processes
are concluded. See Harris v. Hutchinson, 209 F.3d
325, 327 (4th Cir. 2000)(“[T]he AEDPA provides that
upon conclusion of direct review of a judgment of conviction,
the one year period within which to file a federal habeas
corpus petition commences, but the running of the period is
suspended for the period when state post-conviction
proceedings are pending in any state court.”)(emphasis
in original); Fields v. Johnson, 159 F.3d 914, 916
(5th Cir. 1998)(per curiam); Hoggro v.
Boone, 150 F.3d 1223, 1226 (10th Cir. 1998).
“Final judgment in a criminal case means sentence. The
sentence is the judgment.” Burton v. Stewart,
549 U.S. 147, 157 (2007). Accordingly, the one year
limitations period for filing a habeas begins when both
conviction and sentence become final. Id.
case, Petitioner was sentenced to a term of life imprisonment
on July 2, 2014. Because Petitioner failed to file an appeal,
his conviction became final on August 1, 2014, at the
expiration of the thirty-day period to file a direct appeal
to the Pennsylvania Superior Court. See 42 Pa.C.S.A.
§9545(b)(3); Pa.R.App.P. 903; Pa.R.Crim.P. 720(a)(3).
Petitioner had one (1) year, or until August 1, 2015, to file
a federal habeas petition. The instant petition was not filed
until June 5, 2017, twenty-two months after the limitations
period expired. As such, the petition for habeas corpus
relief under ...