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Washington v. Harry

United States District Court, M.D. Pennsylvania

September 23, 2019

DONALD WASHINGTON, Petitioner,
v.
SUPERINTENDENT LAUREL HARRY, et al., Respondents

          MEMORANDUM

          KANE, JUDGE

         Before the Court is a petition for a writ of habeas corpus pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2254 (Doc. No. 1) filed by pro se Petitioner Donald Washington (“Petitioner”), who is currently incarcerated at the State Correctional Institution in Camp Hill, Pennsylvania (“SCI Camp Hill”). Petitioner filed motions for leave to proceed in forma pauperis (Doc. Nos. 3, 8) but paid the requisite filing fee on September 14, 2019. Given Petitioner’s payment of the filing fee, the Court will deny as moot his motions for leave to proceed in forma pauperis. For the following reasons, the Court will summarily dismiss Petitioner’s § 2254 petition.

         I. PROCEDURAL HISTORY

         On December 29, 1993, Petitioner was sentenced to a term of life imprisonment after he was “convicted of first degree murder, criminal conspiracy to commit aggravated assault, and recklessly endangering another person” following a jury trial in the Court of Common Pleas for Dauphin County. See Washington v. SCI Coal Twp. Superintendent, No. 4:CV-05-2387, 2006 WL 898168, at *1 (M.D. Pa. Apr. 4, 2006). On July 18, 1994, the Superior Court of Pennsylvania affirmed Petitioner’s convictions and sentence. See Commonwealth v. Washington, 649 A.2d 465 (Pa. Super. 1994). On April 18, 1995, the Supreme Court of Pennsylvania denied Petitioner’s petition for allowance of appeal. See Commonwealth v. Washington, 657 A.2d 490 (Pa. 1995).

         On June 22, 1995, Petitioner filed a Post Conviction Relief Act (“PCRA”) petition with the Court of Common Pleas for Dauphin County. See Washington, 2006 WL 898168, at *1. The PCRA court denied his petition on January 15, 1997. See id. Petitioner’s appeal was denied by the Superior Court on August 4, 1998, and the Supreme Court of Pennsylvania denied his petition for allowance of appeal on March 23, 1999. See id. Petitioner subsequently filed three (3) more PCRA actions, all of which were unsuccessful. See id.

         In November of 2005, Petitioner filed a petition for a writ of habeas corpus pursuant to § 2254 with this Court. See id. In that petition, Petitioner claimed that he was entitled to habeas relief based upon the following grounds:

(1) counsel at his arraignment failed to request a pre-trial line up; (2) all subsequent counsel neglected to raise the lack of a pre-trial line up issue; (3) trial counsel did not object[] to a suggestive in-court identification of the Petitioner; (4) appellate counsel failed to raise the identification issue; (5) trial counsel neglected to request a Kloiber instruction;[1] (6) appellate counsel did not raise the Kloiber issue. [Petitioner] also challenge[d] his conviction on the grounds that he was subjected to an in-court suggestive identification and that Dwight Sutton, who [was] described as being a key Commonwealth witness, has recanted his testimony.

Id. On April 4, 2006, the Honorable James F. McClure dismissed Petitioner’s § 2254 petition as untimely pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2244(d)(1)(A). See id. at *3-4. Judge McClure subsequently denied Petitioner’s motion for reconsideration on October 24, 2006. See Washington v. SCI Coal Twp. Superintendent, No. 4:CV-05-2387, 2006 WL 3042983, at *2 (Oct. 24, 2006).

         Thereafter, on May 5, 2010, Petitioner filed a fifth PCRA petition, alleging that counsel was ineffective for never conveying a plea offer to him. See Commowealth v. Washington, No. 1221 MDA 2014, 2015 WL 7576068, at *1 (Pa. Super. Ct. Feb. 2, 2015). The PCRA court dismissed his petition, the Superior Court affirmed the dismissal, and the Supreme Court of Pennsylvania denied Petitioner’s petition for allowance of appeal. See id. Petitioner also filed a sixth PCRA petition, alleging that his sentence of life imprisonment violated the Eighth Amendment in light of the United States Supreme Court’s decision in Miller v. Alabama, 567 U.S. 460 (2012).[2] See id. The PCRA court denied the PCRA petition, and the Superior Court affirmed that denial. See id. at *4.

         On October 20, 2017, Petitioner filed another PCRA petition, again arguing that his sentence was illegal pursuant to Miller. See Commonwealth v. Washington, No. 1953 MDA 2017, 2018 WL 6258698, at *1 (Pa. Super. Ct. Nov. 30, 2018). Petitioner also argued that the United States Supreme Court’s decision in Atkins v. Virginia, 536 U.S. 304 (2002), [3] “made illegal mandatory sentencing schemes that mandate life without possibility of parole for defendant[s] who suffer from mental disorders or [are] similarly situated.” See id. The PCRA court dismissed his petition on November 3, 2017. See id. On November 30, 2018, the Superior Court affirmed the dismissal of the PCRA petition. See id. at *2. The Supreme Court of Pennsylvania denied Petitioner’s petition for allowance of appeal on June 19, 2019. See Commonwealth v. Washington, No. 49 MAL 2019, 2019 WL 2520445 (Pa. June 19, 2019).

         On August 23, 2019, the Court received the instant § 2254 petition from Petitioner. In this petition, Petitioner again challenges his judgment of conviction from Dauphin County and maintains that his sentence of life imprisonment without the possibility of parole is unconstitutional. (Doc. No. 1 at 1, 5.) Specifically, Petitioner asserts that his sentence is illegal pursuant to Atkins because he suffers from a “documente[]d history of mental disorders, and retardation.” (Doc. No. 2 at 10.) As relief, Petitioner seeks to have his life sentence vacated and to be resentenced to a sentence that “reflects [his] diminished culpability.” (Id. at 25.) Petitioner’s § 2254 petition has not been served upon Respondent. The Court now considers the § 2254 petition pursuant to Rule 4 of the Rules Governing Section 2254 Cases in the United States District Courts, 28 U.S.C. foll. § 2254 (1977).

         II. DISCUSSION

         Section 2254 allows a district court to “entertain an application for a writ of habeas corpus on 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.” See 28 U.S.C. § 2254(a). Relief cannot be granted unless all available state remedies have been exhausted, or there is an absence of available state corrective process, or circumstances exist that render such process ineffective to protect the rights of the petitioner. See id. § 2254(b)(1). Moreover, an application for a writ of habeas corpus may be denied on the merits, notwithstanding the failure of the petitioner to exhaust available remedies in the State courts. See id. § 2254(b)(2). In other words, a petition for a writ of habeas corpus must meet exacting substantive and procedural standards in order for a petitioner to obtain relief. See id.

         With respect to habeas petitions filed by state prisoners pursuant to § 2254, Congress has restricted the availability of second and successive petitions pursuant to 28 ...


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