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McCool v. McGinley

United States District Court, M.D. Pennsylvania

October 18, 2019

JOHN MCCOOL, Petitioner,
THOMAS MCGINLEY, [1] Respondent.



         In August 2000, John McCool, an inmate at the State Correctional Facility at Coal Township, filed a pro se petition for a writ of habeas corpus pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2254 challenging his 1981 convictions for rape, 18 Pa. Cons. Stat. § 3121, and related offenses following a jury trial in the Snyder County Court of Common Pleas (“Habeas Petition”). (Doc. 1). At the time, McCool was an inmate at the State Correctional Institution at Huntingdon, where he was serving an aggregate sentence to an indeterminate term of 25 to 50 years' imprisonment. In a February 16, 2001 Order, District Judge Malcolm Muir dismissed the Habeas Petition, adopting Magistrate Judge Thomas M. Blewitt's report and recommendation, for McCool's failure to exhaust state court remedies in accordance with 28 U.S.C. § 2254(b)(1)(A). (See Doc. 18).

         Now, by motions filed March 11, 2019 (Doc. 19), and April 23, 2019 (Doc. 23), McCool moves the Court for (1) an order, pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 60(b)(6), relieving him from the 2001 Order by which Judge Muir dismissed the Habeas Petition (Doc. 19); and (2) “summary adjudication” of his Rule 60(b)(6) motion, pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 56. (Doc. 23). Specifically, McCool submits that the Commonwealth and the prosecution falsely represented that McCool had failed to exhaust one of his claims-that his 1981 conviction was obtained in violation of the Interstate Agreement on Detainers (“IADA”), 42 Pa. Cons. Stat. § 9101-leading Judges Muir and Blewitt to dismiss the Habeas Petition for non-exhaustion on the IADA claim.

         Separately, by motion filed April 29, 2019, McCool seeks an order directing a prison official, Lieutenant Belles, to return legal mail that Lt. Belles confiscated “on the pretext that the legal mail was unauthorized because it did not arrive in an official envelope from the Office of the Clerk of the Court.” (Doc. 24). In letter to the Court dated April 25, 2019, and filed April 29, 2019, (Doc. 23), McCool asserts that the confiscated mail was a self-addressed, postage-paid envelope containing the time-stamped copy of his motion for summary adjudication.

         I. Background and Procedural History

         A. State Proceedings

         In 1980, a New York State jury convicted McCool of first-degree robbery, and he was sentenced to an indeterminate term of 15 years to life incarceration. Several months later, New York transferred McCool to Pennsylvania, pursuant to Article IV of the IADA, to stand trial for charges brought against him in Snyder County Court of Pleas (“Snyder County CCP”). In 1981, McCool was convicted and sentenced to an aggregate term of 25 to 50 years' imprisonment. (Doc. 18; Doc. 7, at 32). Pennsylvania returned him to New York, where his Pennsylvania convictions were lodged as detainers against him.

         Shortly after the Snyder County CCP jury convicted McCool, his trial counsel filed a post-trial motion for a new trial and arrest of judgment based on three arguments: the verdict was against the evidence, the verdict was against the weight of the evidence, and the verdict was against the law. (Doc. 7, at 441). McCool's trial counsel supplemented the motion with additional reasons for granting a new trial. (Doc. 7, at 441-442). Neither the original motion nor the supplemental submissions expressly raised the IADA claim upon which McCool presently seeks habeas relief. Ultimately, in October 1985, the trial court denied the motion for a new trial due to counsel's failure to file a supporting brief by the court-ordered deadline. (Doc. 7, at 132). McCool did not appeal.

         Fifteen years later, in 1996, McCool filed the first of two Post-Conviction Relief Act (“PCRA”) petitions, see 42 Pa. Cons. Stat. § 9541, seeking collateral review of his convictions. McCool argued, in part, that (1) the Commonwealth violated the IADA and that (2) he was deprived of effective assistance of trial counsel. (Doc. 7, at 140-41). Following an evidentiary hearing, the PCRA court issued a written decision rejecting McCool's IADA claim under Shack v. Attorney General of the State of Pennsylvania, 776 F.2d 1170 (3d Cir. 1985), and Frisbie v Collins, 342 U.S. 519 (1951), given that McCool “had been convicted after notice and a fair trial in Pennsylvania.” (Doc. 7, at 245-46). However, the court also found that McCool's trial counsel was ineffective for failing to file a brief in support of the motion for a new trial, and vacated and remanded the case on that ground. (Doc. 7, at 248). On appeal of that decision, the Pennsylvania Superior Court held that the PCRA court's decision to vacate and remand effectively reinstated McCool's direct appeal rights, “compelling [McCool] to exhaust that avenue prior to filing a PCRA petition” and thus denied the appeal as moot. (Doc. 7, at 268). McCool did not petition the Pennsylvania Supreme Court for allowance of appeal.

         In 1998, McCool filed his second motion for a new trial, alleging six grounds in support of granting a new trial, none of which were based on the alleged IADA violations, and all of which the court rejected, denying the motion entirely. (Doc. 7, at 328-29). McCool appealed, raising the same arguments as in his first appeal, and some new ones, including that the trial court erred in denying his motion to dismiss for speedy-trial issues. (Doc. 7, at 307- 08). On intermediate appellate review, the Pennsylvania Superior Court affirmed the denial of McCool's second post-trial motion, specifically noting that McCool was precluded from raising the speedy-trial issue because he had failed to raise that issue in his first-filed post-trial motions.[2] (Doc. 7, at 245-46). The Pennsylvania Supreme Court denied allowance of appeal (in which McCool raised only a speedy-trial issue). (Doc. 7, at 452; 245-246).

         In 2001, McCool filed his second PCRA petition.[3] In this second petition, McCool asserted an IADA violation based on the contention that he was improperly transported from New York to Pennsylvania before his Snyder County CCP trial. See McCool, No. 4:02-CV-00337 (Doc.. 60). The PCRA court rejected that ground for relief and denied the petition. On appeal, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court held, in part, that McCool “failed to raise his IADA issue on direct appeal, and, therefore, it has been waived.” See McCool, No. 4:02-CV-00337 (Doc. 29), Appendix “K”, at 119.

         B. Federal Proceedings

         McCool has also filed several petitions seeking a federal writ of habeas corpus, including the one which he now seeks to resurrect in this instant matter. These petitions, all of which advanced the IADA arguments, were dismissed: (1) the first petition (the instant Habeas Petition) was denied for failure to exhaust state remedies, see McCool v. Kyler, No. 4:00-CV-1418 (M.D. Pa. Feb. 16, 2001); (2) the second petition was denied as untimely under 28 U.S.C. § 2244(d)(1)(A), see McCool v. Mechling, No. 4:02-CV-338 (M.D. Pa. Nov. 17, 2003); (3) the third petition was denied for failure to exhaust state remedies and because McCool had procedurally defaulted on every claim raised in the petition, see McCool v. Mechling, No. 4:02-CV-338 (M.D. Pa. Nov. 17, 2003); and (4) the fourth petition was denied because the filing of that petition amounted to a successive petition in violation of 28 U.S.C. § 2244 (b)(3)(a) and also an abuse of writ.

         In his report recommending dismissal of the instant Habeas Petition, Magistrate Judge Blewitt compared the arguments McCool had raised in his appeal of the denial of his post-trial motion for a new trial with those raised in the Habeas Petition and found that McCool had simply failed to raise the IADA issue with either the Superior or Supreme Courts. And in dismissing McCool's second habeas petition, District Judge Muir-again adopting Magistrate Judge Blewitt's ...

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