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Crosland v. Vaughn

United States District Court, E.D. Pennsylvania

October 31, 2019

DONALD T. VAUGHN, et al., Respondents.


          C. DARNELL JONES, II J.


         Presently before this Court is a motion filed pro se by Curtis Crosland (“Petitioner”) under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 60(b). Petitioner seeks reconsideration of this Court's Order dated September 14, 2018 (ECF No. 81)[1] and seeks relief from the 2003 denial of his habeas corpus petition filed pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2254.[2] Relying on Reeves v. Fayette SCI, 897 F.3d 154 (3d Cir. 2018) and Satterfield v. District Attorney of Philadelphia, 872 F.3d 152 (3d Cir. 2017), Petitioner contends he is entitled to relief from the prior judgment in light of this new Third Circuit law and its alleged relevance to Petitioner's case. Once more citing to McQuiggin v. Perkins, 569 U.S. 383 (2013) and Cox v. Horn, 757 F.3d 113 (3d Cir. 2014)[3], Petitioner asserts that because he is actually innocent, the disposition of his earlier habeas petition as untimely should be re-opened. Alternatively, Petitioner insists he should be issued a certificate of appealability and be provided with counsel to pursue it. The question before this Court is two-fold: whether the evidence Petitioner presented to Magistrate Judge Moore Wells falls under the new evidence definition in Reeves and if it does, whether Petitioner has made a showing of actual innocence relative to Satterfield that warrants applying the extraordinary circumstances exception in McQuiggin to excuse the untimely filing of Petitioner's Rule 60(b)(6) motion.


         On January 29, 1991, Petitioner was convicted of second-degree murder, robbery, and weapon offenses. He was sentenced to life imprisonment on the murder charge and consecutive sentences on the robbery and weapons convictions. On appeal, the Superior Court affirmed the lower court's sentence with regards to the murder and weapons offenses; however, the Superior Court vacated the sentence imposed by the conviction of robbery. Commonwealth v. Crosland, 2017 WL 118093 (Pa. Super. Ct. 2017). The Supreme Court denied leave to appeal. (citing Commonwealth v. Crosland, 631 A.2d 212 (Pa. Super. Ct. 1993) (unpublished memorandum), appeal denied, 639 A.2d 24 (Pa. 1994)).

         On March 30, 1995, Petitioner filed a pro se petition for collateral relief under the Post Conviction Relief Act (“PCRA”), 42 Pa. Cons. Stat. Ann. §§ 9541 et seq. Following appointment of counsel, the PCRA court dismissed the petition on October 10, 1996. The Superior Court affirmed the dismissal, and the Pennsylvania Supreme Court denied allocatur. Commonwealth v. Crosland, 704 A.2d 160 (Pa. Super. Ct. 1997), appeal denied, 723 A.2d 669 (Pa. 1998). Petitioner then filed a second pro se PCRA petition. Following the appointment of counsel and the filing of a no-merit letter, the PCRA court dismissed the petition as untimely. The Superior court affirmed the dismissal in a memorandum opinion. Commonwealth v. Crosland, 776 A.2d 289 (Pa. Super. Ct. 2001). Petitioner did not seek leave to appeal to the Pennsylvania Supreme Court. He did, however, file a petition for writ of habeas corpus in state court, which was treated as a third PCRA petition and dismissed as untimely on January 7, 2002. The Superior Court affirmed the dismissal. Commonwealth v. Crosland, 821 A.2d 131 (Pa. Super. Ct. 2003). Petitioner did not seek leave to appeal to the Pennsylvania Supreme Court.[5]

         Petitioner filed a pro se petition for writ of habeas corpus with this District Court on March 7, 2003. (ECF No. 1). Therein, he asserted claims of deprivation of his right to assistance of counsel under the Sixth and Fourteenth Amendments; due process violations of his Sixth and Fourteenth Amendment rights; a claim of newly discovered, exculpatory eyewitness evidence; and the purposeful use of perjured testimony by the Commonwealth. Id. On September 9, 2003, United States Magistrate Judge Arnold C. Rapaport issued a Report and Recommendation advising that the petition be dismissed as time barred. (ECF No. 13). On November 17, 2003, United States District Judge Herbert Hutton overruled Petitioner's objections to the Report and Recommendation, approved and adopted it, and dismissed the petition as time barred. (ECF No. 18). On June 21, 2004, the United States Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit denied a certificate of appealability. (ECF No. 21).

         On March 20, 2013, Petitioner filed a Rule 60(b) motion in this Court seeking relief from the dismissal of his habeas petition, citing Martinez v. Ryan, 566 U.S. 1 (2012). (ECF No. 22). Specifically, he asserted that his claims of ineffective assistance of trial counsel[6] may be reviewed solely on their merits under Martinez. Id. On March 22, 2013, this Court denied the motion, finding (1) that the motion did not constitute a second or successive habeas petition because the original petition was dismissed as untimely and was not adjudicated on its merits; and (2) that relief was unwarranted because Martinez was interpreted as merely a change in decisional law, and did “not present ‘extraordinary circumstances' to allow the reopening of a petition, ” pursuant to Rule 60(b). (ECF No. 24). On April 8, 2013, this Court denied Petitioner's motion for reconsideration. (ECF No. 27). On August 1, 2013, the Third Circuit denied Petitioner's application for leave to file a second or successive habeas corpus petition[7], and on August 15, 2013, the Third Circuit denied Petitioner's request for a certificate of appealability in connection with this Court's denial of his Rule 60(b) motion. (ECF Nos. 30, 31).

         On May 28, 2014─twenty-three years after the state court conviction and sentence he challenges, as well as eleven years after the dismissal of his original habeas petition─Petitioner filed a Rule 60(b)(6) motion (ECF No. 32), seeking relief from the 2003 dismissal of his habeas petition under the Supreme Court's ruling in McQuiggin. This Court referred this matter to United States Magistrate Judge Carol Sandra Moore Wells for preparation of a Report and Recommendation [hereinafter R&R] pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1)(B). In her R&R, Judge Wells addressed Petitioner's arguments under Martinez and McQuiggin, finding that: (1) Petitioner's motion was untimely; (2) Petitioner did not demonstrate any extraordinary circumstance that would warrant relief from the denial of his original habeas petition; and (3) Petitioner did not make a sufficient showing of actual innocence to satisfy the requirements of McQuiggin. R&R at 7-9 (ECF No. 63). Consequently, Judge Wells did not find that Petitioner should be accorded relief from the prior judgment. Id. at 1, 9-10.

         On September 14, 2018, this Court approved and adopted the R&R in toto. (ECF No. 81). Petitioner sought an extension of time to file a motion for reconsideration of this Court's September 14, 2018 Order of Dismissal. (ECF No. 82). Petitioner then filed a notice of appeal for reconsideration of the same Order (ECF No. 83) and made a request to change his notice of appeal to a request for a certificate of appealability (ECF No. 85).[8] Subsequently, Petitioner filed the instant Rule 60(b) Motion for Reconsideration [hereinafter Motion] still seeking relief from the Writ of Habeas Corpus denied in 2003 (ECF No. 18). For the reasons that follow, this Court finds that Petitioner advances no meritorious claims in his Motion for Reconsideration. As such, Petitioner's Motion is denied.


         As established in Max's Seafood Cafe by Lou-Ann, Inc. v. Quinteros, 176 F.3d 669, 677 (3d Cir. 1999), “the purpose of a motion for reconsideration . . . is to correct manifest errors of law or fact or to present newly discovered evidence” (internal citation omitted). Thereupon, it is within a court's discretion to grant reconsideration where “the party seeking reconsideration shows at least one of the following grounds: (1) an intervening change in the controlling law; (2) the availability of new evidence that was not available when the court granted the [prior motion]; or (3) the need to correct a clear error of law or fact or to prevent manifest injustice.” Id. (citing North River Ins. Co. v. CIGNA Reinsurance Co., 52 F.3d 1194, 1218 (3d Cir. 1995). Such motions “should be granted sparingly and may not be used to rehash arguments which have already been briefed by the parties and considered and decided by the Court.” PBI Performance Prods., Inc. v. NorFab Corp., 514 F.Supp.2d 732, 744 (E.D. Pa. 2007) (internal quotation omitted).


         In his latest Rule 60(b) motion, Petitioner asserts that had Reeves v. Fayette SCI, 897 F.3d 154 (3d Cir. 2018) and Satterfield v. District Attorney of Philadelphia, 872 F.3d 152 (3d Cir. 2017) been decided prior to Judge Wells' R&R, Petitioner “would have been entitled to a full Rule 60(b)(6) review” on the grounds that Reeves and Satterfield evolved the law established in McQuiggin and Cox. Mot. at 14-15 (ECF No. 87). Petitioner has moved for reconsideration under the first and third prongs, although indistinguishably intertwined, of the applicable standard: “an intervening change in the ...

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