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West v. Metzger

United States District Court, D. Delaware

October 23, 2017

CHRISTOPHER H. WEST, Petitioner,
v.
DANA METZGER, Warden, and ATTORNEY GENERAL OF THE STATE OF DELAWARE, Respondents.[1]

          Stephen A. Hampton, Esquire, Nicholas Casamento, Esquire and Joseph A. Rastasiewicz, Esquire. Counsel for petitioner.

          Karen V. Sullivan, Deputy Attorney General, Delaware Department of Justice, Wilmington, Delaware. Counsel for respondents.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION

          SLEET, DISTRICT JUDGE

         Pending before the court is an application and an amended application for a writ of habeas corpus pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2254 ("petition") filed by petitioner Christopher H. West ("West"). (D.I. 3; D.I. 9) The State filed an answer in opposition. (D.I. 21) For the following reasons, the court will deny the petition as barred by the one-year limitations period prescribed in 28 U.S.C. § 2244.

         I. BACKGROUND

         In January 2012, West pled guilty to one count each of first and second degree robbery. See West v. State, 100 A.3d 1022 (Table), 2014 WL 4264922, at *1 (Del. Aug. 28, 2014). On March 30, 2012, the Superior Court sentenced West as a habitual offender to a total of twenty-eight years at Level V incarceration, to be suspended after serving twenty-five years in prison for decreasing levels of supervision. West did not file a direct appeal. Id.

         On February 27, 2013, West filed a pro se motion for post-conviction relief pursuant to Delaware Superior Court Criminal Rule 61 ("Rule 61 motion), which the Superior Court denied on January 7, 2014. See West v. State, 148 A.3d 687 (Table), 2016 WL 5349354, at *1 (Del. Sept. 23, 2016). The Delaware Supreme Court affirmed that decision on August 28, 2014. Id. at *3.

         In December 2014, West filed in this court a habeas petition, followed by an amended petition, asserting the following five grounds for relief: (1) his habitual offender sentence is illegal because one of the predicate convictions is illegal; (2) his guilty plea was unknowing and involuntary; (3) defense counsel provided ineffective assistance; (4) his confession was coerced; and (5) he was deprived of his Sixth Amendment right to counsel. (D.I. 3; D.I. 9) The State filed an answer asserting that the petition should be denied as time-barred or, alternatively, because the claims lack merit. (D.I. 21)

         On February 24, 2015, West filed in the Delaware Superior Court a second Rule 61 motion and a motion to withdraw his guilty plea. See State v. West, 2015 WL 3429919, at *l-2 (Del. Super. Ct. May 21, 2015). The Superior Court treated the motion to withdraw the guilty plea as West's third Rule 61 motion and denied his second and third Rule 61 motions on May 21, 2015. Id.

         In April and May of 2016, West filed a Rule 35(a) motion and an amended Rule 35(a) motion for correction of sentence. See West, 2016 WL 5349354, at *1. The Superior Court denied the motions, and the Delaware Supreme Court affirmed that decision on September 23, 2016. See West, 2016 WL 5349354, at *2.

         II. ONE YEAR STATUTE OF LIMITATIONS

         The Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act of 1996 ("AEDPA") was signed into law by the President on April 23, 1996, and habeas petitions filed in federal courts after this date must comply with the AEDPA's requirements. See generally Lindh v. Murphy, 521 U.S. 320, 336 (1997). AEDPA prescribes a one-year period of limitations for the filing of habeas petitions by state prisoners, which begins to run from the latest of:

(A) the date on which the judgment became final by the conclusion of direct review or the expiration of the time for seeking such review;
(B) the date on which the impediment to filing an application created by State action in violation of the Constitution or laws of the United States is removed, if the applicant was prevented from filing by such State action;
(C) the date on which the constitutional right asserted was initially recognized by the Supreme Court, if the right has been newly recognized by the Supreme Court and made retroactively applicable to cases on collateral review; or
(D) the date on which the factual predicate of the claim or claims presented could have been discovered through the exercise of due diligence.

28 U.S.C. § 2244(d)(1).

         West's petition, filed in 2014, is subject to the one-year limitations period contained in § 2244(d)(1). See Lindh, 521 U.S. at 336. West does not allege, and the court does not discern, any facts triggering the application of § 2244(d)(1)(B), (C), or (D). Thus, the one-year period of limitations in this case began to run when West's conviction became final under § 2244(d)(1)(A).

         Pursuant to § 2244(d)(1)(A), if a state prisoner does not appeal a state court judgment, the judgment of conviction becomes final, and the one-year period begins to run, upon expiration of the time period allowed for seeking direct review. See Kapral v. United States,166 F.3d 565, 575, 578 (3d Cir. 1999); Jones v. Morton,195 F.3d 153, 158 (3d Cir. 1999). Here, the Delaware Superior Court sentenced West on March 30, 2012, and he did not appeal. Therefore, West's conviction became final on April 30, 2012.[2]See Del. Supr. Ct. R. 6(a)(ii) (establishing a 30 day period for timely filing a notice of appeal). Accordingly, to comply with the one-year limitations period, West had to file his § 2254 petition by April 30, 2013. See Nunez v. California, 2014 WL 809206, at *3 n. 9 (N.D. Ohio Feb. 25, 2014)(explaining "[e]very federal circuit that has addressed the issue has concluded that [the] method in [in Fed.R.Civ.P. 6], i.e., the 'anniversary' ...


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