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Fields v. Warden

United States District Court, D. Maryland

February 1, 2017

SATURIO GROGRIEO FIELDS, JR. #319142 Petitioner,
v.
WARDEN Respondent.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION

          PETER J. MESSITTE UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.

         Petitioner Saturio Grogrieo Fields, Jr., an inmate confined at the North Branch Correctional Institution in Cumberland, Maryland, has filed a Petition for Habeas Corpus pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2254. For reasons set forth below, the Petition is denied and dismissed as time-barred.

         BACKGROUND

         On October 28, 2016, Fields filed a self-represented, fee-paid Petition for Writ of Habeas Corpus pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2254. The petition is dated October 25, 2016, and shall be deemed filed as of that date. See Houston v. Lack, 487 U.S. 266, 270-76 (1988); United States v. McNeill, 523 Fed.Appx. 979, 983 (4th Cir. 2013); United States v. Dorsey, 988 F.Supp. 917, 919-920 (D. Md. 1998) (holding a petition shall be deemed to have been filed on the date it was deposited with prison authorities for mailing under the ''prison mailbox'' rule.)

         The Petition challenges Fields' 2004 convictions in the Circuit Court for Prince George's County on first-degree murder and two counts of first-degree assault. On November 4, 2016, the Court issued an Order requiring Respondent to file a Limited Answer to the Petition within forty-five days and granted Fields twenty-eight days to file a reply. Respondents filed a Limited Answer to the Petition on December 15, 2016, seeking dismissal of the Petition premised on the argument that Fields' claims are time-barred. Fields has not filed a reply.

         DISCUSSION

         I. Petition

         A jury sitting in the Circuit Court for Prince George's County found Fields guilty of first-degree murder and first-degree assault (two counts). ECF No. 3-1. On February 27, 2004, the court (Judge James J. Lombardi) sentenced Fields to life imprisonment without the possibility of parole on the murder offense. Fields was additionally sentenced to two consecutive 20-year sentences for each of his first-degree assault convictions. Fields filed an application for panel review of sentence that was denied on April 14, 2004. He filed a motion for reconsideration of sentence that was denied on May 17, 2004. Id.

         In an unreported opinion filed on May 25, 2005, the Court of Special Appeals of Maryland affirmed Fields' convictions and sentences. He sought further review in the Court of Appeals of Maryland and the Court of Appeals remanded the case back to the Court of Special Appeals for reconsideration in light of Bernadyn v. State, 390 Md. 1, 887 A.2d 602 (2005).[1] The intermediate appellate court again affirmed Fields' convictions. Fields sought review in the Court of Appeals, which affirmed his convictions in a reported opinion dated December 8, 2006. ECF No. 3-2. Consequently, his judgment of conviction became final for purposes of direct appeal ninety days later on March 12, 2007, when the 90-day period for filing a petition for writ of certiorari with the Supreme Court expired. See Supreme Court Rule 13.1 (requiring petition for writ of certiorari to be filed within ninety days of date of judgment from which review is sought); Clay v. United States, 537 U.S. 522, 525 (2003) (state judgment becomes final for habeas purposes when the time expires for filing a petition for writ of certiorari to the Supreme Court or ninety days following the decision of the state's highest court).

         Approximately seven years later, on February 24, 2014, Fields filed a counseled petition for post-conviction relief in the Circuit Court for Prince George's County. A post-conviction hearing was held on June 4, 2015, and on August 14, 2015, the Circuit Court denied post-conviction relief. ECF No. 3-1. Fields' application for leave to appeal this adverse ruling was summarily denied by the Court of Special Appeals in an unreported opinion filed on September 9, 2016. ECF No. 3-3.

         Respondent argues that Fields' Petition is untimely as his convictions became final for direct appeal purposes on March 12, 2007 and more than six years expired before he initiated post-conviction proceedings on February 14, 2014. Fields offers no reply to argue equitable tolling.

         A. Limitations Period

         A one-year statute of limitations applies to habeas petitions in non-capital cases for a person convicted in state court. See 28 U.S.C. § 2244(d). Section 2244(d) provides that:

(1) A 1-year period of limitation 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 ...

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