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Foster v. Dovey

United States District Court, D. Maryland

April 27, 2018

NATHANIEL FOSTER, Prisoner Identification No. 17-966, Petitioner,
v.
RICHARD D. DOVEY, Warden, and ATTORNEY GENERAL OF MARYLAND, Respondents.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION

          THEODORE D. CHUANG UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         Petitioner Nathaniel Foster, an inmate confined at the Maryland Correctional Institution -Hagerstown, has filed a Petition for a Writ of Habeas Corpus pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2254. For the reasons set forth below, the Petition is DISMISSED WITH PREJUDICE IN PART as time-barred but is STAYED regarding the claim alleging that Foster's life sentence is unconstitutional based on Miller v. Alabama, 567 U.S. 460 (2012).

         BACKGROUND

         In November 1984, Foster was convicted after a jury trial in the Circuit Court for Baltimore City, Maryland of first-degree felony murder, attempted armed robbery, and use of a handgun in the commission of a crime of violence. He was sentenced to life imprisonment on the murder count, a concurrent sentence of 15 years on the handgun offense, and a consecutive sentence of 10 years on the robbery count. Foster appealed, raising the following issues: (1) erroneous admission of hearsay testimony; (2) the refusal to give a requested jury instruction; (3) insufficient evidence to convict on first-degree murder and the handgun offense; (4) the failure to strike certain eyewitness testimony; and (5) improper exclusion of evidence of descriptions of other suspects near the murder scene. In an unreported opinion dated June 25, 1985, the Court of Special Appeals of Maryland affirmed the judgment of conviction. On October 21, 1985, the Court of Appeals of Maryland denied Foster's petition for a writ of certiorari. Foster v. State, 498 A.2d 1184 (Md. 1985). Foster did not seek further review. Therefore, his conviction became final for direct appeal purposes on January 19, 1986. See Sup. Ct. R. 13 (providing that a petition for a writ of certiorari to the United States Supreme Court to review a judgment entered by a state court of last resort must be filed within 90 days after entry of judgment).

         Foster then filed a number of petitions and motions in the Circuit Court for Baltimore City, including a petition for post-conviction relief, filed on January 20, 1995 and denied on April 30, 1997; a motion for modification of sentence, filing date unknown, denied on October 9, 1997; a petition for a writ of habeas corpus, filed on December 10, 1999 and denied on April 17, 2000; a motion to alter or amend judgment,, filed on May 10, 2000 and denied on July 26, 2000; a motion to correct an illegal sentence, filed on November 26, 2001 and denied on January 3, 2002; a second motion to alter or amend judgment,, filed on February 7, 2002; and another motion to correct illegal sentence, filed on November 3, 2011 and denied on April 3, 2012.

         Foster filed his Petition for a Writ of Habeas Corpus in this Court pursuant to 28 U.S.C. S 2254 by giving it to prison officials for mailing on December 18, 2015, such that it will be deemed filed on that date. See Houston v. Lack, 487 U.S. 266, 276 (1988) (concluding that a prisoner's submission to the court is deemed filed on the date on which the prisoner relinquishes control over the document). In the Petition, Foster claims that he "was sentenced to life in prison on a verdict [for which] the jury never orally announced the degree of murder in open court." Pet. at 3, ECF No. 1. As a result, Foster argues, his sentence is illegal because the "failure of the jury to announce [the] degree of murder in their verdict strip[s] the trial judge of jurisdiction to proceed to sentencing, " Id. (emphasis omitted). Foster also argues that his sentence of life imprisonment, imposed while he was a juvenile, is unconstitutional based on Miller v. Alabama, 567 U.S. 460 (2012).

         Because the Petition did not provide information necessary for the Court to evaluate the claims, the Court ordered Foster to supplement the Petition using forms provided by the Court. After Foster filed a Supplemental Petition, the Court issued an Order requiring Respondents to file an Answer to the Supplemental Petition. Respondents filed a Limited Answer, seeking dismissal of the Petition based on the argument that Foster's claims are time-barred. Foster filed a Reply to Respondents' Answer.

         DISCUSSION

         I. Failure to Specify Degree of Murder

         Respondents argue that the Petition is time-barred. Under the Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act of 1996 ("AEDPA",, a one-year statute of limitations applies to habeas petitions filed by a person convicted in state court in a non-capital case. See 28 U.S.C. S 2244(d) (2012). Specifically:

(1) A I-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 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 ...

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