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Stedman v. Corcoran

United States District Court, D. Maryland

April 23, 2019

MERRICK BARRINGTON STEDMAN, Petitioner,
v.
DAYENA CORCORAN, et al., Respondents.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION

          George L. Russell, III United States District Judge.

         THIS MATTER is before the Court on Petitioner Merrick Barrington Stedman's Petition for Writ of Habeas Corpus Pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2254 (ECF No. 1). Stedman, an inmate confined at the North Branch Correctional Institution in Cumberland, Maryland, seeks to attack his 1993 convictions for murder and a handgun offense arising from the shooting of Sean Bristol. The Petition is ripe for disposition, and no hearing is necessary. See Rule 8(a), Rules Governing Section 2254 Cases in the United States District Courts; see also 28 U.S.C. § 2254(e)(2) (2018). For reasons set forth herein, the Court will dismiss the Petition.

         I. BACKGROUND

         A. State Court Proceedings

         On August 10, 1992, Bristol was shot eight times in the 2900 block of Nicholson Street, Hyattsville, Maryland. (Pet. Writ Habeas Corpus [“Pet.”] Ex. 6, ECF No. 1-1 at 22).[1] On December 13, 1992, the State filed a two-count indictment against Stedman in the Circuit Court for Prince George's County, Maryland. (Pet. at 1, ECF No. 1). On June 9, 1993, a jury convicted Stedman on both counts: first-degree murder and the use of a handgun in the commission of a felony. (Resp'ts' Ltd. Ans. Pet. [“Ans.”] Ex. 1 at 6, ECF No. 6-1; Pet. at 1). Stedman was sentenced to life plus twenty years on July 6, 1993. (Ans. Ex. 1 at 7; Pet. at 1). Stedman noted a timely appeal, and on April 22, 1994, the Court of Special Appeals of Maryland affirmed Stedman's convictions. (Ans. Ex. 2 at 20, ECF 6-2). Stedman filed a petition for writ of certiorari to the Court of Appeals of Maryland, which the court denied on September 28, 1994. See Stedman v. State, 647 A.2d 1216 (Md. 1994) (table).

         On June 9, 1999, Stedman filed a petition for post-conviction relief in the Circuit Court for Prince George's County. (Ans. Ex. 1 at 9). On May 14, 2001, the Circuit Court denied Stedman's petition. (Id. at 12). After reopening Stedman's post-conviction proceedings, the Circuit Court again denied Stedman's petition on April 5, 2002. (Id. at 14). On October 1, 2002, the Court of Special Appeals denied Stedman's application for leave to appeal the denial of post-conviction relief. (Id. at 15). The court's mandate issued on November 4, 2002. (Id.).

         Stedman then moved to reopen his post-conviction proceedings. (Id. at 15-16). On September 26, 2003, the Circuit Court denied Stedman's motion. (Id. at 16). On March 19, 2004, the Court of Special Appeals denied Stedman's application for leave to appeal. (Id.). The court's mandate issued on April 19, 2004. (Id.).

         On June 10, 2008, Stedman again moved to reopen his post-conviction proceedings, this time based on affidavits from two witnesses to Bristol's murder, Ralph Vogelson and Reginald Baker, who averred that Stedman was not the shooter. (Id. at 17; Ans. Ex. 3 at 4- 5, ECF No. 6-3; see also Vogelson Aff., ECF No. 1-1 at 2-3; Baker Aff. ECF No. 1-1 at 5-6).[2] The Circuit Court denied the motion on October 21, 2008. (Ans. Ex. 1 at 17). The Court of Special Appeals denied Stedman's application for leave to appeal on July 7, 2010, with the court's mandate issuing on August 6, 2010. (Id. at 18).

         On January 18, 2011, Stedman filed a petition for writ of actual innocence in the Circuit Court. (Id.). The Circuit Court denied the petition on February 21, 2012. (Id. at 19). The Court of Special Appeals affirmed the Circuit Court's decision on March 14, 2014. (Ans. Ex. 3 at 1, 15). The Court of Appeals denied Stedman's petition for writ of certiorari on July 21, 2014. Stedman v. State, 96 A.3d 146 (Md. 2014) (table).

         B. Proceedings in this Court

         On January 26, 2015, Stedman filed his Petition for Writ of Habeas Corpus Pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2254 (the “Petition”). (ECF No. 1). On February 9, 2015, the Court entered an Order directing Respondents to file an Answer to the Petition. (Feb. 10, 2015 ¶ 1, ECF No. 2). Respondents filed their Limited Answer to Petition for Writ of Habeas Corpus and Order to Show Cause (the “Limited Answer”) on April 23, 2015, arguing that the petition is time-barred and that it should be dismissed on that basis. (ECF No. 6).

         On April 30, 2015, the Court entered an Order granting Stedman twenty-eight days to file a Response addressing the timeliness issue. (Apr. 30, 2015 Order at 2, ECF No. 7). The Court granted Stedman an extension of time to respond, (ECF No. 9), and on June 19, 2015, Stedman filed his Response, (ECF No. 10). In his Response, Stedman asserts that he is pursuing an actual innocence claim, which permits the Court to consider a petition that may otherwise be time-barred.

         On November 13, 2017, the Court directed Respondents to file a supplemental response to the petition addressing Stedman's actual innocence claim and to supplement the record with copies of the trial transcripts, post-conviction petitions, and post-conviction transcripts. (Nov. 13, 2017 Order at 4, ECF No. 14). Respondents filed a Supplemental Answer to Petition for Writ of Habeas Corpus and Order to Show Cause (the “Supplemental Answer”) on April 2, 2018. (ECF No. 25). Respondents also filed several supplements to the record. (See ECF Nos. 18, 20, 22, 24, 25). On April 30, 2018, Stedman filed a Response to the Supplemental Answer. (ECF No. 28).

         II. DISCUSSION

         A. Timeliness

         Respondents contend that Stedman's Petition is time-barred. Under the Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act (the “AEDPA”), a one-year statute of limitations applies to habeas petitions in non-capital cases for persons convicted in state court. See 28 U.S.C. § 2244(d)(1) (2018). The AEDPA provides, in pertinent part, that:

A [one]-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;
(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).

         1. Statutory Tolling

         Under § 2244(d)(2), “[t]he time during which a properly filed application for State post-conviction or other collateral review with respect to the pertinent judgment or claim is pending shall not be counted toward any period of limitation under this subsection.” 28 U.S.C. § 2244(d)(2).

         Stedman's convictions became final in 1994 before the AEDPA was signed into law on April 24, 1996. Antiterrorism and Death Penalty Act of 1996, Pub. L. No. 104-132, 110 Stat. 1214 (1996). Among the changes the AEDPA made to the law governing state habeas petitions was the addition of a one-year statute of limitations in non-capital cases for persons convicted in state court as detailed above. Although the AEDPA is silent as to how this provision applies to persons whose convictions were final before the date of its enactment, the United States Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit has clarified that such persons had one year from the effective date, i.e., until April 24, 1997, to file a petition for writ of habeas corpus in federal court. Hernandez v. Caldwell, 225 F.3d 435, 439 (4th Cir. 2000). Like petitions filed after the AEDPA's effective date, this one-year period is tolled while properly filed post-conviction proceedings are pending. Hernandez, 225 F.3d at 439 (4th Cir. 2000); Harris v. Hutchinson, 209 F.3d 325, 328 (4th Cir. 2000); see also 28 U.S.C. § 2244(d)(2).

         Here, from the enactment of the AEDPA on April 24, 1996 to the filing of his application for post-conviction relief on June 9, 1999, Stedman had no post-conviction proceedings pending in state court that would have served to toll the limitations period. Thus, the federal limitations period for filing the instant Petition expired years before Stedman began to pursue his state court post-conviction remedies. The Court, therefore, concludes that the Petition is untimely under § 2244(d)(1)(A).

         To the extent Stedman asserts that his Petition falls under 28 U.S.C. § 2244(d)(1)(D) based on the affidavits from Baker and Vogelson, his Petition is still untimely. Stedman procured the Baker and Vogelson affidavits in 2005. Stedman did not move to reopen state post-conviction proceedings until June 2008, and he did not file the instant Petition until 2015. Stedman had no proceedings pending that would have tolled the limitations period from the discovery of the Baker and Vogelson affidavits in 2005 to the filing of his motion to reopen post-conviction proceedings in 2008. In addition, Stedman does not explain the nearly three-year delay in presenting the evidence to a state court, nor does he explain the ten-year delay in presenting the evidence to this Court. Thus, the Court concludes that Stedman's Petition is untimely under § 2244(d)(1)(D).

         2. ...


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