Thurston v. State Of Maryland
MEMORANDUM OPINION. Signed by Judge George Jarrod Hazel on 10/16/2020. (jj2, Deputy Clerk)
UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
DISTRICT OF MARYLAND
RICHARD A. THURSTON,
Civil Action No. GJH-15-665
STATE OF MARYLAND,
Petitioner Richard A. Thurston, a former state prisoner has filed a Petition for a Writ of
Habeas Corpus pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2254 in which he collaterally attacks his 1997 conviction
for burglary, attempted theft and malicious destruction of property entered in the Circuit Court for
Harford County. ECF No. 1 and ECF No. 4. Respondents filed an Answer in which they argue
that the Petition should be dismissed as time-barred. ECF No. 6. Pursuant to Hill v. Braxton, 277
F.3d 701, 707 (4th Cir. 2002), Thurston was afforded an opportunity to explain why the Petition
should not be dismissed as time-barred (ECF No. 7) and filed a Reply. ECF No. 8.
Subsequently, this Court stayed consideration of this case pending decisions by the Fourth
Circuit Court of Appeals as to whether a habeas petitioner was entitled to statutory tolling of the
limitations period during the time a Motion for Modification was pending in Maryland state court.
ECF Nos. 12 and 16. On August 8, 2019, after an opinion was issued in Mitchell v. Green, 922
F.3d 187 (4th Cir. 2019), Respondent was granted 45 days to file a supplemental letter or answer
addressing the timeliness of the Petition and Thurston was granted 45 days thereafter to file any
reply. ECF No. 20. While the Court awaited the supplemental briefing, the Court ordered the
matter remain stayed. ECF No. 21. On September 19, 2019, Respondents filed correspondence
arguing Thurston’s case remained time-barred. Thurston did not respond.
Upon review of the submitted materials, the Court finds no need for an evidentiary hearing.
See Rule 8(a), Rules Governing Section 2254 Cases in the United States District Courts; D. Md.
Local R. 105.6. The stay is of this case is lifted. For the reasons set forth below, the Petition will
be DISMISSED as time-barred.
On March 18, 1997, after a jury trial in the Circuit Court for Harford County, Thurston was
convicted of several counts of burglary, attempted theft, and malicious destruction of property.
ECF No. 6-1 at 1, 7. Thurston was sentenced on June 10, 1997 to 20 years of incarceration. Id.
Thurston filed a timely appeal. His conviction was affirmed by the Maryland Court of Special
Appeals and on June 25, 1998, the Maryland Court of Appeals denied his petition for writ of
certiorari. Thurston v. State, 350 Md. 278 (1998). He did not seek further review in the United
States Supreme Court, and his judgment became final for direct appeal purposes on September 23,
1998, when the time for doing so expired. See Sup. Ct. Rule 13.1 (requiring petition for writ of
certiorari be filed within 90 days of the judgment from which review is sought).
Thurston initiated state post-conviction proceedings on March 11, 1999. 1 ECF No. 6-1,
pp. 3, 8. Post-conviction relief was denied on April 2, 2001. Id., p. 8. Thurston’s timely application
Respondents erroneously argued in their initial Response that Thurston filed a Motion for
Reconsideration of sentence on February 10, 1997 which was denied on April 4, 2005. ECF No. 6, p. 4, n.
3. There is no indication on the state court docket that Thurston filed such a Motion on February 10, 1997
or the Court entered any Order on April 4, 2005. ECF No. 6-1. Thurston did file Motions for
Reconsideration on January 8, 2003 and February 27, 2009. ECF No. 6-1, pp. 9, 12. These motions cannot
toll the federal statute of limitation because they were improperly filed, having been filed more than 90
days after Thurston’s sentencing. See Md. Rule 4-345(e) (providing motion for modification must be filed
within 90 days after imposition of sentence).
for leave to appeal the denial of post-conviction relief was denied by the Court of Special Appeals
on February 20, 2002. Id., p. 9. The court’s mandate issued on March 2, 2002. Id.
On February 24, 2003, Thurston moved to reopen post-conviction proceedings. Id., p. 9.
His request was granted, however, relief was denied on June 1, 2007. Id., p. 11. Thurston’s
application for leave to appeal the denial of post-conviction relief was denied by the Court of
Special Appeals on February 23, 2009. Id., p. 12. The court’s mandate issued on March 27, 2009.
On September 17, 2009, Thurston again moved to reopen state post-conviction
proceedings. Id., p. 12. The motion was denied on May 29, 2014. Id., p. 13. His application for
leave to appeal was denied by the Court of Special Appeals on February 19, 2015. Id., p. 14.
In their Answer, Respondents assert that the Petition should be dismissed as time-barred
because it was filed beyond the one-year limitations period of 28 U.S.C. § 2244(d). ECF Nos. 6
A. Legal Standard
A petition for a writ of habeas corpus may be granted only for violations of the Constitution
or laws of the United States. 28 U.S.C. § 2254(a) (2018). A one-year limitations period applies
to federal habeas petitions in non-capital cases filed by a person convicted in state court. Id. §
(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 direct review or the expiration of the time for seeking such
(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
(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
Id. § 2244(d)(l). This one-year period, however, is tolled while properly filed state post-conviction
petitions are pending. Id. § 2244(d)(2).
The procedural history reveals that the one-year period elapsed before Thurston filed this
§ 2254 petition. Thurston’s conviction became final on September 23, 1998, when the time for
filing a petition for writ of certiorari to the United States Supreme Court expired. See Sup. Ct.
Rule 13.1 Thurston did not file any postconviction proceedings until over five months later when
on March 11, 1999, he filed his first state post-conviction petition. Those post-conviction
proceedings finally concluded on March 22, 2002 ,when the Court of Special Appeals of Maryland
issued its mandate denying Thurston’s application for leave to appeal. Thurston waited until
February 24, 2002, a period in excess of eleven months, before moving to reopen his state postconviction proceedings. When that process concluded unsuccessfully for Thurston on March 27,
2009, he then waited over five months, until September 17, 2009, to file to reopen state postconviction proceedings. After the unsuccessful conclusion of that effort, on February 19, 2015,
Thurston filed this case on February 27, 2015. Simply stated, Thurston had no proceedings pending
from September 23, 1998 to March 11, 1999 (a period of 169 days), March 22, 2002 to February
24, 2003 (a period of 339 days), March 27, 2009 to September 17, 2009 (a period of 174 days), or
from February 19, 2015 to February 27, 2015 (a period of eight days) which would statutorily toll
the limitations period.
Thurston argues that his state post-conviction proceedings remained pending from
February 24, 2003 until February 19, 2015, the state has miscalculated the timing of his state
proceedings, and therefore this petition is timely. ECF No. 8, p. 8. He is mistaken, but even if he
were correct, by his own admission he had no state proceedings pending from September 23, 1998
to March 11, 1999 (a period of 169 days) or from March 22, 2002 to February 24, 2003 (a period
of 339 days), and the limitations period expired before he moved to reopen his state post-conviction
proceedings on February 24, 2003.
Finally, Thurston does not assert, and the Court cannot identify, a basis for finding that any
of the provisions setting a later date for the commencement of the limitations period, as specified
in 28 U.S.C. § 2244(d)(l)(B)-(D), apply under these circumstances. Thus, under any reading of
the procedural history, the Petition was filed after the expiration of the limitations period and is
C. Equitable Tolling
Under certain circumstances the statute of limitations for habeas petitions may be subject
to equitable tolling. See, e.g., Harris v. Hutchinson, 209 F.3d 325, 328 (4th Cir. 2000); United
States v. Prescott, 221 F.3d 686, 687-88 (4th Cir. 2000). A petitioner seeking equitable tolling
must show that (1) extraordinary circumstances, (2) beyond the petitioner’s control or external to
the petitioner’s own conduct, (3) prevented timely filing of a petition. Rouse v. Lee, 339 F.3d 238,
246 (4th Cir. 2003) (en banc). Furthermore, to be entitled to equitable tolling a petitioner must
have been “pursuing his rights diligently.” Holland v. Florida, 560 U.S. 631, 649 (2010) (quoting
Pace v. DiGuglielmo, 544 U.S. 408, 418 (2005)). The application of equitable tolling must be
“guarded and infrequent” and “reserved for those rare instances where—due to circumstances
external to the party’s own conduct—it would be unconscionable to enforce the limitation period
against the party and gross injustice would result.” Harris, 209 F.3d at 330. Even in the case of
an unrepresented prisoner, ignorance of the law is not a basis for equitable tolling. See United
States v. Sosa, 364 F.3d 507, 512 (4th Cir. 2004).
In his reply, (ECF No. 8), Thurston does not offer any argument in favor of equitable
tolling. Because ignorance of the law, even for a self-represented petitioner, does not provide a
basis for equitable tolling, the Court finds no persuasive basis for equitable tolling of the limitations
D. Certificate of Appealability
Rule 11(a) of the Rules Governing Section 2254 Cases provides that the district court “must
issue or deny a certificate of appealability when it enters a final order adverse to the applicant” on
a § 2254 petition. Because the accompanying Order is a final order adverse to the applicant,
Thurston must receive a certificate of appealability before an appeal may proceed. 28 U.S.C. §
When a petition is denied on procedural grounds, as is the case here, the petitioner meets
the standard with a showing that reasonable jurists “would find it debatable whether the petition
states a valid claim of the denial of a constitutional right” and “whether the district court was
correct in its procedural ruling.” Slack v. McDaniel, 529 U.S. 473, 484 (2000).
Thurston’s claims are dismissed on procedural grounds, and, upon review of the record,
this Court finds that he has not made the requisite showing. The Court therefore declines to issue
a certificate of appealability. Thurston may still request that the United States Court of Appeals
for the Fourth Circuit issue such a certificate. See Fed. R. App. P. 22(b).
For the foregoing reasons, the stay of this case is lifted and the Petition will be DISMISSED
as time-barred. The Court declines to issue a certificate of appealability. A separate Order shall
October 16, 2020
GEORGE J. HAZEL
UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
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