Fields v. Warden
MEMORANDUM OPINION. Signed by Judge Peter J. Messitte on 2/1/2017. (kns, Deputy Clerk)(c/m 2/2/17)
IN THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
FOR THE DISTRICT OF MARYLAND
SATURIO GROGRIEO FIELDS, JR. #319142 *
CIVIL ACTION NO. PJM-16-3576
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
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 Aprison 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 fortyfive 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.
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
In Bernadyn, the Maryland appellate court determined that a medical bill, seized
by police and used to establish that defendant lived at the address noted on the bill, could not be
admitted into evidence as it constituted inadmissible hearsay.
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 postconviction 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
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:
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
the date on which the judgment became final by the
conclusion of direct review or the expiration of the time for
seeking such review;
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;
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
the date on which the factual predicate of the claim
or claims presented could have been discovered through the
exercise of due diligence.
the time during which a properly filed application for State postconviction 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.
Fields’ convictions became final on March 12, 2007. He did not file a post-conviction
petition during the subsequent one-year period. Indeed, his filing of a collateral review petition
did not occur until approximately seven years later, on February 24, 2014. Therefore, he allowed
the one-year limitations’ period to run unchecked. His Petition is time-barred.
It is true that under certain circumstances the AEDPA’s statute of limitations 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); see also Wall v. Kholi, 562 U.S.
545, 549 (2011). The Fourth Circuit has consistently held that a party seeking to avail itself of
equitable tolling must show that (1) extraordinary circumstances, (2) beyond his control or
external to his own conduct, (3) prevented him from filing on time. Rouse v. Lee, 339 F.3d 238,
246 (4th Cir. 2003) (en banc). Further, to be entitled to equitable tolling a petitioner must show:
“(1) that he has been pursuing his rights diligently, and (2) that some extraordinary circumstance
stood in his way and prevented timely filing.” Holland v. Florida, 560 U.S. 631, 649 (2010),
citing Pace v. DiGulielmo, 544 U.S. 408, 418 (2005).
Fields has failed to make such a showing and has otherwise failed to demonstrate any
ground on which equitable tolling applies. His petition for habeas corpus relief is time-barred
under 28 U.S.C. § 2244(d)(1)(A-D) and shall be dismissed and denied with prejudice.
B. 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” in such cases. Because the accompanying Order is a final order adverse to the
applicant, 28 U.S.C. § 2253(c)(1) requires issuance of a certificate of appealability before an
apppeal can proceed.
A certificate of appealability may issue if the prisoner has made a “substantial showing
of the denial of a constitutional right.” 28 U.S.C. § 2253(c)(2). When a district court rejects
constitutional claims on the merits, a petitioner satisfies the standard by demonstrating that
“reasonable jurists would find the district court’s assessment of the constitutional claims
debatable or wrong.” Slack v. McDaniel, 529 U.S. 473, 484 (2000). When a petition is denied
on procedural grounds, 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,” Id. at 478.
Fields’ claims are dismissed on procedural grounds, and, upon review of the record, this
Court finds that Fields has not made the requisite showing. The Court therefore declines to issue
a certificate of appealability. Fields may still request that the United States Court of Appeals for
the Fourth Circuit issue such a certificate. See Lyons v. Lee, 316 F.3d 528, 532 (4th Cir. 2003)
(considering whether to grant a certificate of appealability after the district court declined to
For the foregoing reasons, the Court dismisses the Petition for Writ of Habeas Corpus
with prejudice as time-barred and declines to issue a Certificate of Appealability. A separate
Order shall issue.
Date: February 1, 2017
PETER J. MESSITTE
UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
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