KING v. JOHNSON et al
OPINION. Signed by Judge Kevin McNulty on 5/1/17. (DD, ) N/M
UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
DISTRICT OF NEW JERSEY
Civ. No. 16-0654 (KM)
STEPHEN JOHNSON, et al.,
KEVIN MCNULTY, U.S.D.J.
The petitioner, George King, is a state prisoner currently incarcerated at the New Jersey
State Prison in Trenton, New Jersey. He is proceeding pro se with a petition for writ of habeas
corpus pursuant to 28 U.S.C.
2254. Presently pending before this Court is respondents’ motion
to dismiss the habeas petition as untimely. For the following reasons, the motion to dismiss will
Mr. King pled guilty in 2004 to aggravated manslaughter, possession of a weapon for an
unlawful purpose, and resisting arrest. On the aggravated manslaughter conviction, he was
sentenced to a twenty-five year prison term subject to an eighty-five percent period of parole
ineligibility. He also received a concurrent five-year sentence for resisting arrest. The weapons
possession conviction merged into the others for sentencing purposes.
Mr. K.ing moved for resentencing. On April 28, 2006, Mr. King received the same
sentence. He did not file a direct appeal.
On December 22, 2009, Mr. King filed a petition for post-conviction relief (“PCR”). The
Superior Court of New Jersey, Law Division, Essex County, denied that PCR petition on June
24, 2010. Mr. King appealed that decision to the New Jersey Superior Court, Appellate Division.
(See Dkt. No. 9-1 at p. 1) On March 23, 2012, the Appellate Division affirmed the denial of the
PCR petition in a written decision. (See id. at p.35-39) The New Jersey Supreme Court denied
certification on October 5, 2012. See Stale v. King, 212 N.J. 287 (2012).
On August 23, 2013, Mr. King filed a second PCR petition. That petition was denied on
November 27, 2013. On January 28, 2015, the Appellate Division affirmed. (See Dkt. No. 9-1 at
p.43-44) Thereafter, on July 10, 2015, the New Jersey Supreme Court denied certification. (See
id. at p.46)
Mr. King’s federal habeas petition is deemed filed as of January 21, 2016.’ On October 7,
2016, Respondents filed a motion to dismiss the habeas petition as untimely. (See Dkt. No. 9)
Thereafter, Mr. King filed a motion for extension of time to file his response to the motion to
dismiss. (See Dkt. No. 10) Good cause being shown, the motion for an extension of time is
granted and his response to the motion to dismiss, filed November 9, 2016, will be accepted.
Respondents did not file a reply in support of their motion to dismiss.
“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.” 28 U.S.C.
§ 2244(d)(1). That
limitations period begins to run when the criminal judgment becomes “final.” A state-court
criminal judgment becomes “final” within the meaning of § 2244(d)(1) at the conclusion of
I follow the so-called “prisoner mailbox rule. See Houston v. Lack, 487 U.S. 266, 270-71 (1988);
Maples v. Warren, No. 12—0993, 2012 WL 1344828, at *1 n.2 (D.N.J. Apr. 16, 2012) (“Often times,
when the court is unable to determine the exact date that a petitioner handed his petition to prison officials
for mailing, it will look to the signed and dated certification of the petition.”)
direct review, if direct review is not sought, the judgment becomes final at the expiration of time
for seeking such review. See Swartz v. Meyers, 204 F.3d 417, 419 (3d Cir. 2000); Morris v.
Ibm, 187 F.3d 333, 337 n.i (3d Cir. 1999); see also 28 U.S.C.
§ 2244(d)(1)(A) (the
period begins on ‘the date on which the judgment became linal by the conclusion of direct
review or the expiration of the time for seeking such review).
Mr. King was resentenced on April 28, 2006.2 New Jersey Court Rule 2:4-1(a) gave Mr.
King forty-five days from that date to file an appeal to the New Jersey Superior Court, Appellate
Division. However, Mr. King did not file a direct appeal. His judgment of conviction therefore
became final on July 12, 2006. The one-year limitations period, unless tolled, would therefore
have expired on July 12, 2007. Mr. King did not file his federal habeas petition until January 21,
2016. Therefore, unless the one-year limitations period is tolled, Mr. King’s habeas petition is
A. Statutory Tolling
The filing of a PCR petition may statutorily toll (i.e., suspend) the running of the oneyear habeas limitations period. See 28 U.S.C.
§ 2244(d)(2) (“The time during which a properly
filed application fbr 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.”). A prisoner’s application for state collateral review is “properly filed’ when its
delivery and acceptance are in compliance with the applicable laws and rules governing
This Court will use the date of the resentencing in April, 2006, as opposed to the date of the original
sentencing in 2004, as the operative date to determine when Mr. King’s judgment of conviction became
final. See Douglas v. Phelps, 10-05 19, 2014 WL 1116984, at *2 (D. Del. Mar. 17, 2014) (“In cases
involving re-sentencing, the petitioner’s judgment becomes final, and AEDPA’s limitations period begins
to run, from the date on which direct review of the re-sentencing or amended sentence expires.”) (citing
Burton v. Stewart, 549 U.S. 147 (2007); Cochran v. Phelps, 600 F. Supp. 2d 603, 607 (D. Del. 2009)). Tn
any event, applying this later date, Mr. King’s federal habeas petition is still untimely for the reasons
flhings[.]” Jenkins v. Superintendent of Laurel Highlands, 705 F.3d 80,85 (3d Cir. 2013)
(quoting Artuz v. Bennett, 531 U.S. 4, 8 (2000)).
A timely PCR petition filed during the one year limitations period will suspend its
running; a PCR petition filed after the expiration of the one year limitations period, however,
will not revive it. See Long v. Wilson, 393 F.3d 390, 394-95 (3d Cir. 2004) (“The state habeas
petition had no effect on tolling, because an untimely state post-conviction petition is not
properly filed for purposes of tolling and, in any event, the limitations period had already run
when it was filed.”); see also Saunders v. Lamas, No, 12-1123, 2013 WL 943351, at *5 (E.D. Pa.
Feb. 3, 2013) (Statutory tolling inapplicable when PCR petition was filed after the expiration of
AEDPA’s one-year limitations period) (citing Pace v. DiGuglielmo, 544 U.S. 408 (2005)), report
and recommendation adopted, 2013 WL 943356 (E.D. Pa. Mar. 11,2013); Shoatz v.
DiGuglielmo No 07-5424, 2011 WL 767397, at * 1 n.2 (E.D. Pa. Feb. 25, 2011) (“[B]ecause all
of petitioner’s subsequent PCRA petitions were filed after his one-year limitation period expired
none of these filings entitle petitioner to statutory tolling, regardless of their disposition.”).
When Mr. King filed his first PCR petition on December 22, 2009, statutory tolling was
not available. The one-year federal habeas statute of limitations period had already expired over
two years previously, on July 12, 2007.
B. Equitable Tolling
Mr. King argues that he is entitled to equitable tolling because of mental illness. Mr. King
states that he has suffered from extreme mental illnesses since he was nine years old. He explains
that he has been diagnosed with Schizophrenia, Bipolar Disorder, Schizoaffective Disorder,
Major Depression, Atypical Psychosis, and Personality Disorders. He claims that these disorders
make him unable to understand his legal rights or institute legal actions on his own behalf.
A petitioner may be able to overcome a time bar if he can show a basis for equitable
tolling. “Generally, a litigant seeking equitable tolling bears the burden of establishing two
elements: (1) that he has been pursuing his rights diligently, and (2) that some extraordinary
circumstance stood in his way.” Pace, 544 U.S. at 418; see also Jenkins, 705 F.3d at 89. “There
are no bright lines in determining whether equitable tolling is warranted in a given case.” See
Pabon v. Ivlahanoy, 654 F.3d 385, 399 (3d Cir. 2011). The Third Circuit has explained that
“equitable tolling is appropriate when principles of equity would make rigid application of a
limitation period unfair, but that a court should be sparing in its use of the doctrine.” Ross v.
Varano, 712 F.3d 784, 799 (3d Cir. 2013) (citing Pabon, 654 F.3d at 399; Jones v. Morton, 195
F.3d 153, 159 (3d Cir. 1999)).
Mental illness is not per se a basis for equitable tolling. See Nara v. Frank, 264 F.3d 310,
320 (3d Cir. 2001), overruled in part on other grounds by, Carey v. Sq/fold, 536 U.S. 214
(2002). “For tolling to be appropriate, “the alleged mental incompetence must somehow have
affected the petitioner’s ability to file’ a timely action.” Champney v. Sec ‘y Pa. Dep ‘t of Corr.,
469 F. App’x 113, 117 (3d Cir. 2012) (citing Nara, 264 F.3d at 320; Bolarinwa v. Williams, 593
F.3d 226, 232 (2d Cir. 2010). In determining whether the mental illness constitutes an
extraordinary circumstance for tolling the statute of limitations, the court will consider a nonexhaustive list of factors, such as:
“(1) [whether] the petitioner [was] adjudicated incompetent and, if
so, when did the adjudication occur in relation to the habeas
statutory period; (2) [whether] the petitioner [was] institutionalized
for his mental impairment; (3) [whether] the petitioner handled or
assisted in other legal materials which required action during the
federal limitations period; and (4) [whether] the petitioner
supported his allegations of impairment with extrinsic evidence
such as evaluations and/or medications.”
Champney, 469 F. App’x at 118 (quoting Passmore v. Pennsylvania, No. 08-0705, 2008 WL
2518108, at *3 (M.D. Pa. June 19, 2008) (citing McCray v. Oxley, 553 F. Supp. 2d 368, 372 (D.
Del. 2008))). Additionally, some courts have noted that “[a] mental condition which burdens but
does not prevent a petitioner from meeting timely filing requirements does not constitute
‘extraordinary circumstances’ for the purposes of equitable tolling.” Martin v. Giroux, No. 116229, 2013 WL 3819431, at *3 (E.D. Pa. July 23, 2013) (citing United States v. Harris, 268 F.
Supp. 2d 500, 506 (E.D. Pa. 2003)) (footnoted omitted).
It does not appear from the papers before me that Mr. King was ever adjudicated
incompetent. Mr. King attaches medical records and documents, but none of them indicate that
he was declared incompetent, or that he was institutionalized, after his judgment became final in
July 2007. All other things being equal, I might require further evidence as to Mr. King’s mental
capacity in the relevant period.
But all other things are not equal. Before filing his federal habeas petition, Mr. King filed
two PCR petitions. He filed one on December 22, 2009. When all appeals were exhausted on that
one, he filed a second on August 23, 2013. Thus he was not disabled from filing legal claims and
petitions; he did file them. Clearly there were no extraordinary circumstances warranting nine
years’ worth of equitable tolling, until 2016. See, e.g., Bumpas v. Elrich, No. 15-5450, 2016 WL
8606249, at *3 n.3 (E.D. Pa. Oct. 31, 2016) (“[A]ny claim that Bumpas’s alleged mental illness
justifies equitable tolling would be undermined by his filing four PCRA petitions after his
conviction.”) (citation omitted), report and recommendation adopted by 2017 WL 1105650
(E.D. Pa. Mar. 24, 2017); Kim
Cameron, 2016 WL 1623426, at *5 (E.D. Pa. Apr. 25, 2016)
(petitioner’s filing of PCR petitions in state court illustrates that he was capable of filing a proper
and timely motion such that his claim of mental illness does not constitute extraordinary
circumstance to equitably toll statute of limitations).
In an abundance of caution, I consider whether this federal habeas petition would be
timely if all of the time prior to the filing of the first PCR were tolled. It would not. Assume that
such tolling would render the first PCR timely (in the sense of falling within the habeas
limitations period). If so, then the pendency of the PCR would suspend further running of the
one-year habeas limitations period until it was finally resolved. The first PCR was finally
resolved on October 5, 2012. The habeas limitations period then began running again, and it ran
until the second PCR was filed on August 23, 2013—a period of 322 days, leaving 43 days to
go. Assume further that the one-year habeas period was suspended during the pendency of this
second PCR petition, i.e., until July 10, 2015. At that point, the balance of the habeas period that
remained was 43 days. But Mr. King did not file his federal habeas petition until 190 days later,
on January 21, 2016. So even on a series of highly favorable and doubtful assumptions favoring
equitable tolling, this habeas petition would be untimely.
Pursuant to 28 U.S.C.
CERTIFICATE OF APPEALABILITY
§ 2253(c), unless a circuit justice or judge issues a certificate of
appealability, an appeal may not be taken from a final order in a proceeding under 28 U.S.C.
2254. A certificate of appealability may issue “only if the applicant has made a substantial
showing of the denial of a constitutional right.” 28 U.S.C.
§ 2253(c)(2). “A petitioner satisfies
Mr. King asserts that this period of 322 days should not be counted against his federal one-year
statute of limitations because his second PCR petition is an appeal of the first one. (See Dkt. No. 11 at
p.7) In support of this argument, he cites to Carey, 536 U.S. 214. However, in Carey, the Supreme Court
held that a PCR petition is pending during the intervals between a lower court’s entry ofjudgment and the
timely filing of a notice of appeal to the higher court. See 1d at 219-21. Carey does not stand for the
proposition as Mr. King claims that the statute of limitations should be tolled between when the New
Jersey Supreme Court denied certification on his first PCR petition and when he filed his second PCR
petition. During this 322 days, Mr. King had no “pending” PCR petition. Therefore, this time is
this standard by demonstrating that jurists of reason could disagree with the district court’s
resolution of his constitutional claims or that jurists could conclude the issues presented are
adequate to deserve encouragement to proceed further.” Miller-El v. Cockrell, 537 U.S. 322, 327
(2003). For the reasons discussed above, Mr. King has not met this standard as his habeas
petition is untimely. Therefore, I will not issue a certificate of appealability.
For the foregoing reasons, respondents’ motion to dismiss the habeas petition as untimely
will be granted. A certificate of appealability shall not issue. An appropriate order will be
DATED: May 1,2017
United States District Judge
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