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Seals v. Johnson

United States District Court, E.D. Tennessee, at Knoxville Division

March 31, 2015

PHILLIP DOUGLAS SEALS, Petitioner,
v.
DEBRA JOHNSON, Warden, Respondent.

MEMORANDUM OPINION

PAMELA L. REEVES, District Judge.

This is a pro se petition for a writ of habeas corpus pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2254, brought by Tennessee inmate, Phillip Douglas Seals ("Petitioner"). Petitioner challenges his 2006 Anderson County, Tennessee conviction by a jury for two counts of premeditated first degree murder, and two counts of felony murder (the trial court merged Petitioner's felony murder convictions into the two convictions for premeditated first degree murder) [Doc. 1]. For these offenses, Petitioner received concurrent life sentences.

Respondent has filed a motion to dismiss the petition in which she argues that the petition is time-barred under § 2244(d)(1) [Doc. 6]. In support of her motion, Respondent has submitted a brief and the state court record. Petitioner has responded to Respondent's motion, seemingly arguing that he is entitled to equitable tolling because he was delayed from receiving relevant documents from his trial counsel, and he has diligently pursued his rights as is evidenced by his eleven-claim habeas petition [Doc. 7].

For the reasons explained below, Respondent's motion will be GRANTED and Petitioner's petition will be DISMISSED as time-barred.

I. PROCEDURAL HISTORY

On January 9, 2009, Petitioner's convictions were affirmed on direct appeal by the Tennessee Court of Criminal Appeals ("TCCA"). State v. Seals, No. E2007-02332-CCA-R3-CD, 2009 WL 55914 (Tenn. Crim. App. Jan. 9, 2009). On May 26, 2009, the Tennessee Supreme Court denied Petitioner's application for permission to appeal. Id . at *1. Petitioner did not file a petition for writ of certiorari to the United States Supreme Court.

Petitioner next challenged his conviction under the Tennessee Post-Conviction Procedure Act. Petitioner's post-conviction petition was dismissed after a hearing, and the TCCA affirmed the post-conviction court's dismissal. Seals v. State, No. E2012-00702-CCA-R3-PC, 2013 WL 1187929 (Tenn. Crim. App. Mar. 21, 2013). The Tennessee Supreme Court denied Petitioner's application for permission to appeal on July 10, 2013. Id . at *1. Petitioner next filed this petition for federal habeas relief on May 21, 2014.

II. STATUTE OF LIMITATIONS

The Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act of 1996 ("AEDPA"), codified in 28 U.S.C. § 2241 et. seq., imposes a statute of limitations to govern the filing of an application for a federal writ of habeas corpus. The limitations statute provides, in relevant part, 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 latest of -
(A) The date on which the judgment became final by the conclusion of direct review...

28 U.S.C. § 2244(d)(1). However, the 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...." 28 U.S.C. § 2244(d)(2).

Here, Petitioner pursued a direct appeal, including an application for permission to appeal to the Tennessee Supreme Court. As noted, the Tennessee Supreme Court denied the application on May 26, 2009. Ninety days later-i.e., August 24, 2009, when the time expired for Petitioner to seek review of the state court's decision in the United States Supreme Court, Petitioner's conviction became final and the AEDPA one-year clock began. See Lawrence v. Florida, 549 U.S. 327 (2007) (acknowledging that direct review under § 2244(d)(1)(A) includes review of a state conviction by the Supreme Court); Clay v. United States, 537 U.S. 522, 524 (2003) (finding that if no petition for certiorari is filed, the judgment becomes final upon expiration of the 90-day period for seeking certiorari review in the Supreme Court).

The AEDPA clock, triggered on August 24, 2009, was paused on June 3, 2010, when Petitioner filed his state post-conviction petition. Petitioner's AEDPA clock remained tolled until Petitioner's application for permission to appeal was denied by the Tennessee Supreme Court on July 10, 2013. At this time, 283 days had run on Petitioner's one-year limit.[1] "The tolling provision does not... revive' the limitations period (i.e., restart the clock at zero); it can only serve to pause a clock that has not yet fully run." Vroman v. Brigano, 346 F.3d 598, 602 (6th Cir. 2003). As such, Petitioner had 82 days after July 10, 2013-i.e., until September 30, 2013, to file his federal habeas Petition. Petitioner did not file his petition until May 21, 2014, 233 ...


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