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Aldridge v. Phillips

United States District Court, W.D. Tennessee, Western Division

April 25, 2017

JUNIOR ALDRIDGE, Petitioner,
v.
SHAWN PHILLIPS, Respondent.

          ORDER GRANTING MOTION TO DISMISS, DENYING CERTIFICATE OF APPEALABILITY, AND DENYING LEAVE TO APPEAL IN FORMA PAUPERIS

          S. THOMAS ANDERSON UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         Junior Aldridge, a Tennessee state prisoner, has filed a petition under 28 U.S.C. § 2254 seeking habeas corpus relief (“petition”). (ECF No. 1.) Before the Court is the motion of Respondent, Shawn Phillips, to dismiss the petition as untimely. (ECF No. 14.) For the reasons that follow, the motion is GRANTED.

         Aldridge's State Proceedings

         A Shelby County Criminal Court jury convicted Aldridge of first degree murder, second degree murder, and especially aggravated robbery. State v. Aldridge, No. W2007-01722-CCA-R3-CD, 2009 WL 1579239, at *1 (Tenn. Crim. App. June 5, 2009), perm. app. denied (Tenn. Oct. 19, 2009). The trial court merged the murder convictions and imposed concurrent sentences of life imprisonment and forty years. Id. The Tennessee Court of Criminal Appeals (“TCCA”) affirmed Petitioner's convictions and sentences on June 5, 2009. Id. at *8. On October 19, 2009, the Tennessee Supreme Court denied discretionary review. Id.

         at *1. Petitioner signed his pro se petition for state post-conviction relief on April 24, 2010, (ECF No. 10-14 at 46), and the petition was filed on May 10, 2010. (Id. at 12.) The post-conviction court denied the petition on October 4, 2012, (ECF No. 10-15 at 13), and the TCCA affirmed. Aldridge v. State, No. W2012-02409-CCA-R3-PC, 2013 WL 12181749, at *1 (Tenn. Crim. App. Sept. 19, 2013). On January 14, 2014, the Tennessee Supreme Court denied discretionary review. (ECF No. 10-22.)

         Aldridge's § 2254 Petition and Limitations Period

         Petitioner submitted his pro se § 2254 petition to prison officials for mailing on October 30, 2014. (ECF No. 1.) His sole claim is that the trial court's “exclusion of certain evidence denied him the right to present a defense, ” in violation of his right to due process. (Id. at 5.)

         A § 2254 petition is subject to a one-year statute of limitations. 28 U.S.C. § 2244(d)(1). The limitations period begins to run from the latest of four possible dates:

(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;
(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 State action;
(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 diligence.

Id.

         In this case, § 2244(d)(1)(A) applies, which means that Aldridge had one-year from the date on which his judgment of conviction became final to file his habeas petition. Taking into account statutory tolling under 28 U.S.C. § 2244(d)(2), the last day Aldridge could timely file his § 2254 petition was October 14, 2014.

         The date is arrived at as follows. First, Petitioner's judgment of conviction became final on January 19, 2010. Aldridge appealed his conviction to the Tennessee Supreme Court, but did not appeal to the United States Supreme Court. His judgment of conviction thus became final when the time for appealing to the United States Supreme Court expired, which was ninety days after the Tennessee Supreme Court denied permission to appeal. See Bronaugh v. Ohio, 235 F.3d 280, 283 (6th Cir. 2000). Permission to appeal was denied on October 19, 2009, and ninety days from that date was Sunday January 17, 2010. The next day, January 18, 2010, was Martin Luther King, Jr., Day, a federal holiday. Under Supreme Court Rule 30, if a deadline for filing with the Supreme Court falls on “Saturday, Sunday, [or] federal legal holiday, ” the “period shall extend until the end of the next day that is not a Saturday, Sunday, [or] federal legal holiday, ” which in this case was Tuesday January 19, 2010.

         Second, the limitations period for Aldridge's federal habeas claim began to run on January 20, 2010. The one-year statute of limitations for filing a federal habeas petition begins to run on the day after the conviction of judgment becomes final. Bronaugh, 235 F.3d at 285-86.

         Third, the limitations period ran for ninety-four days, and then was tolled from April 24, 2010, to January 14, 2014. The one-year limitations period is tolled during the time “a properly filed application for State post-conviction or other collateral review . . . is pending . . . .” 28 U.S.C. § 2244(d)(2). It is not tolled, however, during the ninety-day period in which a defendant could seek a writ of certiorari to the United States Supreme Court on appeal from the denial of post-conviction relief. Lawrence v. Florida, 549 U.S. 327, 332-36 (2007). Giving Aldridge the benefit of the prison mailbox rule, the state post-conviction petition was filed on April 24, 2010, the day he signed it. See Goins v. Saunders, 206 F. App'x. 497, 498 n. 1 (6th Cir. 2006) (per curiam) (courts are to treat pro se prisoner complaints “as filed on the date [the prisoner] signed it.”). The Tennessee Supreme Court denied permission to appeal on January 14, 2014.

         Finally, the last day of the limitations period was October 14, 2014. When the limitations “clock” resumed ticking the day after Aldridge's state post-convictions proceedings concluded on January 14, 2014, two-hundred and seventy-one days remained in the limitations period. Two-hundred and seventy-one days later was Sunday October 12, 2014, and the next day, Monday October 13, 2014, was Columbus Day, a federal holiday. Under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 6(a), if a deadline for filing in the district court falls on a “Saturday, Sunday, or Legal holiday, the period continues to run until the end of the next day that is not a Saturday, Sunday, or legal holiday, ” which in this case was Tuesday October 14, 2014.

         Giving Petitioner the benefit of the prison mailbox rule, the petition was filed on October 30, 2014, the day he signed it. Aldridge therefore filed his petition sixteen days after the limitations period expired on October 14, 2014.

         Discussion

         Respondent has moved to dismiss the petition on the ground that Aldridge's habeas claim is untimely. Aldridge concedes that he filed his petition late, but opposes dismissal, arguing that he is entitled to have the limitations period tolled for extraordinary circumstances, pursuant to Holland v. Florida, 560 U.S. 631, 649 (2010). He also argues that he is actually innocent of first degree murder and therefore is entitled to escape the limitations period pursuant to McQuiggin v. Perkins, 133 S.Ct. 1924, 1930-31 (2013). On February 23, 2017, the Court held an evidentiary hearing. Two witnesses were presented on the issues relevant to equitable tolling, and the Court heard oral argument regarding Petitioner's gateway claim of actual innocence. Based on the record, the Court concludes that Aldridge has failed to demonstrate that he is entitled to equitable tolling and has not established a gateway claim of actual innocence.

         I. Equitable Tolling for Extraordinary Circumstances

         A. ...


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