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Berrios v. Coyne-Fague

United States District Court, D. Rhode Island

July 29, 2019

Edward Berrios, Petitioner,
v.
Patricia Coyne-Fague, et al. Respondent.

          MEMORANDUM & ORDER

          WILLIAM E. SMITH CHIEF JUDGE

         Before the Court is Edward Berrios' Petition filed under 28 U.S.C. § 2254 for Writ of Habeas Corpus by a Person in State Custody (“Pet.”), ECF No. 1. The State has filed a motion to dismiss the Petition, ECF No. 3. For the reasons set forth below, the motion to dismiss is GRANTED, and the Petition is DENIED and DISMISSED.

         I. Background

         On December 3, 2015, Berrios pleaded nolo contendere to one count of second-degree child molestation pursuant to R.I. Gen. Laws § 11-37-8.3 in Rhode Island Superior Court. Pet. 1. Berrios received a 15-year sentence. Id. Because Berrios pleaded nolo contendere, he did not file an immediate appeal of his decision in R.I. Supreme Court. Id. at 1-2. On November 29, 2018, Berrios applied for post-conviction relief (“PCR 1”) in the Superior Court arguing, amongst other things, that § 11-37-8.3 ought to be deemed unconstitutional in the wake of R.I. Supreme Court case, State v. Maxie, 187 A.3d 330, 341 (R.I. 2018) (ruling R.I. G.L. § 11-67-6 unconstitutional as it failed to connect the criminal conduct to the stated punishment). Id. at 3. Because dozens of state prisoners had made similar allegations regarding the unconstitutionality of § 11-37-8.3 following Maxie, the Superior Court severed all grounds in PCR 1 unrelated to § 11-37-8.3. See Order, 1, ECF No 1-6. The Superior Court then allowed Berrios to re-allege the unrelated grounds in a second application for post- conviction relief (“PCR 2”) which Berrios filed on March 7, 2019. Pet. 3. Both PCR applications remain pending in Superior Court. See id.

         Berrios, apparently unsatisfied with the pending status of his PCR applications, mailed the immediate Petition on March 29, 2019.[1] Id. 14. The Petition alleges four grounds for relief all based on the alleged unconstitutionality of § 11-37-8.3. See Id. at 5-8. The State moves to dismiss claiming first that the Petition is time-barred under 28 U.S.C. 2244(d) or, alternatively, that Berrios has failed to exhaust his state court remedies as required by 28 U.S.C. 2254(b)(1)(A). See Memo. in Supp. of State's Mot. to Dismiss (“Mot.”), 1, ECF No. 3.

         II. Discussion

         Section 2254 provides that a district court “shall entertain an application for a writ of habeas corpus in behalf of a person in custody pursuant to the judgment of a State court only on the ground that he is in custody in violation of the Constitution or laws or treaties of the United States.” 28 U.S.C. § 2254(a) (2018).

         A. Timeliness

         Pursuant to the Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act (“AEDPA”), a one-year statute of limitations applies to habeas petitions by persons convicted in state court. See 28 U.S.C. § 2244(d)(1). Section 2244(d)(1) provides:

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 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 ...

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