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Satterfield v. Johnson

January 17, 2006


Appeal from the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania, (D.C. Civ. No. 02-CV-00448). District Judge: Honorable Jan E. DuBois.

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Restani, Judge


Submitted Under Third Circuit LAR 34.1(a) September 30, 2005

Before: ALITO and AMBRO, Circuit Judges, RESTANI*fn1, Judge.


This appeal arises out of a petition for post-conviction review of a state-court conviction for first-degree murder and possession of an instrument of crime entered against Paul Satterfield in 1985. Appellee, Satterfield, was granted a writ of habeas corpus by Judge Jan E. DuBois of the Eastern District of Pennsylvania on the basis of ineffective assistance of counsel arising from trial counsel's failure to call potentially exculpatory eye-witnesses at trial. Appellants Philip L. Johnson, the District Attorney for Philadelphia County, and the Attorney General of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania ("The Commonwealth"), challenge the District Court's ruling on ineffective assistance of counsel and also argue that Satterfield's federal habeas petition should have been dismissed as time-barred under the Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act ("AEDPA"). We agree that Satterfield's petition is time-barred and reverse the judgment of the District Court.


In April 1983, Satterfield, a repairman, was called to the house of William Bryant to repair a television set. After receiving partial payment, Satterfield attempted but failed to fix Bryant's television set, returning several times without success. Eventually, Bryant demanded a refund of his fee, threatening Satterfield with a baseball bat. Satterfield returned the fee and left. On April 28, 1983, at about 3:30 in the morning, Bryant was shot to death outside his home. Immediately after the shooting, the police spoke with two eyewitnesses, Eric and Grady Freeman. Eric Freeman described the shooter as a blonde-haired white male, about five-feet-nine-inches tall, driving a blue station wagon. Grady Freeman described the shooter as a "light-skin guy," about five-feet-eight-inches tall, driving a dark station wagon, but did not specify his hair color or ethnicity. Satterfield is a brown-haired African-American. At that time, the police obtained a warrant to search Satterfield's home, but were unable to obtain sufficient evidence to make an arrest.

In 1984, Satterfield made the acquaintance of Patricia Edwards and her husband, Wayne. Mr. Edwards testified at trial that on May 2, 1984, during a conversation after playing tennis, Satterfield confessed that he murdered Bryant, that he had done so because Bryant threatened him, and that he had disposed of his .44 caliber gun after the murder. That day, Edwards contacted his attorney, who contacted the police on his behalf to report Satterfield's admission. Satterfield contended at trial that Edwards fabricated his confession to punish Satterfield for his alleged romantic advances towards Edwards's wife.

Satterfield's defense consisted of impeaching Edwards's testimony as biased and arguing that a different shooter committed the crime. Defense counsel entered the warrant describing Eric Freeman's police report into the record, but neither Eric nor Grady Freeman testified to their recollection of the crime. Defense counsel declined to call these witnesses out of concern that the perhaps helpful effect of the witnesses' police statements would be undermined. Counsel's belief was based, at least in part, on the fact that Eric Freeman had identified the shooter as a white male while his brother Grady had identified the shooter as a "light-skin guy," which to counsel meant a light-skinned African-American.

On June 10, 1985, Satterfield was convicted on both counts and sentenced to life in prison.


The Superior Court affirmed judgment against Satterfield on July 22, 1987. The Pennsylvania Supreme Court denied allocatur on January 27, 1988. On April 1, 1996, Satterfield, acting pro se, filed a petition with the Pennsylvania Supreme Court, entitled "Petition for Writ of Habeas Corpus Ad Subjiciendum -- Inter Alia -- King's Bench Matter" ("King's Bench Petition"), which was denied on June 7, 1996. On October 11, 1996,the Pennsylvania Supreme Court denied Satterfield's motion to reconsider dismissal of his King's Bench Petition.*fn2 On January 13, 1997, Satterfield filed a petition for relief pursuant to the Pennsylvania Post Conviction Relief Act ("PCRA"), 42 Pa. Cons. Stat. § 9541.*fn3 The PCRA Court denied Satterfield's PCRA petition on September 21, 1998, which the Superior Court affirmed August 22, 2000. The Pennsylvania Supreme Court denied allocatur on April 30, 2001. On January 23, 2002, Satterfield filed the pro se Petition for Writ of Habeas Corpus that is before us. Magistrate Judge Scuderi initially dismissed the petition as time-barred, but, on September 6, 2002, Judge DuBois remanded for additional consideration of statutory tolling. Judge Dubois ruled that Satterfield's King's Bench Petition was "properly filed" for purposes of tolling the statute of limitations in federal habeas cases under AEDPA, 28 U.S.C. § 2244(d)(2). Satterfield I, 218 F. Supp. 2d at 723.

On May 16, 2003, Magistrate Judge Scuderi issued a Supplemental Report and Recommendation ("Supplemental Report") recommending that Satterfield's claims be denied on their merits. When Satterfield filed no objections, on July 16, 2003, Judge DuBois issued an order adopting the report. See Satterfield v. Johnson, 322 F. Supp. 2d 613, 617 (E.D. Pa. 2004) [hereinafter Satterfield II].

On July 25, 2003, Satterfield filed objections to the Supplemental Report, requesting the opportunity to file out of time, which Judge Dubois eventually granted.*fn4 On June 21, 2004, Judge DuBois vacated the report and order issued July 16, 2003, holding that Satterfield's defense counsel had been ineffective for failing to interview and call Eric and Grady Freeman, and vacated Satterfield's sentence. Satterfield's remaining claims of actual innocence and absence of notice of charges against him were denied. The mandate was stayed for 180 days to permit Pennsylvania to retry Satterfield. Id. at 616--17.

Both Satterfield and the Commonwealth filed timely notices of appeal ...

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