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Aquilina v. Johnson

United States District Court, D. New Jersey

April 27, 2018

MARK AQUILINA, Petitioner,
v.
STEPHEN JOHNSON, et al., Respondents.

          OPINION

          JOSE L. LINARES, Chief Judge, United States District Court

         Presently before the Court is the petition for a writ of habeas corpus of Mark Aquilina ("Petitioner") brought pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2254 challenging his state court murder conviction. (ECF No. 1). On February 1, 2018, this Court entered an order directing Petitioner to show cause why his petition should not be dismissed as time barred. (ECF No. 3). Petitioner thereafter filed a response. (ECF No. 4). For the following reasons, the Court will dismiss the petition with prejudice as time barred and no certificate of appealability shall issue.

         I. BACKGROUND

         In the order directing Petitioner to show cause, this Court provided the following summary of the procedural history of Petitioner's criminal matter:

Petitioner was convicted [of the murder of his step-father] after a jury trial and was sentenced on November 16, 2007. (ECF No. 1 at 1). Petitioner appealed, and the Superior Court of New Jersey -Appellate Division affirmed his conviction by way of an opinion issued on March 31, 2011. See State v. Aquilina, 2011 WL 1161303 ( N.J.Super. App. Div. Mar. 31, 2011). Petitioner thereafter filed a petition for certification, which was denied by the New Jersey Supreme Court on September 22, 2011. State v. Aquilina, 208 N.J. 338 (2011). As Petitioner did not file a petition for certiorari, his conviction became final 90 days later on December 21, 2011 ....
According to Petitioner he [thereafter] filed his [post-conviction relief (PCR)] petition on March 7, 2012. (ECF No. 1 at 3). The state PCR trial court denied that petition in August 2014, and Petitioner appealed. (Id. at 4). The Appellate Division affirmed the denial of Petitioner's PCR petition on October 4, 2016.[] State v. Aquilina, 2016 WL 5746623, at *1 ( N.J.Super. App. Div. October 4, 2016). Petitioner thereafter sought certification, which was denied by the Supreme Court on January 20, 2017[.] State v. Aquilina, 228 N.J. 474 (2017).

(ECF No. 3 at 2-3).

         II. DISCUSSION

         A. Legal Standard

         Under 28 U.S.C. § 2254(a), the 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." The petitioner has the burden of establishing his entitlement to relief for each claim presented in his petition based upon the record that was before the state court. See Eley v. Erickson, 712 F.3d 837, 846 (3d Cir. 2013); see also Parker v. Matthews, 567 U.S. 37, 40-41 (2012). Under the statute, as amended by the Anti-Terrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act, 28 U.S.C. § 2244 ("AEDPA"), district courts are required to give great deference to the determinations of the state trial and appellate courts. See Renico v. Lett, 559 U.S. 766, 772-73 (2010).

         Where a claim has been adjudicated on the merits by the state courts, the district court shall not grant an application for a writ of habeas corpus unless the state court adjudication

(1) resulted in a decision that was contrary to, or involved an unreasonable application of, clearly established Federal law, as determined by the Supreme Court of the United States; or
(2) resulted in a decision that was based on an unreasonable determination of the facts in light of the evidence presented in the State court proceeding.

28 U.S.C. § 2254(d)(1)-(2). Federal law is clearly established for the purposes of the statute where it is clearly expressed in "only the holdings, as opposed to the dicta" of the opinions of the United States Supreme Court. See Woods v. Donald, __ U.S. __, __, 135 S.Ct. 1372, 1376 (2015). "When reviewing state criminal convictions on collateral review, federal judges are required to afford state courts due respect by overturning their decisions only when there could be no reasonable dispute that they were wrong." Id. Where a petitioner challenges an allegedly erroneous factual determination of the state courts, "a determination of a factual issue made by a State court shall be presumed to be ...


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