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Ayers v. Johnson

United States District Court, D. New Jersey

October 24, 2019

JEFFREY AYERS, Petitioner,
v.
STEVEN JOHNSON, et al., Respondents.

          OPINION

          Madeline Cox Arleo United States District Judge.

         I. INTRODUCTION

         This matter has been opened to the Court by the State's filing of a motion to dismiss the Petition as untimely under The Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act ("AEDPA") of 1996, Pub. L. No. 104-132, tit. I, § 101 (1996). Because Petitioner has not provided enough evidence to support his assertion that he handed his petition to prison officials for filing within the one-year limitations period or provided a valid basis for equitable tolling, the Court will grant the motion to dismiss the Petition as untimely and declines to issue a certificate of appealability.

         II. FACTUAL BACKGROUND & PROCEDURAL HISTORY

         Petitioner's Judgment of Conviction is dated August 6, 2009. (ECF No. 6-7, Ex. B.) Petitioner appealed, and on May 20, 2011, the Appellate Division affirmed Petitioner's conviction and sentence. (ECF No. 6-8, Ex. C.) On November 14, 2011, the New Jersey Supreme Court denied the petition for certification. (ECF No. 6-9, Ex. D.) On January 9, 2012, Petitioner filed a pro se petition for post-conviction relief. (ECF No. 6-10, Ex. E.) On September 26, 2013, the PCR court granted the petition in part and vacated his sentence. (ECF No. 6-11, Ex. F.) The PCR court also granted the State's motion for a stay pending an appeal, (ECF No. 6-12, Ex. G), and, on July 25, 2014, the Appellate Division reversed the PCR court's decision and reinstated Petitioner's conviction and sentence. (ECF No. 6-13, Ex. H.) On January 7, 2015, the New Jersey Supreme Court denied the petition for certification. (ECF No. 6-14, Ex. I.)

         Petitioner submitted a petition for writ of habeas corpus dated June 9, 2017. (ECF No. 1, Pet. at 16.) Together with his Petition, Petitioner submitted a letter asserting that he mailed his initial habeas corpus petition ("the 2015 Petition") and the five-dollar filing fee on July 31, 2015. (ECF Nos. 1, Pet. at 29; 1-2). Petitioner also submitted copies of letters he wrote to the Clerk of the Court, dated January 8, 2016, July 26, 2016, and April 7, 2017, but only the April 7, 2017 letter is stamped received of the Clerk's Office. (ECF No. 1-2, at 1-6.) Because there was no record of the 2015 Petition or the 2016 follow-up letters, and the current Petition dated June 9, 2017 was submitted beyond the one-year limitations period established by AEDPA, the Court directed Petitioner to show cause as to why the Petition should not be dismissed as untimely. The Court directed Petitioner to submit (1) a signed and dated copy of the July 31, 2015 petition, (2) proof of postage and any other evidence showing the date on which he handed his petition to prison officials for filing, and (3) a certification sworn under penalty of perjury stating the date on which he handed his original habeas petition to prison officials for filing. (ECF No. 2.)

         In response to the Order to Show Cause, Petitioner submitted a signed typewritten petition dated July 31, 2015, and a sworn certification stating that he placed the 2015 Petition in the mailing system on July 31, 2015. (ECF No. 3.) He did not, however, submit any prison records, such as his prison account statement, showing the relevant deductions for postage or payment of the filing fee in connection with the July 31, 2015 petition or the January 8, 2016 and July 26, 2017 follow-up letters. In his response, Petitioner further asserts that he relies on paralegals to prepare his filings and that he has no other evidence that he mailed the petition in July 2015. Petitioner also asserts that he believed his petition was in the hands of the District Court but does not explain why he is unable to provide any records, such as his prison account statement, to show that the 2015 Petition was mailed on or about July 31, 2015. Petitioner also asks the Court to afford him equitable tolling due to extraordinary circumstances and asserts that he has a credible claim of actual innocence. (See id.)

         Upon review, the Court reserved on the issue of timeliness, and directed Respondents to answer the Petition, i.e., ECF No. 1.[1] (See ECF No. 4.) On March 8, 2019, Respondent filed a motion to dismiss the Petition as untimely. (ECF No. 6.) Petition did not submit a reply.

         III. ANALYSIS

         The AEDPA, which amended the standards for reviewing state court judgments in federal habeas petitions filed under 28 U.S.C. § 2254, was enacted on April 24, 1996. Because the Petition in this case was filed after its effective date, AEDPA is applicable to this case. See Werts v. Vaughn, 228 F.3d 178, 195 (3d Cir. 2000).

         Respondents assert that the Petition is untimely under AEDPA, which requires a state prisoner file his or her federal habeas petition within one year after his or her conviction becomes final. Specifically, AEDPA provides that:

(d)(1) 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 ...

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