Sanchez v. Vargo

CourtUnited States District Courts. 4th Circuit. United States District Court (Eastern District of Virginia)
Decision Date21 March 2014
Docket NumberCivil No. 3:13CV400
PartiesDAVID JOSEPH SANCHEZ, JR., Petitioner, v. MARIE VARGO, Respondent.

DAVID JOSEPH SANCHEZ, JR., Petitioner,
v.
MARIE VARGO, Respondent.

Civil No. 3:13CV400

UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT FOR THE EASTERN DISTRICT OF VIRGINIA Richmond Division

Date: March 21, 2014


MEMORANDUM OPINION

David Joseph Sanchez, Jr., a Virginia inmate proceeding by counsel, submitted this 28 U.S.C. § 2254 petition ("§ 2254 Petition''). Sanchez argues that his life sentence without possibility of parole violates the Eighth Amendment1 under Miller v. Alabama, 132 S. Ct. 2455 (2012) and that Miller announced a new, previously unavailable rule of constitutional law retroactive to cases on collateral review, thus providing a belated commencement of the limitation period under 28 U.S.C. § 2244(d)(1)(C). Marie Vargo has moved to dismiss. Sanchez has replied. The matter is ripe for disposition. Because the statute of limitations bars the § 2254 Petition, the Motion to Dismiss will be granted.

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I. PROCEDURAL HISTORY

The Circuit Court of the County of Chesterfield ("Circuit Court") convicted Sanchez of capital murder, attempted robbery, use of a firearm in the commission of a murder, and use of a firearm in the commission of an attempted robbery, committed at the age of seventeen, and sentenced him to life plus eighteen years in prison. Commonwealth v. Sanchez, Nos. CR99F00507-01 through -04, at 1 (Va. Cir. Ct. Dec. 16, 2009).2 The Court of Appeals of Virginia denied Sanchez's petition for appeal. Sanchez v. Commonwealth, No. 0047-00-2, at 1 (Va. Ct. App. June 23, 2000). On January 5, 2001, the Supreme Court of Virginia refused Sanchez's petition for appeal. Sanchez v. Commonwealth, No. 001757, at 1 (Va. Jan. 5, 2011). Sanchez filed no other challenges to his conviction and sentence.

On June 24, 2013, Sanchez filed this § 2254 Petition, arguing that his life sentence without the possibility of parole

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violates the Eighth Amendment under Miller v. Alabama, 132 S. Ct. 2455 (2012).

II. STATUTE OF LIMITATIONS

Vargo contends that the federal statute of limitations bars Sanchez's claims. Section 101 of the Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act ("AEDPA") amended 28 U.S.C. § 2244 to establish a one-year period of limitation for the filing of a petition for a writ of habeas corpus by a person in custody pursuant to the judgment of a state court. Specifically, 28 U.S.C. § 2244(d) now reads:

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 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

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(D) the date on which the factual predicate of the claim or claims presented could have been discovered through the exercise of due diligence.
2. The time during which a properly filed application for State post-conviction or other collateral review with respect to the pertinent judgment or claim is pending shall not be counted toward any period of limitation under this subsection.

28 U.S.C. § 2244(d). Sanchez's conviction became final for the purposes of § 2244 (d) on April 5, 2001, the day upon which the time expired for Sanchez to seek certiorari to the United States Supreme Court. Hill v. Braxton, 277 F.3d 701, 704 (4th Cir. 2002) ("[T]he one-year limitation period begins running when direct review of the state conviction is completed or when the time for seeking direct review has expired . . . ." (citing 28 U.S.C. § 2244 (d) (1) (A))); see Sup. Ct. R. 13(1) (requiring a petition for certiorari to be filed within ninety days of entry of judgment by state court of last resort or of the order denying discretionary review). Thus, under § 2244(d)(1)(A), Sanchez had until April 5, 2002 to file his § 2254 Petition. Sanchez filed his § 2254 Petition more than ten years after that date. Thus, the statute of limitations bars Sanchez's § 2254 Petition unless Sanchez demonstrates entitlement to a belated commencement of the limitation period under § 2244(d)(1)(B)-(D) or equitable tolling.

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Sanchez does not argue that that is a case of equitable tolling. Nor does the record support application of the doctrine. Sanchez only argues entitlement to a belated commencement of the limitations period under § 2244(d)(1)(C) based upon Miller v. Alabama, 132 S. Ct. 2455 (2012) which was decided on June 25, 2012. For Miller to make Sanchez's petition timely, the "right" in Miller must "ha[ve] been newly recognized by the Supreme Court and made retroactively applicable to cases on collateral review." § 2244(d)(1)(C). As discussed below, although the right in Miller is new, it is not retroactively applicable to cases on collateral review.

III. THE NEW RULE DOCTRINE

A. Demand For Relief Under Miller

In Miller v. Alabama, the Supreme Court held that "the Eighth Amendment forbids a sentencing scheme that mandates life in prison without possibility of parole for juvenile offenders." 132 S. Ct. 2455, 2469 (2012) (citation omitted).3 Sanchez argues that his § 2254 Petition satisfies the conditions of § 2244(d) (1) (C) because Miller recognized a new right which applies retroactively to his § 2254 Petition.

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The Court looks to Teague v. Lane, 489 U.S. 288 (1989) to determine whether Miller entitles Sanchez to a belated commencement under § 2244(d)(1)(C). See United States v. Powell, 691 F.3d 554, 557 (4th Cir. 2012). Teague provides that new rules of constitutional criminal procedure generally are not applicable to cases on collateral review. Teague, 489 U.S. at 310. This principle protects the societal interest in the finality of convictions. Id. "'No one, not criminal defendants, not the judicial system, not society as a whole is benefitted by a judgment providing that a man shall tentatively go to jail today, but tomorrow and every day thereafter his continued incarceration shall be subject to fresh litigation.'" Id. at 309 (quoting Mackey v. United States, 401 U.S. 667, 691 (1971) (Harlan, J., concurring in judgments in part and dissenting in part)).

B. Application Of The New Rule Doctrine For Cases On Collateral Review

The Supreme Court has prescribed a three-step process for determining whether a constitutional rule of criminal procedure applies to a case on collateral review. Beard v. Banks, 542 U.S. 406, 411 (2004).

First, the court must determine when the defendant's conviction became final. Second, it must ascertain the legal landscape as it then existed, and ask whether the Constitution, as interpreted by the precedent then existing, compels the rule. That is, the court must decide whether the rule is actually

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new. Finally, if the rule is new, the court must consider whether it falls within either of the two exceptions to nonretroactivity.

Id. (citations omitted) (internal quotation marks omitted).

IV. ANALYSIS UNDER NEW RULE DOCTRINE

A. Sanchez's Conviction Became Final On April 5, 2001

The first step of the inquiry requires no extended analysis. Sanchez's conviction became final on April 5, 2001, the date on which the time expired for Sanchez to file a writ of certiorari in the Supreme Court of the United States. See Caspari v. Bohlen, 510 U.S. 383, 390 (1994).

B. Miller Announced A New Rule

The next step in the analysis requires a determination of whether Miller announced a new rule when measured against precedent as of April 5, 2001. The Supreme Court has explained that "'a case announces a new rule if the result was not dictated by precedent existing at the time the defendant's conviction became final.'" Chaidez v. United States, 133 S. Ct. 1103, 1107 (2013) (quoting Teague v. Lane, 489 U.S. 288, 301 (1989)). "[A] holding is not so dictated . . . unless it would have been 'apparent to all reasonable jurists.'" Id. (quoting Lambrix v. Singletary, 520 U.S. 518, 527-28 (1997)).

The Court need not extensively survey the legal landscape at the time of Sanchez's conviction, as both Vargo and Sanchez

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agree that the rule in Miller is "new" as defined in Teague. (See Mem. Supp. Mot. Dismiss 6.) Moreover, there is general judicial agreement that Miller established a new rule of constitutional law because it "held for the first time that the 'Eighth Amendment forbids a sentencing scheme that mandates life in prison without possibility of parole for juvenile offenders.'" In re Morgan, 713 F.3d 1365, 1366-67 (11th Cir. 2013) reh'g en banc denied, 717 F.3d 1186, 1187 (11th Cir. 2013) (quoting Miller, 132 S. Ct. at 2469); see, e.g., Craig v. Cain, No. 12-30035, 2013 WL 69128, at *1 (5th Cir. Jan. 4, 2013); Martin v. Symmes, No. 10-cv-4753 (SRN/TNL), 2013 WL 5653447, at *15 (D. Minn. Oct. 15, 2013).4

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