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McCants v. Silva

United States District Court, D. Massachusetts

May 1, 2019

OWEN McCANTS, Petitioner,
v.
STEVEN SILVA, Respondent.

          ORDER DISMISSING PETITION (DOC. NO. 1) MAY 1, 2019 SOROKIN, J.

          LEO T. SOROKIN UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.

         Owen McCants, a prisoner at the Massachusetts Correctional Institution in Norfolk, Massachusetts, has filed a pro se petition for a writ of habeas corpus pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2254. Because the petition is untimely, it is DISMISSED.

         I. BACKGROUND

         In May and November of 1974, juries in Suffolk County Superior Court convicted McCants of robbing and sexually assaulting three different victims. Commonwealth v. McCants, 94 N.E.3d 881, 2017 WL 5894414, at *1 (Mass. App. Ct. 2017). McCants was sentenced to ten-to-twenty years' incarceration for the November conviction, which is the focus of his federal petition.[1] Doc. No. 1 at 1; Doc. No. 1-1 at 13.

         The Massachusetts Appeals Court (“MAC”) affirmed the November conviction and sentence on December 3, 1975. Commonwealth v. McCants, 337 N.E.2d 918 (Mass. App. Ct. 1975). It appears McCants sought no further direct review. 2017 WL 5894414, at *1; Doc. No. 1-1 at 10, 13. It also appears McCants took no other steps to challenge either of the 1974 judgments in any court for “[a]pproximately forty years.” 2017 WL 5894414, at *1; accord Commonwealth v. McCants, 113 N.E.3d 934, 2018 WL 5931366, at *1 (Mass. App. Ct. 2018).

         In 2014, McCants petitioned the state trial court for postconviction discovery pertaining to both 1974 convictions, Commonwealth v. McCants, 44 N.E.3d 896, 2016 WL 360640, at *1 (Mass. App. Ct. 2016), and filed a motion for a new trial challenging the May conviction, Doc. No. 1-1 at 10. His discovery request was denied promptly, and the MAC affirmed that denial in January 2016. 2016 WL 360640, at *1. In May 2016, McCants filed a motion for a new trial challenging the November conviction. Doc. No. 1-1 at 13.

         The Superior Court denied both new-trial motions without a hearing on February 7, 2017. Id. at 9-14. The MAC affirmed the denial of both motions. 2018 WL 5931366, at *1-3 (rejecting challenges to November conviction); 2017 WL 5894414, at *1-2 (rejecting challenges to May conviction). The Supreme Judicial Court (“SJC”) denied review. 481 Mass. 1104 (2019); 478 Mass. 1109 (2018).

         In April 2019, McCants filed his pro se federal habeas petition. Doc. No. 1 at 15. He presents seven challenges to his November 1974 conviction and sentence: 1) abuse of discretion by the state courts in denying McCants's motion for a new trial without a hearing; 2) exclusion of McCants from his own pretrial conference in violation of Massachusetts law; 3) improper admission of suggestive mugshots; 4) insufficient evidence of guilt; 5) ineffectiveness of trial and appellate counsel with respect to photo array evidence and investigation/presentation of alibi evidence; 6) prosecutorial misconduct for “cajol[ing] the jury” about “a racially mixed crime” and vouching for a “primary witness's credibility”; and 7) ineffectiveness of counsel for failure to advance a “third-party defense.” Doc. No. 1-1 at 5-8.

         Because the Court's screening of the petition revealed that it was hopelessly untimely, the Court did not require the respondent to answer McCants's claims. See Rule 4 foll. 28 U.S.C. § 2254 (requiring Court to “promptly examine” habeas petition and to dismiss it “[i]f it plainly appears from the petition and any attached exhibits that the petitioner is not entitled to relief in the district court”).

         II. DISCUSSION

         The Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act of 1996 (“AEDPA”) imposes a one-year period of limitation on applications for writs of habeas corpus, and provides that such 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 ...

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