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Ratcliffe v. Clarke

United States District Court, W.D. Virginia, Roanoke Division

August 23, 2019

MATTHEW L. RATCLIFFE, Petitioner,
v.
HAROLD W. CLARKE, Respondent.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION

          NORMAN K. MOON, SENIOR UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         Matthew L. Ratcliffe, a Virginia inmate proceeding pro se, filed a petition for a writ of habeas corpus, pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2254, [1] to challenge his criminal judgment entered by the Roanoke County Circuit Court on July 14, 2015.[2] This matter is before me on respondent's motion to dismiss (Dkt. No. 13), to which Ratcliffe has responded (Dkt. No. 22.) After reviewing the record, I grant the motion and dismiss the petition as time barred.

         On July 14, 2015, after Ratcliffe pleaded guilty, the Roanoke County Circuit Court entered a final order convicting him of three charges and sentencing him as follows: (1) six years of incarceration with three years suspended for statutory burglary; (2) two years with one year suspended for larceny of a firearm; and (3) two years with one year suspended for grand larceny. (Nos. CR15-154, CR15-155, and CR15-156.) (See Conviction & Sentencing Order, Resp. Ex. 1, Dkt. No. 14-1.) Ratcliffe did not appeal.

         On December 12, 2016, Ratcliffe filed a timely petition for writ of habeas corpus with the Supreme Court of Virginia. (State Pet., Dkt. No. 14-2.) That court granted the respondent's motion to dismiss and dismissed Ratcliffe's petition on April 19, 2018. (SCV Op., Dkt. No. 14- 3.) Ratcliffe filed this petition on August 1, 2018. See R. Gov. § 2254 Cases 3(d) (describing the prison-mailbox rule).

         Under the Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act (“AEDPA”), a one-year statute of limitations applies when a person in custody pursuant to the judgment of a state court files a federal petition for a writ of habeas corpus. 28 U.S.C. § 2244(d)(1)(A)-(D); R. Gov. § 2254 Cases 3(c).

         This statute of limitations runs 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
(D) the date on which the factual predicate of the claim or claims presented could have been discovered through the exercise of due diligence.

28 U.S.C. § 2244(d)(1). Here, Ratcliffe alleges nothing to support application of § 2244(d)(1)(B)-(C).

         Under § 2244(d)(1)(A), Ratcliffe's conviction became final, and the statute of limitations began to run, on August 13, 2015, when his thirty-day period to file an appeal to the Court of Appeals of Virginia expired. See Va. S.Ct. R. 5A:6 (providing that a defendant has thirty day after entry of judgment to note an appeal). Therefore, Ratcliffe had until August 13, 2016, to file a timely federal habeas petition. He did not file any state petition or federal petition on or before that time.[3] Accordingly, if calculated under § 2244(d)(1)(A), his petition is not timely.

         In his response to the motion to dismiss, he seems to be asking for the application of § 2244(d)(1)(D), although he does so only in general terms. For example, he states that he has been diligent in pursuing facts and making his claims. (Resp. to Mot. Dismiss 2, Dkt. No. 22.) He does not, however, identify what factual predicates he needed to discover or even when he discovered them. “[T]the petitioner bears the burden of proving that he exercised due diligence, in order for the statute of limitations to begin running from the date he discovered the factual predicate of his claim, pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2244(d)(1)(D).” DiCenzi v. Rose, 452 F.3d 465, 471 (6th Cir. 2006). Further, a habeas petitioner who “merely alleges that [he] did not actually know the facts underlying his or her claim does not” thereby demonstrate due diligence. In re Boshears, 110 F.3d 1538, 1540 (11th Cir. 1997). Because Ratcliffe fails to allege any details about what evidence he discovered or when, he has not demonstrated that he exercised due diligence in discovering the factual predicate of his claim so as to fall within § 2244(d)(1)(D).

         Accordingly, Ratcliffe's petition is time-barred unless he demonstrates that he is actually innocent of his convictions, McQuiggin v. Perkins, 569 U.S. 383, 386 (2013), or that he is entitled to equitable tolling of the one-year ...


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