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Couture v. Chapedlaine

United States District Court, D. Connecticut

July 15, 2019

DONALD COUTURE, Petitioner,
v.
CAROL CHAPDELAINE, Respondent.

          RULING ON MOTION TO DISMISS

          KARI A. DOOLEY, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         Preliminary Statement

         The petitioner, Donald Couture (Couture”) is an inmate currently confined at the MacDougall-Walker Correctional Institution in Suffield, Connecticut. He brings this action pro se for a writ of habeas corpus pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2254 challenging his 1991 convictions for felony murder. The respondent has moved to dismiss the petition on the ground that it is barred by the one-year statute of limitations contained in 28 U.S.C. § 2244(d)(1). For the following reasons, the motion is granted.

         Procedural Background

         In 1981, a jury convicted Couture of three counts of felony murder and a judge sentenced Couture to a total effective term of imprisonment of seventy-five years to life. See State v. Couture, 194 Conn. 530, 531 (1984), cert. denied, 469 U.S. 1192 (1985). On October 2, 1984, the Connecticut Supreme Court overturned the convictions. See Id. at 560-65. In November 1986, the State of Connecticut tried Couture a second time. See State v. Couture, 218 Conn. 309, 311 (1991). The second trial ended in a mistrial. See State v. Couture, 160 Conn.App. 757, 759 cert. denied, 320 Conn. 911 (2015). In May 1989, the State of Connecticut tried Couture a third time. See Couture, 218 Conn. at 311. The jury convicted Couture of three counts of felony murder in violation of Connecticut General Statutes § 53a-54c. See Id. at 310. On June 1, 1989, a judge sentenced Couture to a total effective sentence of seventy-five years to life. See Pet. Writ Habeas Corpus, ECF No. 1-2, at 2. On April 16, 1991, the Connecticut Supreme Court affirmed the judgments of conviction. See Couture, 218 Conn. at 324, 589 A.2d at 351.

         On January 2, 2009, in the Connecticut Superior Court for the Judicial District of Tolland, Couture filed a petition for writ of habeas corpus. See Couture v. Warden, No. CV094002847, 2014 WL 1013466, at *1 (Conn. Super. Ct. Feb. 18, 2014). On March 16, 2012, Couture filed an amended petition. See Id. On September 4, 2012, after a hearing, the court granted the respondent's motion to dismiss as to the first ground of the amended petition and denied the motion as to the remaining grounds. See Id. On October 1, 2013, Couture withdrew several grounds in the amended petition and the court held a hearing on the remaining grounds. See Id. On February 14, 2014, the court granted the amended petition as to the request that Couture's right to seek sentence review be reinstated, but otherwise denied the amended petition. See Id. at *10.

         On October 27, 2015, the Connecticut Appellate Court affirmed the decision of the Connecticut Superior Court. See Couture, 160 Conn.App. at 776. On December 23, 2015, the Connecticut Supreme Court denied the petition for certification to appeal the decision of the Connecticut Appellate Court. See Couture v. Comm'r of Correction, 320 Conn. 911 (2015).

         Discussion

         The Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act (“AEDPA”), Pub. L. No. 104-132, 110 Stat. 1214, imposes a one-year statute of limitations on the filing of a federal petition for a writ of habeas corpus challenging a state court judgment of conviction. 28 U.S.C. § 2244(d)(1). Under the AEDPA, a state prisoner seeking federal habeas relief must file his petition within one year of the “(A) the date on which the judgment becomes final by the conclusion of direct review or the expiration of the time for seeking such review;…” 28 U.S.C. § 2244(d)(1)(A)[1]. The limitations period may be tolled for the period during which a properly filed state habeas petition is pending. See 28 U.S.C. 2244(d)(2).

         Here, the respondent argues that the present petition was not timely filed and is barred. In response, Couture contends that he filed the petition within one-year of when his state habeas petition became final.

         As indicated above, on April 16, 1991, the Connecticut Supreme Court affirmed Couture's convictions and sentence. Therefore, for purposes of the AEDPA, Couture's convictions and sentence would have become final on July 15, 1991, the conclusion of the ninety-day period within which he could have filed a petition for certiorari seeking review by the United States Supreme Court. See Gonzalez v. Thaler, 565 U.S. 134, 150 (2012). However, Couture's conviction became final before the enactment of the AEDPA on April 24, 1996. As a result, the limitations period applicable to his petition began running on the date of enactment, April 24, 1996 and expired on April 24, 1997. See Wood v. Milyard, 566 U.S. 463, 468 (2012) (“For a prisoner whose judgment became final before AEDPA was enacted, the one-year limitations period runs from the AEDPA's effective Dated: April 24, 1996. . . . and expire[s] on April 24, 1997, unless [prisoner] had a ‘properly filed' application for postconviction relief ‘pending' in . . . state court during that period.”); Ross v. Artuz, 150 F.3d 97, 102-03 (2d Cir. 1998) (same). Couture did not file a habeas petition in the Connecticut Superior Court until January 2, 2009, many years after the limitations period had lapsed. The habeas petition became final on December 23, 2015.

         Couture asserts that it is this December date from which the one year limitations period runs. He is wrong. Although the time during which a properly filed application for state post-conviction or other collateral review is pending tolls the one-year limitations period, 28 U.S.C. §2244(d)(2), the filing of a state petition for writ of habeas corpus after the limitations period has already run does not re-start the one-year limitations period. See Fernandez v. Artuz, 402 F.3d 111, 116 (2d Cir. 2005) (a state petition does not toll the one-year statute of limitations pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2244(d)(2), unless petition is ‘pending' [in state court] during the tolling period”); Smith v. McGinnis, 208 F.3d 13, 17 (2d Cir. 2000) (per curiam) (Section 2244(d)(2) “excludes time during which properly filed state relief application are pending, but does not reset the date from which the one-year statute of limitations begins to run”); Brewer v. Lee, No. 16-CV-4051 (RRM), 2019 WL 1384074, at *2 (E.D.N.Y. Mar. 26, 2019) (Where post-conviction motions were filed after the one year limitations period had lapsed, they did not toll the limitations period.)

         As such, the 2009 petition in state court could not and did not toll the already lapsed limitations period. ...


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