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Thomas v. Warden, N.H. State Prison for Women

United States District Court, D. New Hampshire

May 13, 2019

Christina L. Thomas
v.
Warden, N.H. State Prison for Women

          Christina L. Thomas, pro se

          Thomas P. Velardi, Esq.

          Elizabeth C. Woodcock, Esq.

          ORDER

          Joseph A. DiClerico, Jr., United States District Judge

         Christina L. Thomas, proceeding pro se, seeks habeas corpus relief pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2254 from her state court conviction. The Warden moves to dismiss Thomas's petition on the grounds that the petition is untimely and that equitable tolling does not apply. Thomas opposes dismissal.

         Background

         A jury convicted Thomas in state court of first degree assault for knowingly causing serious bodily injury to a person under 13 years of age, in violation of N.H. Rev. Stat. Ann. (“RSA”) 631:1, I(d). The state court sentenced her to a minimum of ten years and a maximum of thirty years' imprisonment. Thomas appealed her conviction, which the New Hampshire Supreme Court affirmed on February 23, 2016. State v. Thomas, 168 N.H. 589 (2016). Thomas did not petition the United States Supreme Court for a writ of certiorari. The time to petition for a writ of certiorari expired on May 23, 2016.

         On June 28, 2016, Thomas signed a motion for a new trial, which was filed in superior court. On October 13, 2016, the superior court dismissed Thomas's motion without prejudice for failure to comply with Stafford, Cheshire, and Belknap County Rule of Criminal Procedure 15(b)(5), which required a motion grounded on facts not apparent from the record to be verified by affidavit. Thomas filed a “Verification of Defendant Thomas' Motion for a New Trial” on November 3, 2016, which brought her motion into compliance with Rule 15(b)(5). Doc. 23-1 at 8.

         The superior court denied the motion for a new trial on its merits on February 22, 2017. Thomas signed a notice of appeal on March 18, 2017, which was filed in the superior court on March 22, 2017. Thomas, however, did not file a notice of appeal with the New Hampshire Supreme Court, as required by its rules. See Doc. 25-5; N.H. Sup. Ct. R. 5(1) (“[T]he party appealing shall . . . unless differently provided by law . . . simultaneously file the original and 8 copies of the notice of appeal and of the attachments mentioned on the applicable notice of appeal form, in the office of the clerk of this court . . . .”). The time for filing an appeal to the New Hampshire Supreme Court expired on March 24, 2017. See N.H. Sup. Ct. R. 7(1)(B); Griffin v. Warden, N.H. State Prison for Men, 2018 WL 4017600, at *1 n.1 (D.N.H. Aug. 22, 2018). Thomas signed her § 2254 petition on February 16, 2018, and it was filed in this court on February 20, 2018.

         Discussion

         The Warden argues that the court must dismiss Thomas's § 2254 petition because it is untimely. The Anti-Terrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act (“AEDPA”) created a one-year limitations period for petitions for habeas corpus relief under § 2254. 28 U.S.C. § 2244(d)(1). The limitations period begins running from the time that the state judgment becomes final, which is at the conclusion of a direct appeal or the expiration of time for seeking a direct appeal. Id. § 2244(d) (1) (A).

         The Warden contends that, considering statutory tolling, the one-year limitations period expired on September 11, 2017.[1]Additionally, the Warden contends that Thomas is not entitled to equitable tolling.[2] In her objection, Thomas does not contest the Warden's assertion that her petition was untimely filed, but she asserts that the court should grant her an exception because she does not understand the legal process.

         A. Timeliness

         The limitations period began running on May 23, 2016, when the time period for petitioning the Supreme Court for certiorari expired ninety days after the New Hampshire Supreme Court affirmed Thomas's conviction. See § 2244(d)(1); Blue v. Medeiros,913 F.3d 1, 3-4 (1st Cir. 2019) (concluding that “[n]inety days” after the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court summarily denied direct review of the petitioner's conviction and sentence, “Petitioner's convictions became final; that is the moment the AEDPA statute of limitations clock began to tick”). The limitations period was tolled between November 3, 2016, and March 24, 2017, while Thomas's motion for a new trial was pending.[3]See 28 U.S.C. § 2244(d)(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.”); Drew v. MacEachern, 620 F.3d 16, 20 (1st Cir. 2010); Currie v. Matesanz, 281 ...


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