April 8, 2011

U.S. Supreme Court 3-7-11 criminal law decision

Wall v. Kholi            Tolling / Post-conviction / Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act / Writ of Habeas Corpus
Facts: Rhode Island convicted Mr. Kholi of ten counts of sexual assault, and the trial court sentenced him to consecutive life terms. Mr. Kholi filed a direct appeal, and his conviction became final in 1996. Mr. Kholi also filed two post-conviction motions – a 35(b) reconsideration motion seeking concurrent rather than consecutive life sentences, and a 35(c) post-conviction motion. Mr. Kholi filed the 35(b) in 1996 within a year of his conviction becoming final. Moreover, Mr. Kholi filed a 35(c) while the reconsideration post-conviction motion was pending in the trial court. The trial court eventually denied both post-conviction motions, and the Rhode Island Supreme Court affirmed those denials – the last on December 14, 2006. Mr. Kholi then filed a petition for writ of habeas corpus in Federal district court on September 5, 2007, within a year of the last decision from the Rhode Island Supreme Court. Rhode Island complained that Mr. Kholi did not file his writ of habeas corpus within a year of the conviction, which is required by AEDPA.
Issue: If the time in which the 35(b) motion does not toll the time period to file the great writ, then Mr. Kholi is SOL. If a 35(b) type motion does toll the 1-year period, Mr. Kholi filed his writ of habeas corpus in a timely fashion.
Held: The filing of a motion for reconsideration does toll the time period in which a petition for writ of habeas corpus must be filed.
Reasoning: The U.S. Supreme Court took cert on the issue because the Federal Circuit Courts are split. Justice Alito wrote the opinion with nary a dissenter. First, to toll the time period under the AEDPA, the motion must be a request for “collateral review”.  The Court reasoned, “Viewed as a whole, then, ‘collateral review’ of a judgment or claim means a judicial reexamination of a judgment or claim in a proceeding outside of the direct review process.” The Court then looked at the purposes of a 35(b) motion (Rhode Island’s Rule 35 and Colorado’s Rule 35 mirror each other). The Court found indeed a motion to reconsider does fall outside the direct review process, seeks review of the sentence by the trial court, and falls squarely within the definition of collateral review.

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