The U.S. Supreme Court granted a petition of certiorari to hear a Texan prisoner's habeas case. The case comes to the U.S. Supreme Court from the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals.
The case before the Supreme Court involves a Texan murder convict, Rafael Arriaza Gonzalez. While the facts of his murder case are irrelevant to the U.S. Supreme Court, the procedural posture is.
Gonzalez did not file his habeas petition within the one year statute of limitations in the Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act of 1996, writes Courthouse News. For years, he has been arguing his case before the Texas state courts and before the U.S. federal courts.
Rafael Gonzalez was sentenced to thirty years in prison for murder, back in 2005. He subsequently appealed his conviction to the Texas Court of Appeals.
Here's an important point: the Texas Court affirmed his conviction on August 11, 2006 and issued a mandate on September 26, 2006.
He then filed writ after writ for habeas relief. Both writs were denied.
In 2008, he moved up his case to the feds. Gonzalez filed a habeas petition in district court, but the district court dismissed his case claiming that it was outside the statute of limitations. The Fifth Circuit affirmed.
Here's the key point of argument: The district court calculated the one year statute of limitations from the date Gonzalez could no longer petition for discretionary review to the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals, which was on August 11, 2006.
Gonzalez argued differently. He said that the statute of limitations began running on September 26, 2006, which was the date the mandate was issued, and that the clock started ticking on the date of that issue.
In their decision, the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals looked at the Roberts v. Cockrell case, where the court held that the issuance of a mandate was irrelevant to determining when a judgment became final.
But wait! Roberts was overruled, said Gonzalez. After all, Lawrence v. Florida came out, didn't it?
Unfortunately for Rafael Arriaza Gonzalez, the Fifth Circuit did not follow his reasoning and they distinguished the two cases.
Thus, cert was granted on June 13, 2011. Regarding the habeas petition, Supreme Court will be looking at the following question:
"Was the application for a writ of habeas corpus out of time under 28 U. S. C. 2244(d)(1) due to the date on which the judgment became final by the conclusion of direct review or the expiration of the time for seeking such review?"