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Texas Post-Conviction Petition Filed When Delivered to Prison

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By Robyn Hagan Cain on March 28, 2013 4:13 PM

Kenneth Richards was convicted of possessing a cell phone while an inmate, and sentenced to 25 years. After exhausting his state remedies, he moved to file a habeas corpus petition. The district court dismissed his application as time-barred because it was filed after the one-year deadline under 28 U.S.C. §2244.

Richards appealed, arguing that the district court erred in deeming the clerk-of-court-stamped date on his petition as the date he filed the petition. He claimed that Texas law treats the pleadings of pro se inmates as filed at the time they are delivered to prison authorities, not at the time they are stamped by the clerk of court.

The Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled on Wednesday that Richards was right in light of Texas’ Campbell v. State ruling.

A person in state custody has one year to apply for a writ of habeas corpus in federal court. The one-year period begins to run on the date the conviction became final at the conclusion of the time to seek direct review, though the period is tolled while a properly-filed state post-conviction petition is pending. If an applicant files a state post-conviction petition after the time of filing a habeas petition has lapsed, the state petition doesn't toll the one-year limitations period.

In Houston v. Lack, the Supreme Court held that a pro se prisoner's notice of appeal is deemed filed as of the date it is delivered to prison officials for mailing. The Fifth Circuit extended that rule -- known as the "prison mailbox rule" -- to other submissions of pro se inmates in Spotville v. Cain, but declined to apply the prison mailbox rule to a Texas post-conviction petition for the purpose of determining whether the petition tolled the statute of limitations.

Campbell v. State prompted the appellate court to rethink its position. In Campbell, the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals held the prison mailbox rule also applies in criminal proceedings.

That decision saved Richards' petition.

Applying Campbell, the Fifth Circuit concluded that Richards' state post-conviction petition was timely filed under Texas law and remanded the case.

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