Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals - Published Opinions

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

Sweet: Habeas Petition is Untimely

In Sweet v. Secretary, Dept’ of Corrections, No. 05-15199 (Oct. 23, 2006), the Court affirmed the denial of habeas relief to a Florida inmate sentenced to death for a 1990 murder.
The Court found that the federal habeas petition was untimely because Sweet’s most recent state post-conviction filing was itself untimely under state rules and therefore not "properly filed," and therefore did not toll the time period for filing for federal habeas relief. Citing Pace v.DiGuglielmo, 544 U.S. 408 (2005), the Court noted that a filing which has been held untimely by a state court is not properly filed within the meaning of the AEDPA’s time computation provisions.
The Court rejected Sweet’s equal protection argument. Sweet pointed out that even though the Supreme Court of Florida had denied him relief, it had addressed on the merits the claims of identically-situated inmates, untimeliness notwithstanding. Finding that Sweet failed to allege "invidious" discrimination, the Court rejected this claim.
The Court also rejected the argument that the State waived its untimeliness argument by failing to raise it in their initial response. The Court pointed out that the State raised untimeliness in a summary judgment motion filed 36 days after its response. Citing Day v. McDonough, 126 S.Ct. 1675 (2006), the Court reasoned that since a Magistrate Judge could sua sponte point out to the State the untimeliness of a habeas petition, it was necessarily unproblematic for the State to raise the objection on its own, 36 days after its initial response.