Bracey v. Superintendent Rockview SCI

In 1995, Bracey was convicted of murder in Pennsylvania state court. In 2010, he learned the Commonwealth had disclosed only some of the cases that were pending against the primary two cooperating witnesses, who testified for the Commonwealth. Based on this newly-discovered information, Bracey filed a PCRA petition, which the Court of Common Pleas dismissed as time-barred. The Superior Court affirmed the dismissal. He then filed a federal habeas petition, again asserting Brady claims based on the allegedly withheld material exculpatory evidence. The District Court dismissed the petition as untimely under 28 U.S.C. § 2244(d)(1)(D). Bracey moved for reconsideration under Rule 60(b), contending that, in light of the 3rd Circuit’s decision in Dennis v. Sec’y, 834 F.3d 263 (3d Cir. 2016), the District Court had erred in dismissing his petition under § 2244(d)(1)(D). The District Court issued a one-page denial, which did not address the Dennis case. In Bracey v Superintendent Rockview SCI, the Third Circuit ruled that a certificate of appealability (COA) is required when a petitioner appeals the denial of a Rule 60(b) motion seeking reconsideration of a dismissal of a habeas petition, even if that dismissal was on procedural grounds, that Bracey was entitled to a COA and that, under § 2253(c)(1)(A), the Third Circuit would hear Bracey’s appeal. The 3rd Circuit held that Dennis made a material change in the decisional law concerning the reasonable expectations of a petitioner in Bracey’s position. Namely, a petitioner’s failure to search for Brady material of which he is unaware and which he is entitled to presume is non-existent does not fall short of the diligence required by § 2244(d)(1)(D). Here, because the District Court not only failed to consider the full measure of the properly presented facts and circumstances attendant to Bracey’s request but also precluded development of the record concerning those facts and circumstances, remand was required.

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