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Case 2:14-cv-02083-LFR Document 12 Filed 12/03/14 Page 1 of 6

IN THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT


FOR THE EASTERN DISTRICT OF PENNSYLVANIA

_________________________________
:
CHRISTOPHER RONEY,
:
:
Petitioner,
:
:
v.
:
:
JOHN E. WETZEL, Acting Secretary,
:
Pennsylvania Department of Corrections;
:
ROBERT GILMORE, Superintendent of the
:
State Correctional Institution at Greene; and
:
STEVEN GLUNT, Superintendent of the State :
Correctional Institution at Rockview,
:
:
Respondents.
:
_________________________________
:

CIVIL ACTION: 2:14-CV-02083

THIS IS A CAPITAL CASE.


HON. L. FELIPE RESTREPO

EMERGENCY MOTION FOR STAY OF EXECUTION


On November 21, 2014, Governor Tom Corbett signed a warrant for the execution of
Petitioner Christopher Roney scheduling the execution for January 8, 2015. Petitioner seeks a stay
of execution pursuant to 28 U.S.C. 2251. In support of his motion, Petitioner states the following:
INTRODUCTION
1.

Petitioner, Christopher Roney, Inmate No. DF1973, is in the custody of the

Commonwealth of Pennsylvania in the State Correctional Institution at Greene, under sentence of


death.
2.

On November 21, 2014, Governor Tom Corbett signed a warrant for the execution

of Petitioner, scheduling the execution for January 8, 2015. A copy of the warrant is attached as
Exhibit A.

Case 2:14-cv-02083-LFR Document 12 Filed 12/03/14 Page 2 of 6

3.

Four months earlier, on July 23, 2014, Petitioner filed his first counseled petition for

a writ of habeas corpus pursuant to 28 U.S.C. 2254 challenging the constitutionality of his capital
conviction and death sentence. See Petition For Writ Of Habeas Corpus (Doc. 8).
4.

Petitioner is entitled to a stay pursuant to 28 U.S.C. 2251.


PROCEDURAL HISTORY

5.

Christopher Roney was charged in the Court of Common Pleas, Philadelphia County,

with murder and related charges. Docket Number CP-51-CR-0208663-1996. On October 30, 1996,
following a jury trial at which the Honorable Gary S. Glazer presided, Petitioner was found guilty
of first-degree murder, burglary, aggravated assault, three counts of robbery, possession of an
instrument of crime, and conspiracy. Following a penalty hearing on November 1, 1996, the jury
sentenced Petitioner to death.
6.

On March 3, 1997, the trial court formally imposed the sentence of death and

additionally sentenced Petitioner to consecutive sentences for the other charges.


7.

The Pennsylvania Supreme Court affirmed Petitioners convictions and sentences on

January 20, 2005. See Commonwealth v. Roney, 866 A.2d 351 (Pa. 2005). His timely filed Petition
for Writ of Certiorari was denied on October 3, 2005. Roney v. Pennsylvania, 546 U.S. 860 (2005).
8.

On January 6, 2006, Mr. Roney filed a timely pro se petition under the Post

Conviction Relief Act (PCRA Petition) and requested the appointment of post-conviction counsel.
The matter was assigned to the Honorable Gary S. Glazer, who had presided at trial. On January 10,
2006, Governor Rendell signed a warrant for execution, setting the execution date for March 9,
2006; on February 1, 2006, Judge Glazer stayed the execution pending the resolution of the PCRA
proceedings.

Case 2:14-cv-02083-LFR Document 12 Filed 12/03/14 Page 3 of 6

9.

Petitioners pro se petition was supplemented and amended by counsel, and the

PCRA court granted a limited hearing. On April 20, 2009, the PCRA court issued an Order Denying
Petition for Post-Conviction Collateral Relief and an Opinion in support thereof. The PCRA court
issued a supplemental Order and Opinion on April 29, 2009.
10.

The Pennsylvania Supreme Court affirmed the PCRA courts denial of relief. The

Pennsylvania Supreme Court denied Mr. Roneys appeal on October 30, 2013. Commonwealth v.
Roney, 79 A.3d 595 (Pa. 2013). Mr. Roneys Petition for Writ of Certiorari was denied on October
6, 2014. Roney v. Pennsylvania, 135 S.Ct. 56 (2014).
11.

On April 9, 2014, Petitioner filed a form petition for habeas corpus relief pursuant

to 28 U.S.C. 2254 and requested appointment of counsel pursuant to McFarland. See Petitioners
Motion For Leave To Proceed In Forma Pauperis And for Appointment Of Federal Habeas Counsel
(Doc. 4). Counsel was appointed by this Court on April 14, 2014. See Order (Doc. 5).
12.

On July 23, 2014, Petitioner filed his counseled Petition For Writ Of Habeas Corpus

(Doc. 8).
ENTITLEMENT TO RELIEF
13.

Petitioners habeas corpus petition is currently pending before this Court. Thus,

Petitioner is entitled to a stay of execution under 28 U.S.C. 2251.1


1

Section 2251 provides in pertinent part:

2251. Stay of State court proceedings


(a) In general.
(1) Pending matters. A justice or judge of the United States before whom a
habeas corpus proceeding is pending, may, before final judgment or after final
judgment of discharge, or pending appeal, stay any proceeding against the person
detained in any State court or by or under the authority of any State for any matter
involved in the habeas corpus proceeding.
3

Case 2:14-cv-02083-LFR Document 12 Filed 12/03/14 Page 4 of 6

14.

The execution of a defendant who has initiated habeas corpus review but has not had

an opportunity for his habeas claims to be adjudicated would violate his federal statutory right to
such review, and would suspend the writ of habeas corpus in his case in violation of the United
States Constitution.
15.

The Third Circuit has made clear that it would never knowingly permit [a

petitioners] execution while his federal constitutional claims are being litigated. Christy v. Horn,
115 F.3d 201, 207 (3d Cir. 1997).
16.

Because Petitioner has not previously filed a federal petition for habeas corpus relief

from his conviction and death sentence in this or any other court, he is entitled to a stay of execution
to avoid state interference in the litigation of his pending petition for writ of habeas corpus.
17.

Counsel cannot properly litigate under the shadow of a death warrant and the

artificially abbreviated period of time available once a death warrant issues.


18.

Since Petitioners habeas corpus proceedings are ongoing in this Court, this Court has

the authority, pursuant to 28 U.S.C. 2251, to stay Petitioners execution.


19.

A proposed order accompanies this motion.

Accordingly, Petitioner should be granted a stay of execution to vindicate his right to full
federal review of his filed federal habeas corpus petition, and seeks a stay of execution until such
time as his petition is decided on the merits.

(2) Matter not pending.For purposes of this section, a habeas corpus


proceeding is not pending until the application is filed.
4

Case 2:14-cv-02083-LFR Document 12 Filed 12/03/14 Page 5 of 6

REQUEST FOR RELIEF


WHEREFORE, Petitioner respectfully prays that the Court stay Petitioners execution.
Respectfully submitted,

s/Helen A. Marino
HELEN A. MARINO
JAMES MORENO
Federal Community Defender Office
Eastern District of Pennsylvania
The Curtis Center Suite 545 West
Independence Square West
Philadelphia, PA 19106
(215) 928-0520
Dated: December 3, 2014

Case 2:14-cv-02083-LFR Document 12 Filed 12/03/14 Page 6 of 6

CERTIFICATE OF SERVICE
I, Helen A. Marino, hereby certify that on this 3rd day of December, 2014, I served a copy
of the foregoing by upon the following by electronic filing and United States Mail, first class,
postage prepaid:
Thomas Dolgenos, Esquire
Chief, Federal Court Division
Philadelphia District Attorneys Office
2 Penn Square South
Philadelphia PA 19107

Christine Wechsler Rayer, Esquire


Governors Office of General Counsel
Commonwealth of Pennsylvania
333 Market Street, 17th floor
Harrisburg PA 17101

s/Helen A. Marino
______________________________
Helen A. Marino

Dated: December 3, 2014