Mathias v. Superintendent Frackville SCI, No. 14-4694 (3d Cir. 2017)Annotate this Case
In 2006, Mathias was convicted of first-degree murder and conspiracy to commit first-degree murder based on a shooting that killed one person and severely injured another. The judge properly instructed the jurors they must find the accomplice himself had the specific intent to kill but, over defense counsel’s objection and contrary to Pennsylvania law, also indicated that the jurors could convict an accomplice based on the specific intent of the principal. While appellate counsel raised the jury instructions on criminal conspiracy, he did not raise the murder instructions. The state court observed that appellate counsel had not adequately briefed any of Mathias’s claims and deemed them waived but rejected the conspiracy instruction claim on the merits. Mathias filed a pro se petition under Pennsylvania’s Post-Conviction Relief Act, untimely raising a claim for ineffective assistance of appellate counsel. The Superior Court rejected it on the merits. Mathias filed a pro se petition, 28 U.S.C. 2254. The Third Circuit reversed a grant of habeas relief on Mathias’s ineffective-assistance-of-counsel and due process claims based on the murder instruction despite waiving the Rule 4(a)(3) timeliness requirement. Regardless of whether counsel’s performance was deficient, the state court did not clearly err in determining there was no prejudice and its decision was not an unreasonable application of Supreme Court precedent on internally inconsistent jury instructions.