The Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act of 1996 (AEDPA) contains a one-year statute of limitations for filing a habeas petition. In Holland v. Florida, 130 S. Ct. 2549, 2562 (2010), this Court affirmed that a habeas petitioner is entitled to equitable tolling of that one-year period “only if he shows: (1) that he has been pursuing his rights diligently, and (2) that some extraordinary circumstance stood in his way and prevented timely filing.” This petition presents two recurring questions of jurisprudential significance involving equitable tolling under AEDPA that have divided the circuits:
1. Whether there is an actual-innocence exception to the requirement that a petitioner show an extraordinary circumstance that “prevented timely filing” of a habeas petition.
2. If so, whether there is an additional actual-innocence exception to the requirement that a petitioner demonstrate that “he has been pursuing his rights diligently.”
Lower court opinion (Perkins v. McQuiggin, 670 F.3d 665 (6th Cir. 2012))
The lower court opinion sums up the issue this way, with respect to “whether petitioners who can make a credible showing of actual innocence must also make a showing of reasonable diligence in order to equitably toll AEDPA’s statute of limitations and have their claim heard on the merits,” 670 F.3d at 676:
While a number of courts, including the Supreme Court, have held that equitable tolling requires the petitioner to be reasonably diligent in pursuing his rights, none of those decisions analyze whether equitable tolling based on claims of actual innocence must be pursued in the same way. Given the Supreme Court’s rich jurisprudence protecting the rights of the wrongfully incarcerated, petitioners who seek equitable tolling based on actual innocence should not be treated in the same way as those seeking equitable tolling because of ineffective assistance of counsel, confusion of filing requirements, or other important, but less compelling reasons. For the foregoing reasons, the judgment of the district court is REVERSED, and the case is REMANDED so that the district court may fully consider whether Perkins asserts a credible claim of actual innocence.