A federal judge has dismissed a suit against the City of Philadelphia that was filed by a convicted murderer who alleged he was never given the results of a chemical test that was performed on his hands at the time he was charged with shooting his girlfriend to death.
Emmit Giles was convicted of second-degree murder in late 1990 after a bench trial at Philadelphia’s Common Pleas Court.
Giles had been arrested and charged with killing his girlfriend in mid-August 1989.
The day after his arrest, Philadelphia police conducted what is known as an atomic absorbtion test on Giles’ hands, which is designed to determine whether or not someone may have recently fired a gun.
In the years following his conviction, Giles had sought state and federal post-conviction relief but he was never able to obtain the results of the chemical test.
Giles requested a copy of the test results back in 2006, but he was denied his request, with a police department representative telling Giles that Pennsylvania’s Right-to-Know Law excluded disclosure of such test results.
Giles filed a civil action at Philadelphia’s Court of Common Pleas in mid-September 2006, but the suit was dismissed the following year for lack of prosecution.
Giles filed yet another suit in 2008 seeking injunctive relief to compel the release of the test results, but the court denied the request in February 2010.
Giles then filed a federal complaint with the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania in June 2011.
In granting the city’s motion to dismiss, U.S. District Judge Mitchell S. Goldberg agreed with the city when it argued that Giles' Section 1983 claim was time-barred by a two-year statute of limitations.
Giles had argued that his claim was not barred because the statute did not begin to run until he knew that “no other avenues of relief” were available to him.
He had contended that the clock began running on Feb. 27, 2010, when the Philadelphia Court of Common Pleas denied Giles’ request for injunctive relief.
Citing case law, Goldberg determined that a statute of limitations had, in fact, run out on Giles, with the clock actually beginning to run when he was initially denied the request for the test results by the police department.
“Plaintiff’s contention that the statute of limitations began to run when the Philadelphia Court of Common Pleas denied him injunctive relief does not rest on the applicable standard,” Goldberg wrote in his ruling. “The statute of limitations accrues when Plaintiff ‘knew or should have known’ that Defendant denied his request for access to the test results, not when he knew ‘no other avenues of relief’ could provide him with the evidence.”
Goldberg dismissed Giles’ complaint for failure to state a claim upon which relief can be granted.