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Hairston v. Warden of Wallens Ridge State Prison

United States District Court, W.D. Virginia, Roanoke Division

January 30, 2014

JOSHUA J. HAIRSTON, Petitioner,
v.
WARDEN OF WALLENS RIDGE STATE PRISON, Respondent.

MEMORANDUM OPINION

MICHAEL F. URBANSKI, District Judge.

Joshua J. Hairston, a Virginia inmate proceeding pro se, filed a petition for a writ of habeas corpus, pursuant to 28 U.S.C. ยง 2254, to challenge his incarceration for fatally shooting a man during a drug transaction. Respondent filed a motion to dismiss, and Petitioner responded, making the matter ripe for disposition. After reviewing the record, the court grants Respondent's motion because Petitioner is not entitled to relief

I.

On August 18, 2009, the Circuit Court of Floyd County sentenced Petitioner to forty years' incarceration after a jury found him guilty of second degree murder and using a firearm in the commission of murder. Petitioner's appeals to the Court of Appeals of Virginia and the Supreme Court of Virginia were unsuccessful.

Petitioner subsequently filed a pro se petition for a writ of habeas corpus with the Circuit Court of Floyd County. Petitioner argued that the prosecutor withheld evidence from the defense and the jury, the prosecutor improperly advised a witness about answering questions asked during trial, and the evidence at trial proved that Petitioner acted in self defense and did not owe the victim money. The Circuit Court of Floyd County appointed counsel to Petitioner but dismissed the habeas claims as procedurally barred by Slayton v. Parrigan , 215 Va. 27, 205 S.E.2d 680 (1974).[1] Counsel's Anders[2] brief and Petitioner's pro se petition for appeal to the Supreme Court of Virginia both stated one assignment of error: the Circuit Court of Floyd County erred by dismissing the petition without holding an evidentiary hearing and by relying on incomplete trial transcripts. The Supreme Court of Virginia permitted counsel to withdraw and denied the appeal as meritless.

Petitioner timely filed the instant federal petition, alleging the following claims:

1. The Circuit Court erred by:

a. Suppressing the victim's statement to Petitioner about the victim's prior incarceration for killing someone;
b. Suppressing photographs of the victim's bedroom showing a Klu Klux Klan photograph and a Confederate flag;
c. Suppressing the victim's prior convictions for attempted assault, vehicular manslaughter, and obstruction of justice by force;

d. Suppressing the victim's statement to Edward K. Schumann; and

e. Admitting Petitioner's statements made during a DNA swab; and

2. The prosecutor's misconduct violated due process.

Respondent filed a motion to dismiss, arguing that Petitioner's claims do not warrant habeas relief because they do not present a federal question or are procedurally defaulted. The court agrees. Claims 1(a)-(d) do not relate to a violation of federal law, and thus, federal habeas relief cannot be granted for them. Even if claim 1(d) related to a federal law, Petitioner failed to present it and claims 1(e) and 2 to the Supreme Court of Virginia, and ...


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