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Richards v. Clarke

United States District Court, E.D. Virginia, Richmond Division

February 21, 2014

MARK E. RICHARDS, Petitioner,
v.
HAROLD W. CLARKE, Respondent.

MEMORANDUM OPINION

ROBERT E. PAYNE, Senior District Judge.

Mark E. Richards, a Virginia prisoner proceeding pro se, filed a petition for a writ of habeas corpus under 28 U.S.C. § 2254 ("§ 2254 Petition"). Over the last twenty-five years, Richards has received sentences of incarceration from at least a half-dozen jurisdictions in Virginia.[1] In his § 2254 Petition, Richards only challenges the alleged failure of the Virginia Department of Corrections ("VDOC") to properly execute his probation revocation sentence imposed by the Circuit Court of the County of Arlington ("Arlington Circuit Court") on November 12, 2010 (hereinafter "November 12, 2010 Probation Revocation Sentence").[2] Richards contends that the VDOC violated the Constitution by failing to credit towards the November 12, 2010 Probation Revocation Sentence the period of time Richards spent in confinement between April 2, 2009 and November 12, 2010. (Mem. Supp. § 2254 Pet. ¶ 42, ECF No. 2.)

A review of the record readily reveals that Richards's § 2254 Petition lacks merit because, as will be explained below, between April 2, 2009 and November 12, 2010 Richards remained confined on his Parole Eligible Sentences.[3] Thus, the VDOC credited that period of confinement against Richards's Parole Eligible Sentences. Nevertheless, the following discussion of Richards's claims becomes lengthy because of Richards's many different sentences and his failure to acknowledge that he received credit towards his Parole Eligible Sentences for the time spent in confinement between April 2, 2009 and November 12, 2010.

Richards asserts entitlement to relief upon the following grounds:

Claim One The VDOC violated Richard's rights under the Double Jeopardy Clause[4] and Due Process Clause[5] by failing to credit towards Richard's probation revocation sentence the time that Richards spent in custody between April 2, 2009 and November 12, 2010. (See id. ¶ 38-41.)
Claim Two "The state court decision that determined there was no reversible error in the state court decision that his probation revocation sentence was properly calculated involved an unreasonable application of Chapman v. California [ , 386 U.S. 18 (1967)] and was contrary to Arizona v. Fulminante [, 499 U.S. 279 (1991) ]." (Amendment to Pet. for Writ of Habeas Corpus ("First Mot. Am.") ¶ 3, ECF No. 7 (capitalization corrected).)
Claim Three "Petitioner contends that the seventeen month delay in the execution of the revocation warrant which caused a nineteen month delay in his revocation proceeding together with the effect of those delays" violated Richards's right to due process. (Id. ¶ 5.)
Claim Four Wendy Brown submitted false statements in support of Respondent's response to Richards's state petition for a writ of habeas corpus. (Mot. for Leave to Supplement ¶ 7, ECF No. 39.)

Respondent has moved to dismiss on the grounds that Richards's claims lack merit. Richards has responded. (ECF Nos. 32-33, 35.) For the reasons set forth below, Richards's claims will be dismissed and petition for a writ of habeas corpus denied.[6]

I. APPLICABLE CONSTRAINTS UPON FEDERAL HABEAS REVEW

In order to obtain federal habeas relief, at a minimum, a petitioner must demonstrate that he is "in custody in violation of the Constitution or laws or treaties of the United States." 28 U.S.C. § 2254(a). The Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act ("AEDPA") of 1996 further circumscribed this Court's authority to grant relief by way of a writ of habeas corpus. Specifically, "[s]tate court factual determinations are presumed to be correct and may be rebutted only by clear and convincing evidence." Gray v. Branker , 529 F.3d 220, 228 (4th Cir. 2008) (citing 28 U.S.C. § 2254(e)(1)). Additionally, under 28 U.S.C. § 2254(d), a federal court may not grant a writ of habeas corpus based on any claim that was adjudicated on the merits in state court unless the adjudicated claim:

(1) resulted in a decision that was contrary to, or involved an unreasonable application of, clearly established Federal law, as determined by the Supreme Court of the United States; or
(2) resulted in a decision that was based on an unreasonable determination of the facts in light of the evidence presented in the State court proceeding.

28 U.S.C. § 2254(d)(1-2). The Supreme Court has emphasized that the question "is not whether a federal court believes the state court's determination was incorrect but whether that determination was unreasonable-a substantially higher threshold." Schriro v. Landrigan , 550 U.S. 465, 473 (2007) (citing Williams v. Taylor , 529 U.S. 362, 410 (2000)).

Accordingly, any factual findings as to the execution of Richards's sentences are presumed correct. See 28 U.S.C. § 2254(e)(2). Moreover, this Court lacks authority to overrule the Virginia courts with respect to their interpretation of any Virginia statutes regarding the execution of the sentences of Virginia inmates. See Estelle v. McGuire , 502 U.S. 62, 67-68 (1991) ("[I]t is not the province of a federal habeas court to reexamine state-court determinations on state-law questions.") In light of these circumstances, the Arlington Circuit Court's factual and legal determinations as to how Richards's sentences were executed figure prominently in this Court's analysis.

II. PROCEDURAL HISTORY

A. Introduction

The present § 2254 Petition does not involve a comprehensive challenge to the execution of all of Richards's many sentences. Rather, the § 2254 Petition is limited to the discrete issue of whether the Constitution requires that Richards receive credit towards the November 12, 2010 Probation Revocation Sentence for the period of time Richards spent in confinement between April 2, 2009 and November 12, 2010. Nevertheless, the Court recites Richards's other sentences to put to rest Richards's contention that ...


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