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Jones v. Clarke

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

March 12, 2014

HAROLD W. CLARKE, Director, Virginia Department of Corrections, Respondent

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Rashaad Tiwania Jones, Petitioner, Pro se, State Farm, VA.

For Harold W. Clarke, Director, Virginia Department of Corrections, Respondent: Rosemary Bourne, LEAD ATTORNEY, Office of the Attorney General (Richmond), Richmond, VA.


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Raymond A. Jackson, United States District Judge.

This matter is currently before the Court on Petitioner Rashaad Jones' objections to the Magistrate Judge's Report and Recommendation on Petitioner's petition for a writ of habeas corpus pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2254. For the reasons set forth below, the Magistrate Judge's Report and Recommendation is ADOPTED IN PART and REJECTED IN PART. Respondent's Motion to Dismiss is DENIED IN PART and GRANTED IN PART. Petitioner's Petition is GRANTED IN PART and DENIED IN PART, and Petitioner's conviction and sentence before the Circuit Court for the City of Williamsburg and the County of James City are hereby VACATED.


On August 11, 2010, Petitioner was convicted after a bench trial in the Circuit Court of the City of Williamsburg and County of James City of grand larceny and breaking and entering. Dkt. No. 6-1. Both charges arose from the theft of a television from the home of an acquaintance. On November 5, 2010, Petitioner was sentenced to fifteen years on each count, to run consecutively. Twenty years of that total sentence was suspended, resulting in a term of ten years of imprisonment. Id. Petitioner's direct appeals to the Court of Appeals of Virginia and the Supreme Court of Virginia challenging the

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sufficiency of the evidence were denied on July 13, 2011 and December 2, 2011 respectively. Dkt. Nos. 6-2, 6-3. Petitioner then filed a state habeas petition with the Supreme Court of Virginia raising, inter alia, five separate claims of ineffective assistance of trial counsel. That petition was denied on October 11, 2012. Dkt. No. 1-3.

Petitioner then timely filed the instant federal habeas petition pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2254, raising the five claims of ineffective assistance of counsel as well as the sufficiency claim. On March 11, 2013, Respondent filed a Motion to Dismiss and supporting brief and an Answer. Dkt. Nos. 4, 5, & 6. Petitioner filed a Response in Opposition on April 25, 2013. Dkt. No. 10. On September 19, 2013, United States Magistrate Judge Douglas E. Miller entered a Report and Recommendation (" R& R" ). Dkt. No. 12. Magistrate Judge Miller recommended granting Respondent's Motion to Dismiss and denying Petitioner's habeas petition. Petitioner then filed objections to the R& R's disposition of two of the ineffective assistance of counsel claims. Dkt. No. 15. Respondent did not file a response within the allotted time, so this matter is ripe for decision.


Under 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1) and Rule 72(b)(3) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, a district judge is required to " determine de novo any part of the magistrate judge's disposition that has been properly objected to." The " de novo" requirement means that a district court judge must give " fresh consideration" to the objected-to portions of the Magistrate Judge's report and recommendation. United States v. Raddatz, 447 U.S. 667, 675, 100 S.Ct. 2406, 65 L.Ed.2d 424 (1980). " The district judge may accept, reject, or modify the recommended disposition; receive further evidence; or recommit the matter to the magistrate judge with instructions." Fed.R.Civ.P. 72(b)(3). Those portions of the R& R that are not objected to are subject to review for clear error. Merritt v. Hoke, 2:10-CV-47, 2011 WL 198104 at *1 (N.D. W.Va. Jan. 18, 2011); Jack Schwartz Shoes, Inc. v. Skechers, U.S.A., Inc., 233 F.Supp.2d 512, 513 (S.D.N.Y. 2002).

Petitioner's claims of state court error raised in a 28 U.S.C. § 2254 petition are also subject to the deferential framework of the Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act of 1996 (" AEDPA" ). A federal court may grant relief under that statute only where an adjudication of a claim on the merits in the state court either " 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 " 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). Under this framework, " a habeas court must determine what arguments or theories supported or . . . could have supporte[d] the state court's decision; and then it must ask whether it is possible fairminded jurists could disagree that those arguments or theories are inconsistent with the holding in a prior decision of [the Supreme] Court." Harrington v. Richter, 562 U.S. 86, 131 S.Ct. 770, 786, 178 L.Ed.2d 624 (2011). The state prisoner " must show that the state court's ruling on the claim being presented in federal court was so lacking in justification that there was an error well understood and comprehended in existing law beyond any possibility for fairminded disagreement." Id. at 786-87.

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In the context of an ineffective assistance claim, a habeas court must apply " a doubly deferential standard of review that gives both the state court and the defense attorney the benefit of the doubt." Burt v. Titlow, 134 S.Ct. 10, 13, 187 L.Ed.2d 348 (2013) (quotation omitted). Under Strickland v. Washington, 466 U.S. 668, 104 S.Ct. 2052, 80 L.Ed.2d 674 (1984), an ineffective assistance of counsel claim requires a showing of 1) deficient performance by the attorney and 2) resulting prejudice to the defendant. " To establish deficient performance, a person challenging a conviction must show that counsel's representation fell below an objective standard of reasonableness." Harrington, 131 S.Ct. at 787 (quotation omitted). " With respect to prejudice, a challenger must demonstrate a reasonable probability that, but for counsel's ...

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