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Simms v. Holloway

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

March 3, 2015

Eugene Lee Simms, Petitioner,
v.
G. Holloway, Respondent.

MEMORANDUM OPINION

T. S. ELLIS, III, District Judge.

Eugene Lee Simms, a Virginia inmate proceeding pro se, has filed a petition for a writ of habeas corpus pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2254, challenging the validity of his conviction in the Circuit Court for the County of Isle of Wight, Virginia of aggravated malicious wounding and grand larceny. The petition was initially filed in this Court on January 10, 2014. On May 1, 2014, respondent filed a Motion to Dismiss and Rule 5 Answer, with a supporting brief and numerous exhibits. Petitioner was given the opportunity to file responsive materials, pursuant to Roseboro v. Garrison, 528 F.2d 309 (4th Cir. 1975), and he filed a reply on May 29, 2014. For the reasons that follow, petitioner's claims must be dismissed.

I. Background

On January 28, 2010, a jury convicted petitioner of one count of grand larceny of an automobile and one count of aggravated malicious wounding in the Circuit Court for the County of Isle of Wight. Petitioner represented himself during his trial. Commonwealth v. Simms, Case Nos. CR08-310, CR08-311. Petitioner's charges and conviction arose out of his entering the victim's house, beating him with a glass mug, slicing his throat with a knife, and then stealing his car. See Trial Transcript ("Tr. Tran."), Commonwealth v. Simms (Jan. 27-28, 2010), at 62-63. Petitioner was sentenced to life in prison plus twenty years, and the judge suspended the execution of twenty years. Petitioner pursued a direct appeal to the Court of Appeals of Virginia, alleging that the evidence presented at trial was insufficient to support his convictions. The Court of Appeals denied the petition for appeal on October 13, 2010. Simms v. Commonwealth, R. No. 1139-10-1 (Va. Ct. App. 2010) (per curiam). On January 19, 2012, the Supreme Court of Virginia refused petitioner's petition for appeal. Simms v. Commonwealth, R. No. 111583 (Va. 2012). Petitioner then filed a petition for a writ of certiorari in the United States Supreme Court, which was denied on October 1, 2012. Simms v. Virginia, No. 11-10606 (U.S. Oct. 1, 2012).

On July 11, 2012, petitioner filed a petition for writ of habeas corpus in the Circuit Court for the County of Isle of Wight, alleging that (1) his right to a speedy trial under both the Virginia constitution and the Sixth Amendment was violated; (2) his right to be present at all stages of the proceeding, pursuant to Virginia Code § 19.2-259, was violated; (3) the trial court erred in not suppressing "contaminated" evidence; (4) counsel was ineffective for agreeing to a trial date that violated petitioner's speedy trial rights; (5) appellate counsel was ineffective for failing to pursue all requested issues on appeal; and (6) petitioner's Sixth and Fourteenth Amendment rights were violated when he was allowed to represent himself without a valid waiver of his rights. The court dismissed the petition on November 20, 2012. Simms v. Dir., Dep't of Corr., Case No. CL12-429 (Va. Cir. Ct. 2012). The court reconsidered its order and denied a petition for rehearing on December 5, 2012. Petitioner appealed to the Supreme Court of Virginia, which refused the appeal on July 11, 2013. Simms v. Holloway, R. No. 130294 (Va. 2013). Petitioner then filed a petition for a writ of habeas corpus in the Supreme Court of Virginia, which the court dismissed on procedural grounds on September 13, 2013. Simms v. Warden of the Wallens Ridge State Prison, R. No. 131271 (Va. 2013).

On November 17, 2013, [1] petitioner filed the instant federal habeas petition, alleging that (1) counsel was ineffective for agreeing, without petitioner's consent, to a trial date that violated petitioner's speedy trial rights; (2) appellate counsel was ineffective for failing to raise all desired issues on appeal; (3) the evidence presented at trial was insufficient to support petitioner's convictions; and (4) petitioner's right to a speedy trial under both the Virginia constitution and the Sixth Amendment was violated.

On May 1, 2014, respondent filed a Motion to Dismiss petitioner's claims. Petitioner filed a response on May 29, 2014. Based on the pleadings and record before this Court, it is uncontested that petitioner exhausted all of his claims as required under 28 U.S.C. § 2254. Accordingly, this matter is now ripe for review.

II. Standard of Review

When a state court has addressed the merits of a claim raised in a federal habeas corpus petition, a federal court may not grant the petition on that particular claim unless the state court's adjudications were contrary to, or an unreasonable application of, clearly established federal law, or were based on an unreasonable determination of the facts presented at the trial. 28 U.S.C. § 2254(d)(1)-(2). The evaluation of whether a state court decision is "contrary to" or "an unreasonable application of federal law is based on an independent review of each standard. See Williams v. Taylor, 529 U.S. 362, 412-13 (2000). A state court determination violates the "contrary to" standard if it "arrives at a conclusion opposite to that reached by [the United States Supreme] Court on a question of law or if the state court decides a case differently than [the United States Supreme] Court has on a set of materially indistinguishable facts." Id. at 413. When reviewing the state court's findings, the federal court is limited to the record before the state court at the time of the decision. See Cullen v. Pinholster, ___ U.S. ___ 131 S.Ct. 1388, 1398 (2011).

Under the "unreasonable application" clause, the writ should be granted if the federal court finds that the state court "identifies the correct governing legal principle from [the Supreme] Court's decisions but unreasonably applies that principle to the facts of the prisoner's case." Id . Importantly, this standard of reasonableness is an objective one, and does not allow a federal court to review simply for plain error. Id. at 409-10; see also Lockyer v. Andrade, 538 U.S. 63, 75 (2003). In addition, a federal court should review the state court determinations with deference; the court cannot grant the writ simply because it concludes that the state court incorrectly determined the legal standard. See Woodford v. Visciotti, 537 U.S. 19, 24-25 (2002) (internal citations omitted). A federal court reviewing a habeas petition "presume[s] the [state] court's factual findings to be sound unless [petitioner] rebuts the presumption of correctness by clear and convincing evidence.'" Miller-El v. Dretke, 545 U.S. 231, 240 (2005) (quoting 28 U.S.C. 2254(e)(1)); see e.g., Lenz v. Washington, 444 F.3d 295, 300-01 (4th Cir. 2006).

III. Analysis

A. Claim A

In Claim A, [2] petitioner argues that his first counsel, who represented him at arraignment, was ineffective for agreeing to a trial date outside the mandated time to protect petitioner's speedy trial rights. See, e.g., Pet. Att. D. Petitioner was arraigned on November 5, 2008. He entered a plea of not guilty and requested a jury trial. See Tr. Tran., Commonwealth v. Simms (Nov. 5, 2008/Feb. 13, 2009), at 1. Petitioner was remanded back to custody while both parties attempted to agree on a trial date. Id. at 2. Later that same day, the Commonwealth's Attorney and a different attorney, acting in substitution for petitioner's attorney, again went before the judge. Petitioner was not present at this time. See, e.g., Pet. Att. D, at unnumbered page 2. The parties set a trial date of March 5 and March 6, 2009. Even though petitioner's counsel was not present, the Commonwealth's Attorney stated that his counsel "picked that date because it was a two day date." Tr. Trans. (Nov. 5, 2008/Feb. 24, 2009), at 1-2. The court charged all the time between the arraignment and the start of the jury trial to the petitioner. Id. at 2.

Petitioner states that, under both Virginia and federal law, his mandated speedy trial date was January 8, 2009. See Pet. Att. D, at unnumbered page 1. He therefore argues that counsel was ineffective for agreeing to a trial date beyond that time period, as he did not agree ...


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