United States District Court, E.D. Virginia, Richmond Division
JAMES R. SPENCER, Senior District Judge.
THIS MATTER is before the Court on a Writ of Habeas Corpus for Prisoner in State Custody ("Petition") (ECF No. 1) filed by Petitioner James Willie Hawkins, Jr. ("Hawkins" or "Petitioner") and a Motion to Dismiss (ECF No. 5) filed by Respondent Keith W. Davis ("Davis" or "Respondent"), Director of the Virginia Department of Corrections. In the Petition, Hawkins challenges his convictions for abduction; conspiracy to commit abduction; malicious wounding; conspiracy to commit malicious wounding; and use of a firearm in the commission of a felony. After being convicted, Hawkins was sentenced to an aggregate sentence of thirty-six years' imprisonment. For the reasons set forth below, the Court GRANTS the Motion to Dismiss and DISMISSES the Petition.
a. Factual History
On June 12, 2012, Latoya Hawkins ("Ms. Hawkins") and her boyfriend, Zack Bradford ("Bradford") were at Ms. Hawkins' home in Virginia Beach. Ms. Hawkins was married to the Petitioner during the relevant time period, but the couple was separated. Ms. Hawkins had a protective order against Petitioner.
Beginning around 5:00 p.m. on June 12, Petitioner repeatedly called Ms. Hawkins and left threatening messages. That same afternoon, Jimmy Bufkin ("Bufkin"), an acquaintance of Petitioner, paid a visit to Ms. Hawkins' home. Using racial slurs and abusive language, Bufkin told Ms. Hawkins that Petitioner was on his way to the home and she should ensure Bradford was not present when Petitioner arrived.
Around 6:00 p.m., Bradford stepped out onto Ms. Hawkins' front porch to take a telephone call. At approximately the same time, Petitioner arrived, carrying a gun. Petitioner approached Bradford and said, "Come here, " while pointing the gun at him. He then forced Bradford at gunpoint to walk through the neighborhood towards a green pickup truck Petitioner had borrowed from a friend. An individual wearing a ski mask was in the truck's driver seat. When Petitioner told Bradford to get in the truck, Bradford refused and attempted to escape. As Bradford tried to get away, Petitioner shot him multiple times. Bradford survived the shooting.
b. Procedural History
i. Conviction and Direct Appeal
On August 20, 2012, Petitioner was indicted by the grand jury of the Commonwealth of Virginia, in the Circuit Court of Virginia Beach ("Virginia Beach Circuit Court"). He was charged with malicious wounding, abduction, conspiracy to commit abduction, conspiracy to commit malicious wounding, and use of a firearm in the commission of a felony. Petitioner pleaded not guilty and proceeded to a jury trial on January 8, 2013. The jury convicted Petitioner, and on July 3, 2013, the trial court entered final judgment and sentenced Petitioner to an aggregate sentence of thirty-six years' imprisonment. Petitioner sought a direct appeal in the Court of Appeals of Virginia on the following grounds:
(1) The Commonwealth failed to present sufficient evidence establishing the defendant and co-defendant formed an express agreement to commit the crimes of abduction and malicious wounding.
(2) The Commonwealth failed to present sufficient evidence establishing the element of "malice" but instead established the defendant acted in the "heat of passion" and thus the Commonwealth failed to prove the defendant maliciously wounded Bradford.
(3) The Commonwealth failed to offer sufficient evidence of force or that any movement of Bradford from one location to another was other than incidental to the unlawful wounding rendering the evidence legally insufficient to convict him of abduction.
By Order dated December 30, 2013, the Court of Appeals of Virginia held that it would not consider the sufficiency challenges because Petitioner had not lodged a contemporaneous objection at trial, as required by Rule 5A:18 of the Rules of the Supreme Court of Virginia. (Br. in Supp. of Mot. to Dismiss, Ex. 1, attachment C.) Petitioner then appealed to the Supreme Court of Virginia, but the Supreme Court dismissed the petition on May 9, 2014 because the assignments of error did not address the Court of Appeals' ruling. (Id. at attachment D.)
ii. State and Federal Habeas Petitions
On May 15, 2014, Petitioner filed a timely petition for a writ of habeas corpus in the Supreme Court of Virginia. He alleged five grounds in support of his petition:
(1) The Court of Appeals erred in ruling the Commonwealth presented sufficient evidence to establish that petitioner and his co-defendant formed an express agreement to abduct and maliciously wound the victim;
(2) The Court of Appeals erred in ruling the Commonwealth presented sufficient evidence to prove malice because the evidence showed petitioner acted in the heat of passion;
(3) The Court of Appeals erred in ruling the Commonwealth presented sufficient evidence to prove the element of force required to convict petitioner of abduction and that any movement of the victim was not incidental to the "unlawful wounding";
(4) The trial court abused its discretion in sentencing petitioner to an active term of thirty-six years' imprisonment where he acted in the heat of passion, and that the ...