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Young v. Clarke

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

June 13, 2016

HAROLD CLARKE, Respondent.


          Hon. Jackson L. Kiser Senior United States District Judge

         Michael Alvin Young, a Virginia prisoner proceeding pro se, filed a petition for a writ of habeas corpus pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2254. Respondent filed a motion to dismiss, and Petitioner responded, making the matter ripe for disposition. After reviewing the record, I grant the motion to dismiss and dismiss the petition.


         On March 31, 2011, Petitioner and Billy Ray Carter were guests at the home of Jackie Ballard. Early that morning, Petitioner made a 911 call to report that his throat had been cut by Carter. Petitioner refused to press charges and said that he "takes care of his own business." Petitioner, who had left the apartment where Carter was staying with Ballard, returned and then left again when Carter did not come out the room in which he was sleeping. Petitioner returned an hour and a half later and confronted Carter. As they argued, Petitioner drew a firearm and, despite Ballard's efforts to calm him, fatally shot Carter in the head. Carter had not removed his right hand from his right pocket before being shot. As he fell to the floor dead, his empty hand came out of his right pocket. A knife was found in his left pocket.

         Notably, a jury trial for charges of second-degree murder, use of a firearm and maliciously shooting a firearm in an occupied dwelling occurred simultaneously with a bench trial for a charge of being a felon in possession of a firearm. Petitioner was convicted of all counts and sentenced to eighteen years' incarceration.

         During the appeal to the Court of Appeals of Virginia, the Commonwealth filed a motion to correct the trial transcript, which Petitioner did not oppose. Consequently, the Court of Appeals of Virginia granted the motion, noting:

While the original transcript reflects the Commonwealth stated it was resting with respect to the charges before both the court and the jury, the Commonwealth has moved without opposition to correct the transcript. Upon review of the motion and attached correction by the court reporter, we conclude the transcript should be corrected to state the Commonwealth rested only with respect to the charges before the jury.

Young v. Commonwealth. No. 2326-12-3, slip op. at 2 n.2 (Va. Ct. App. Aug. 28, 2013) (citing Va. Code § 8.01-428) (emphasis added). The Court of Appeals of Virginia ultimately affirmed the convictions, and the Supreme Court of Virginia refused the petition for appeal. The Supreme Court of Virginia also dismissed Petitioner's petition for a writ of habeas corpus after considering the merits of various ineffective assistance of counsel claims.

         In his federal habeas petition, Petitioner presents three claims of ineffective assistance of counsel: counsel was ineffective on appeal; counsel was ineffective for not objecting to the prosecutor's misrepresentation of facts; and counsel was ineffective for not objecting to the admission of evidence after the Commonwealth had rested. Respondent concedes that these claims are exhausted but argues that they have no merit. After reviewing the record, I agree with Respondent and dismiss the petition.


         A federal court may grant habeas relief from a state court judgment "only on the ground that [the petitioner] is in custody in violation of the Constitution or laws or treaties of the United States." 28 U.S.C. § 2254(a). After a state court addresses the merits of a claim also raised in a federal habeas petition, a federal court may not grant the petition unless the state court's adjudication of a claim is contrary to, or an unreasonable application of, clearly established federal law or based on an unreasonable determination of the facts. 28 U.S.C. § 2254(d). "[R]eview under § 2254(d)(1) is limited to the record that was before the state court that adjudicated the claim on the merits." Cullen v. Pinholster. 563 U.S. 170, 180-81 (2011).

         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. Williams v. Taylor, 529 U.S. 362, 412-13 (2000). A state court determination is "contrary to" federal law 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.

         A federal court may issue the writ under the "unreasonable application" clause 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. This reasonableness standard is an objective one. Id. at 410. A Virginia court's findings cannot be deemed unreasonable merely because it does not cite established United States Supreme Court precedent on an issue if the result reached is not contrary to that established precedent. Mitchell v. Esparza, 540 U.S. 12, 16 (2003).

         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.ยง 2254(e)(1)). Finally, "[a] state-court factual determination is not unreasonable merely because the federal habeas court would have ...

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