United States District Court, E.D. Virginia, Richmond Division
A. Gibney, Jr. United States District Judge
petitioner, Bonnell Boyd, seeks a writ of habeas corpus
because he alleges that the Virginia Parole Board (the
"Board") violated his due process rights when it
denied him geriatric release. He says that the Board violated
its own procedures in stopping the vote on his geriatric
release and then restarting it after the composition of the
Board had changed. Boyd argues these actions constitute a due
process violation. After the Supreme Court of Virginia
dismissed his petition, he filed a §2254 petition in
this Court. The defendant, James Beale, Warden of Deerfield
Correctional Center (the "Warden"), has filed a
motion to dismiss for failure to state a claim. The Court
grants the defendant's motion and dismisses the petition
because Boyd fails to state a claim that the Board violated
his due process rights.
December 1996, a jury convicted Boyd of two counts of rape
and one count of object penetration. Following the jury's
recommendation, the judge sentenced Boyd to 25 years in
Virginia law, "any person serving a sentence imposed
upon a conviction for a felony offense, other than a Class 1
felony, (i) who has reached the age of sixty-five or older
and who has served at least five years of the sentence
imposed ... may petition the Parole Board for conditional
release/7 Va. Code Ann. § 53.1-40.01. Upon his initial
eligibility in 2004, Boyd began filing annual petitions for
geriatric conditional release with the Board. With these
petitions, Boyd submitted reports, evaluations, and opinions
from a number of experts supporting his release. The Board
denied each petition.
Board has set procedures for determining whether to grant a
geriatric parole petition. The Board's five members vote
individually and in succession on each petition. Three of the
five members would need to vote "yes" on a petition
for the Board to grant geriatric parole. The members cast
their votes via the Corrections Information System
("CORIS"). Once voting has started, it typically
does not stop until all five members have voted. If a board
member or board staff member must stop the voting for a
legitimate reason before all members cast their votes, they
must post a date of action and explanation in CORIS.
Boyd's May 2014 parole vote, Boyd alleges that the Board
violated its procedures. According to Boyd, the third board
member to vote intended to vote "yes, " giving Boyd
his third "yes" vote, but, before he could vote,
the case disappeared from his computer. Boyd alleges that
another board member, Karen Brown, violated procedure by
stopping the vote, which resulted in the third member's
inability to vote. She allegedly stopped the voting by
placing a "Case Closed" action in CORIS for
Boyd's petition with no date, explanation, or indication
that she was responsible for doing so.
did not restart until July, but, this time, Brown began the
vote and former Chairman William Muse had retired.
Importantly, Muse had been one of Boyd's original
"yes" votes. Without Muse's vote, Boyd only
received two "yes" votes, thereby precluding a
grant of parole.
that the above actions resulted in the denial of his petition
for geriatric release, Boyd filed an original petition for a
writ of habeas corpus with the Supreme Court of Virginia
accompanied by sworn declarations from Jane Alford, a
rehabilitation specialist who helped Boyd with his parole
applications, and former Chairman Muse. The Warden filed a
motion to dismiss accompanied by an affidavit from Brown. In
response, Boyd filed a motion for discovery and for an
evidentiary proceeding, citing disputes of fact, such as
which member actually held the position of Chairman of the
Board throughout various portions of the relevant time period
and what the Board's specific policy says in relation to
the relevant events. The Supreme Court of Virginia denied
Boyd's request and granted the Warden's motion to
dismiss. The court stated that Boyd lacked a "liberty
interest" in his release and stated that Brown's
actions did not violate Board policy.
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 of 1996
("AEDPA"') circumscribes this Court's
authority to grant relief by way of a writ of habeas corpus.
28 U.S.C. § 2254 et seq. "State 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).
district court's review of the state court's factual
findings is purposefully narrow, See Cullen v.
Pinholster, 131 S.Ct. 1388, 1399 (2011) (holding that
the district court's review under § 2254(d) is
limited to the evidentiary record before the state court
because "[i]t would be contrary to [AEDPA's] purpose
to allow a petitioner to overcome an adverse state-court
decision with new evidence introduced in a federal habeas
court and reviewed by that court in the first instance
effectively de novo").
a federal court may not grant habeas relief with respect to
any claim that the state court adjudicated on the merits
unless the adjudication of the claim:
(1) resulted in a decision that was contrary to, or involved
an unreasonable application of. clearly established Federal
law, as determined by the ...