United States District Court, W.D. Virginia, Roanoke Division
Elizabeth K. Dillon United States District Judge
Reid Hall brings this 28 U.S.C. § 2254 habeas petition
challenging his convictions in Alleghany County Circuit Court
for involuntary manslaughter and reckless handling of a
firearm while hunting. He challenges his convictions on three
grounds, only one of which-sufficiency of the evidence-he
presented to the Supreme Court of Virginia. That court
rejected Hall’s sufficiency challenge, and this court
finds that the decision was not contrary to, or an
unreasonable application of, clearly established federal law,
and was not based on an unreasonable determination of the
facts. This court further finds that Hall’s remaining
claims are procedurally defaulted and that Hall has not
demonstrated grounds to excuse his default. Accordingly, the
court will grant respondents’ motion to dismiss the
January 5, 2012, the Alleghany County Circuit Court convicted
Hall of involuntary manslaughter and reckless handling of a
firearm while hunting. Hall filed several post- conviction
motions to dismiss or set aside the verdicts, each of which
the trial court denied. (Va. Cir. Ct. Crim. R. 94-114, Dkt.
No. 12.) He then appealed to the Virginia Court of Appeals
claiming that the trial court erred by (1) denying his motion
to set aside the verdict and grant a new trial for jury
misconduct, (2) allowing the joinder of his involuntary
manslaughter and reckless handling of a firearm charges with
his subsequent charge of hunting under the influence,
denying his motion to suppress his blood evidence, (4)
refusing to admit the results of the victim’s blood
test, and (5) denying his motion to dismiss for insufficient
evidence. (Va. Ct. App. R., Pet. 4-5, Dkt. No. 13.) The
appeals court, in an order dated December 12, 2012, found no
errors or abuses of discretion by the trial court, and
concluded that the jury had sufficient evidence to find Hall
guilty of involuntary manslaughter and reckless handling of a
firearm while hunting. (Va. Ct. App. R. 64.)
Hall informed his trial attorney that he wished to exhaust
all available appeals, his attorney did not appeal to the
Supreme Court of Virginia. Instead, Hall’s attorney sent him
a letter after the expiration of the deadline for filing an
appeal explaining that Hall had the option to file a petition
for a writ of habeas corpus in state court alleging
ineffective assistance at trial. (Va. Cir. Ct. Civ. R., Pet.
6, Dkt. No. 12.) Upon Hall’s inquiry as to the
availability of additional direct appeals, his trial attorney
failed to mention a belated appeal to the Supreme Court of
Virginia, and explained that “we are not aware of a
basis to challenge your incarceration on habeas
grounds.” (Id.) As a result, Hall did not file
a direct appeal.
March 31, 2014, Hall timely filed a habeas petition with the
Alleghany County Circuit Court, alleging ineffective
assistance of counsel as to both pre-trial preparation and on
appeal. The court determined that Hall’s trial counsel
failed to provide effective assistance on appeal and ordered
the Commonwealth to petition the Supreme Court of Virginia
for Hall’s right to seek a delayed appeal. (Va. Cir.
Ct. Civ. R., Order 9.)
through appellate counsel, appealed to the Supreme Court of
Virginia, claiming only that
[t]he Court of Appeals erred in affirming the trial
court’s denial of Hall’s motion to strike (and
motion to set aside) the charges of involuntary manslaughter
and reckless handling of a firearm, where the evidence was
plainly insufficient to prove Hall committed those offenses,
or that he acted in a criminally negligent manner with a
wanton and culpable disregard of human life.
(Va. R. 58, Dkt. No. 14.) The court denied Hall’s
appeal on January 13, 2015, and dismissed his subsequent
petition for rehearing as “late.”
now challenges his conviction in this court, alleging that:
I. The trial court erred as a matter of law when it denied
the appellant’s motion to dismiss the involuntary
manslaughter charge for insufficient evidence.
. . . .
II. The trial court erred as a matter of law in denying the
appellant’s motion to set aside the verdict and grant a
new trial, based upon [juror] misconduct.
. . . .
III. Ineffective assistance of counsel and procedural errors
violated due process and created a fundamental miscarriage of
(Pet. 1, 22, 58, Dkt. No. 1-1.) Because he failed to present
the last two claims to the Supreme Court of Virginia, and has
not offered evidence to excuse his procedural default, the
court will dismiss them as barred from federal habeas review.
The court also rejects Hall’s claim challenging the
sufficiency of the evidence, concluding that the state-court
decision was not contrary to, or an unreasonable application
of, clearly established federal law, and was not based on an
unreasonable determination of the facts.