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Patterson v. Warden

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

July 3, 2017

JOHN EDWARD PATTERSON, Petitioner,
v.
WARDEN, Respondent.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION

          NORMAN K. MOON, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         John Edward Patterson, a Virginia inmate proceeding pro se, filed this petition for a writ of habeas corpus, pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2254, challenging the validity of his confinement on a judgment by the Campbell County Circuit Court. Respondent filed a motion to dismiss Campbell's § 2254 petition, and Campbell responded, making the matter ripe for disposition. After review of the record, I grant the motion to dismiss.

         I. Factual & Procedural Background

         On April 21, 2014, after a bench trial, the Campbell County Circuit Court convicted Patterson of two counts of distributing cocaine, and granted the Commonwealth's motion to nolle prosequi two additional charges of distributing cocaine. The court sentenced Patterson to an active sentence of ten years.

         Patterson appealed, but both the Virginia Court of Appeals and the Virginia Supreme Court denied his petitions. Patterson did not file a state habeas petition.

         On August 31, 2016, [1] Patterson timely filed the present petition, stating four claims:[2]

1. There was a significant break in the chain of custody of the cocaine because the confidential informant went home after one of the controlled purchases and had an opportunity to tamper with the evidence before turning it in to the police;
2. Trial counsel was ineffective for failing to present evidence to the trial court that the police officers had stated in their reports that Patterson had initially agreed to go to his co-defendant's house to purchase narcotics, not to sell them;
3. When the confidential informant testified, he could not remember whether Patterson or Patterson's co-defendant gave him the drugs; and
4. The video used at Patterson's trial was the wrong video because it showed a controlled purchase that was the basis for one of the charges against Patterson that was dropped.

         Respondent moves to dismiss Patterson's claims as procedurally defaulted and/or without merit, and Patterson has responded to the motion.

         II. Procedural Default

         “[A] federal court may not grant a writ of habeas corpus to a petitioner in state custody unless the petitioner has first exhausted his state remedies by presenting his claims to the highest state court.” Baker v. Corcoran, 220 F.3d 276, 288 (4th Cir. 2000) (citing 28 U.S.C. § 2254(b)(1); O'Sullivan v. Boerckel, 526 U.S. 838, 848 (1999)). To meet the exhaustion requirement, a petitioner “must have presented to the state court both the operative facts and the controlling legal principles.” Kasi v. Angelone, 300 F.3d 487, 501-02 (4th Cir. 2002) (internal quotation marks and citation omitted). “A claim that has not been presented to the highest state court nevertheless may be treated as exhausted if it is clear that the claim would be procedurally barred under state law if the petitioner attempted to present it to the state court.” Baker, 220 F.3d at 288 (citing Gray v. Netherland, 518 U.S. 152, 161 (1996)).

         Patterson properly exhausted claims 1 and 3 by presenting them to the Virginia Supreme Court on direct appeal. However, Patterson never raised claims 2 and 4 in state court, and it would be too late now to do so. See Va. Code ยง 8.01-654(A)(2) (A writ of habeas corpus must be filed in Virginia state court within one year of the ...


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