United States District Court, W.D. Virginia, Roanoke Division
JASON W. MCDONALD, Petitioner,
HAROLD W. CLARKE, Respondent.
Jackson L. Kiser Senior United States District Judge
W. McDonald, a Virginia inmate proceeding pro se, timely
filed a petition for a writ of habeas corpus, pursuant to 28
U.S.C. § 2254, challenging the validity of his
confinement on a judgment in the Louisa County Circuit Court
for aggravated malicious wounding, malicious wounding by mob,
and conspiracy to commit malicious wounding. Respondent filed
a motion to dismiss, and McDonald responded, making the
matter ripe for disposition. McDonald also filed a motion to
authorize discovery. After review of the record, I grant the
motion to dismiss, dismiss the petition, and deny the pending
was tried along with codefendants Chad and Sedrick Goins. The
Virginia Court of Appeals summarized the facts as follows:
At about 11:00 p.m. on June 19, 2011, Deputy Jay Hensley of
the Louisa County Sheriffs Office went to 288 Kinneytown Road
in response to a 911 call. He found Steve Minor in a ditch in
front of a residence at that address. Minor had sustained a
severe traumatic brain injury that required emergency
surgery. Effects of the injury were permanent.
On the afternoon of June 19, 2011, Robert Watson drank beer
and played horseshoes at the residence of Dwayne Shelton.
Shelton took Watson to his home on Newline Road at about 8:00
p.m. Shelton said that while Watson had been drinking that
day, Watson was not drunk when Shelton took him home.
Kelly Goins (Kelly) was the girlfriend of Minor, the sister
of Chad Goins (Chad), and the mother of Sedrick Goins
(Sedrick). At about 9:00 p.m. on June 19, 2011, Kelly went to
the hospital by ambulance to receive emergency medical
treatment. She was transported to the hospital room from the
home of Lewis Dunivan at 111 Kinneytown Road. [McDonald] had
made the 911 call regarding Kelly and, using a false name,
reported that Kelly had been assaulted by her boyfriend.
[McDonald] and Sedrick both were present at 111 Kinneytown
Road, but Minor was not.
Sedrick later approached Shelton, who was a professional
fighter, about fighting Minor. Shelton testified that Sedrick
was upset with Minor because of an incident that occurred
with Kelly earlier that evening. Shelton refused to fight
Minor. Dunivan heard [McDonald] arguing with someone on the
telephone and threatening to "beat that nigger's
After he arrived home, Watson received a telephone call from
[McDonald]. After the phone call, Chad and Minor appeared in
a vehicle at Watson's residence. Watson agreed to go to
the store with Chad and Minor to purchase beer. While they
were traveling, Chad turned the vehicle in the opposite
direction from the store's location. When Watson asked
what he was doing, Chad said he was avoiding the police
because he had no driver's license. Chad was speeding as
he drove to 288 Kinneytown Road, then turned into the
driveway. After they stopped, Watson saw one person standing
outside the trailer, and two people inside a vehicle that was
parked there. Minor and Watson got out of the car.
Watson testified that people came toward them to confront
Minor. [McDonald] grabbed Watson by the arm. When Watson
protested, [McDonald] cursed at him. Minor started running
away from the group that had confronted him. [McDonald]
released Watson and joined the group purs[u]ing Minor. The
members of the group threw Minor down, kicked him, and
stomped him. Watson identified [McDonald], Chad, and Sedrick
as some of the men engaged in the beating. After hearing a
loud sound he thought was a gunshot, Watson ran toward the
home of Josephine Brooks because he feared the group would
come after him. Watson called 911 and reported that five men
were beating Minor.
McDonald v. Commonwealth, No. 0773-12-2, 1-2 (Va.
Ct. App. Apr. 24, 2013). Moreover, Watson testified that he
could clearly see the beating because the area was
well-illuminated by a streetlight.
Commonwealth relied heavily upon Watson's eyewitness
account; however, Watson admitted having prior felony
convictions and that he had initially told the police that
Chris Johnson took part in the beating, but later rescinded
that statement. Also, at trial, someone in the courtroom had
detected the odor of alcohol on Watson's breath and
alerted the judge. The judge was asked whether a breathalyzer
test would be appropriate, but the judge determined that a
test was unnecessary because it would not have produced
admissible evidence and Watson had not acted unlawfully or
appear under the influence.
Watson's testimony, the Commonwealth also introduced
phone records that demonstrated that Chad had contacted
Shelton on the night of June 19, 2011, and that McDonald had
made the 911 phone call regarding Kelly. Further, a Verizon
Wireless custodian of records testified regarding calls and
text messages among McDonald, Chad, and Sedrick. At 10:45
p.m., the phone that Sedrick used sent a message stating:
"Yo, oh, I'm bout to kill Steve." Id.
at 3. The following day, that same phone texted: "Oh I
may be in deep shit.... Tomorrow I have to talk to my lawyer.
Things are really bad. I mean, really bad." Id.
2012, a Louisa County Circuit Court jury convicted McDonald
of aggravated malicious wounding, malicious wounding by mob,
and conspiracy to commit malicious wounding, and the court
sentenced him to twenty-six years in prison. He appealed, but
the Virginia Court of Appeals and the Virginia Supreme Court
denied his petitions. He filed a motion to have the circuit
court modify his sentence, but the court refused his request.
2015, McDonald filed a timely petition for a writ of habeas
corpus in the Louisa Circuit Court, raising substantially the
same claims as his current petition. The circuit court denied
relief. He brought the same claims to the Virginia Supreme
Court, but the court refused his habeas appeal.
raises the following claims:
1. The Commonwealth violated Brady v. Maryland, 373
U.S. 83 (1963) by withholding exculpatory information that
contradicts the testimony of the only testifying eyewitness,
Robert "Squirrel" Watson;
2. The Commonwealth violated Brady by withholding
information that Watson was drunk;
3. The Commonwealth violated Brady by failing to
disclose that DNA testing had been done on the vehicle
allegedly used by the defendants to flee the scene of the
4. The Commonwealth violated Brady by providing the
defense with false Brady material. The Commonwealth
had informed defense counsel that Watson and Craig Johnson
were cousins, but they were not actually related;
5. The Commonwealth violated Brady by withholding
exculpatory evidence that goes directly to the credibility of
the Commonwealth's witness, Dwayne Shelton;
6. The Commonwealth violated Brady by presenting the
jury what is now known to be a "false victim impact
7. Counsel was ineffective for failing to fully and
effectively conduct an investigation of the victim's
injuries and cause of injuries; and
8. The evidence in its totality was insufficient to establish
guilt beyond a reasonable doubt, which violated
McDonald's rights under the Fifth, Sixth, and Fourteenth
Amendments to the Constitution.
has raised all of his claims in the Virginia Supreme Court;
therefore, his claims are properly exhausted under Baker
v. Corcoran. 220 F.3d 276, 288 (4th Cir. 2000).
Standard of Review
obtain federal habeas relief, 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). Under 28 U.S.C. § 2254(d), however, the
federal habeas court may not grant a writ of habeas corpus
based on any claim that a state court decided on the merits
unless that adjudication:
(1) Resulted in a decision that was contrary to, or involved
an unreasonable application of, clearly established Federal
law, as determined by the Supreme Court of the United States;
(2) Resulted in a decision that was based on an unreasonable
determination of the facts in light of the evidence presented
in the State court proceeding.
28 U.S.C. § 2254(d); see also Williams v.
Taylor. 529 U.S. 362, 403-13 (2000). "Where, as
here, the state court's application of governing federal
law is challenged, it must be shown to be not only erroneous,
but objectively unreasonable." Yarborough v.
Gentry, 540 U.S. 1, 5 (2003). Under this standard,
"[a] state court's determination that a claim lacks
merit precludes federal habeas relief so long as fair-minded
jurists could agree on the correctness of the state
court's decision." Harrington v. Richter.
562 U.S. 86, 101 (2011) (omitting internal quotations). The
AEDPA standard is "highly deferential" to both
factual findings and legal conclusions, and the petitioner
bears the burden of proof. Id. at 105; Cullen v.
Pinholster. 563 U.S. 170, 181 (2011).
petitioner claiming ineffective assistance of counsel must
satisfy the two-pronged test set forth in Strickland v.
Washington. 466 U.S. 668 (1984). "The petitioner
must show both deficient performance and prejudice;
the two are separate and distinct elements." Spencer