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Washington v. Clarke

United States District Court, E.D. Virginia, Richmond Division

September 1, 2017

RICHIE LEE WASHINGTON, JR., Petitioner,
v.
HAROLD W. CLARKE, Respondent.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION

          Roderick C. Young, United States Magistrate Judge

         Richie Lee Washington, Jr., a Virginia inmate proceeding pro se and in forma pauperis, filed this petition for a writ of habeas corpus under 28 U.S.C. § 2254 ("§ 2254 Petition, " ECF No. 1) challenging his drug distribution convictions in the Circuit Court for the County of Amelia, Virginia ("Circuit Court"). Washington lists one "GROUND" in his § 2254 Petition that is comprised of one long paragraph with no subparts. The Court generously construes Washington to argue entitlement to relief upon the following grounds:[1]

Claim One: Counsel rendered ineffective assistance by failing to challenge Washington's "mental health status at the time of the alleged sales of a controlled substance." (§ 2254 Pet. 3.)
Claim Two: Counsel rendered ineffective assistance by failing to request an "evaluation regarding [Washington's] competency to plead guilty to the controlled substance charges." (Id.)
Claim Three: Washington's "plea of guilty was invalid because he was unaware of the consequences of his plea" and he had a "mental deficiency." (Id. at 4.)
Claim Four: Counsel rendered ineffective assistance because he "provided incorrect advice pertinent to the plea." (Id.)
Claim Five: Counsel rendered ineffective assistance by failing to "call experts on the issue of diminished capacity [that] ostensibly deprived the defendant of his only apparent defense." (Id.)
Claim Six: Counsel rendered ineffective assistance when he failed to "put up a debate" about whether Washington's sentences could run concurrently. (Id.)
Claim Seven: The Circuit Court erred by giving him an "excessive" sentence. (Id.)
Claim Eight: Counsel rendered ineffective assistance when he failed to argue that Washington could have been sentenced to serve his "last three years ... in a diversion and detention center." (Id.)
Claim Nine: The Circuit Court erred in finding Washington was a second or subsequent offender. (Id.)
Claim Ten: The prosecutor engaged in misconduct when he indicated that Washington had the ability to serve time in a "Diversion Center and Detention Center." (Id. at 5.)

         Respondent moves to dismiss the § 2254 Petition. Despite Respondent's provision of Roseboro v. Garrison, 528 F.2d 309 (4th Cir. 1975) notice, Washington has not responded. For the reasons explained below, the Motion to Dismiss (ECF No. 16) will be GRANTED.

         I. PROCEDURAL AND FACTUAL HISTORY

         A grand jury charged Washington with four counts of distribution of Schedule I or II controlled drugs, second or subsequent offense, and one count of sale of Schedule I or II controlled drugs on or near a school or library. (ECF No. 18-2, at 1.) On December 23, 2014, Washington pled guilty to three counts of distribution of Schedule I or II controlled drugs, second or subsequent offense, and one count of sale of Schedule I or II controlled drugs on or near a school or library, and the Commonwealth agreed to nolle prosequi the one remaining drug distribution charge. (ECF No. 18-1, at 1-4.) The Circuit Court sentenced Washington to an active sentence of nine years of incarceration. (ECF No. 18-3, at 3.) Washington filed no direct appeal.

         On October 15, 2015, Washington filed a petition for a writ of habeas corpus in the Supreme Court of Virginia. (ECF No. 18-5, at 1.) In his state petition, Washington raised the following claims for relief with little to no supporting argument:

a. I was not sentenced by my mental health condition.
b. I am a drug addict [and] I didn't get sentenced by mental health or drug addiction and I didn't get no help from courts.
c. My lawyer didn't present my health issue in court but said the courts have my health file in court.
d. I am on file previously for mental health in department of correctionals medical file.
e. I was sentenced to 9 years on 3 charges of distribution of cocaine by the same informant all sales was made in 2 months span the punishment is harsh rather and cruel and unusual[.] All sales to one person one informant why no plea deal and the cocaine was small sales.

(ECF No. 18-5, at 3-4.)"[2] On May 9, 2016, the Supreme Court of Virginia dismissed Washington's habeas petition. (ECF No. 18-6, at 1-2.)

         II. EXHAUSTION AND PROCEDURAL DEFAULT

         A. Applicable Law

         Before a state prisoner can bring a § 2254 petition in federal district court, the prisoner must first have "exhausted the remedies available in the courts of the State." 28 U.S.C. § 2254(b)(1)(A). State exhaustion '"is rooted in considerations of federal-state comity, '" and in Congressional determination via federal habeas laws "that exhaustion of adequate state remedies will 'best serve the policies of federalism.'" Siavek v. Hinkle, 359 F.Supp.2d 473, 479 (E.D. Va. 2005) (quoting Preiser v. Rodriguez, 411 U.S. 475, 491-92 & n. 10 (1973)). The purpose of exhaustion is "to give the State an initial opportunity to pass upon and correct alleged violations of its prisoners' federal rights." Picard v. Connor, 404 U.S. 270, 275 (1971) (internal quotation marks omitted). Exhaustion has two aspects. First, a petitioner must utilize all available state remedies before he can apply for federal habeas relief. See O'Sullivan v. Boerckel, 526 U.S. 838, 844-48 (1999). As to whether a petitioner has used all available state remedies, the statute notes that a habeas petitioner "shall not be deemed to have exhausted the remedies available in the courts of the State... if he has the right under the law of the State to raise, by any available procedure, the question presented." 28 U.S.C. § 2254(c).

         The second aspect of exhaustion requires a petitioner to have offered the state courts an adequate '•'opportunity'" to address the constitutional claims advanced on federal habeas. Baldwin v. Reese, 541 U.S. 27, 29 (2004) (quoting Duncan v. Henry, 513 U.S. 364, 365-66 (1995)). "To provide the State with the necessary 'opportunity, ' the prisoner must 'fairly present' his claim in each appropriate state court (including a state supreme court with powers of discretionary review), thereby alerting that court to the federal nature of the claim." Id. Fair presentation demands that a petitioner present "'both the operative facts and the controlling legal principles'" to the state court. Longworth v. Ozmint, 377 F.3d 437, 448 (4th Cir. 2004) (quoting Baker v. Corcoran, 220 F.3d 276, 289 (4th Cir. 2000)). The burden of proving that a claim has been exhausted in accordance with a "state's chosen procedural scheme" lies with the petitioner. Mallory v. Smith, 27 F.3d 991, 994, 995 (4th Cir. 1994).

         "A distinct but related limit on the scope of federal habeas review is the doctrine of procedural default." Breardv. Pruett,134 F.3d 615, 619 (4th Cir. 1998). This doctrine provides that "[i]f a state court clearly and expressly bases its dismissal of a habeas petitioner's claim on a state procedural rule, and that procedural rule provides an independent and adequate ground for the dismissal, the habeas petitioner has procedurally defaulted his federal habeas claim." Id. (citing Coleman v. Thompson,501 U.S. 722, 731-32 (1991)). A federal habeas petitioner also procedurally defaults claims when he or she "fails to exhaust available state remedies and 'the court to which the petitioner would be required to present his claims in order to meet the exhaustion requirement would now find the claims procedurally barred.'" Id. (quoting Coleman, 501 U.S. at 735 n.l).[3] The burden of pleading and proving that a claim is procedurally defaulted rests with the state. Jones v. Sussex I State ...


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