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Blanton v. Clarke

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

November 14, 2017

STEPHEN BLANTON, Petitioner,
v.
HAROLD CLARKE, DIRECTOR OF DEPARTMENT OF CORRECTIONS, Respondent.

          Stephen Blanton, Pro Se Petitioner; Craig W. Stallard, Assistant Attorney General, Richmond, Virginia, for the Respondent.

          OPINION

          James P. Jones, United States District Judge

         In this pro se Petition for a Writ of Habeas Corpus under 28 U.S.C. § 2254, the petitioner Stephen Blanton, a Virginia inmate, challenges the validity of his confinement on a judgment from state court. After review of the record, I conclude that the respondent's Motion to Dismiss must be granted, because Blanton's petition is partially procedurally barred and ultimately without merit.

         I.

         In 2007 Blanton was convicted in the Circuit Court of Culpeper County of the carnal knowledge, without force, of a child over the age of thirteen but under the age of fifteen and sentenced to ten years imprisonment with eight years suspended. On October 29, 2014, the same court revoked Blanton's suspended sentence after Blanton was convicted of possession of drugs in another state court. The court revoked eight years of the suspended sentence and re-suspended six years. Blanton did not appeal the revocation. On September 29, 2015, Blanton filed a petition for a writ of habeas corpus in the Supreme Court of Virginia. The court denied the petition on January 30, 2017.

         On March 8, 2017, Blanton filed the current petition in this court, alleging the same three claims as in his state habeas proceeding, as follows:

1. The statute under which Blanton was originally convicted, Va. Code Ann. § 18.2-63(A), violates the United States Constitution and therefore the original judgment was void and the trial court lacked subject matter jurisdiction to revoke the suspended sentence;
2. Blanton's counsel was ineffective for failing to raise the issue of the court's jurisdiction to enter the revocation order under the Sixth Amendment; and
3. Counsel was also ineffective for failing to raise the issue of the court's jurisdiction to enter the revocation order under the Fourteenth Amendment.

         The respondent moves to dismiss Blanton's petition as procedurally barred and without merit.

         To 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) [R]esulted 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; or
(2) [R]esulted 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). “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, 4 (2003). Under this standard, “[a] state court's determination that a claim lacks merit precludes federal habeas relief so long as ‘fairminded jurists could disagree' on the correctness of the state court's ...


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