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Lester v. VDOC

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

December 4, 2017

DARRYL KEITH LESTER, JR., Petitioner,
v.
VDOC, Respondent.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION

          NORMAN K. MOON SENIOR UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         Darryl Keith Lester, Jr., 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 Danville City Circuit Court. Respondent filed a motion to dismiss Lester's § 2254 petition, and Lester responded, making the matter ripe for disposition. After review of the record, I grant the motion to dismiss.

         I.

         On September 26, 2013, Lester was convicted in the Danville City Circuit Court of rape, three counts of use of a firearm, and two counts of forcible sodomy.[1] The circuit court sentenced him to an active sentence of 73 years in prison. He appealed, but the Court of Appeals of Virginia denied his petition, and then affirmed the denial by a three-judge panel. Lester appealed again, but the Supreme Court of Virginia refused review.

         II.

         On May 18, 2017, Lester filed the present petition, alleging two claims:

1. Lester's right to due process of law was violated when he was convicted upon insufficient evidence; and
2. Lester's due process rights were violated when his silence during interrogation was used against him.

         Lester's petition is timely and his claims are properly exhausted. See 28 U.S.C. § 2244(d)(1)(A); Baker v. Corcoran, 220 F.3d 276, 288 (4th Cir. 2000).

         III.

         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, 5 (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 decision.” Harrington v. Richter, 562 U.S. 86, 101 (2011) (quoting Yarborough v. Alvarado, 541 U.S. 652, 664 (2004)).

         For sufficiency claims, the standard of review is “whether, after viewing the evidence in the light most favorable to the prosecution, any rational trier of fact could have found the essential elements of the crime beyond a reasonable doubt.” Jackson v. Virginia, 443 U.S. 307, 319 (1979) ...


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