United States District Court, E.D. Virginia, Alexandria Division
ELLIS, III UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
Stephon Washington, a Virginia inmate proceeding pro se, has
filed a petition for a writ of habeas corpus pursuant to 28
U.S.C. § 2254, challenging the constitutionality of a
conviction entered in the Circuit Court of York County. Case
No. CR11-6799-01. Before the Court is the respondent's
Motion to Dismiss the petition.
10, 2013, after the first day of a jury trial, Washington
entered a plea of guilty pursuant to North Carolina v.
Alford. 400 U.S. 25 (1970) to raping a child under the
age of thirteen. He received a sentence of forty-seven
years' imprisonment with forty years suspended. In
exchange for the guilty plea, the Commonwealth moved to
nolle prosequi two additional charges of rape.
pursued a direct appeal before the Court of Appeals of
Virginia, raising the following claims:
I. The trial court erred in accepting the Alford
plea because he did not enter it knowingly and voluntarily.
II. The trial court erred in admitting hearsay evidence
during the first day of his jury trial.
petition for appeal was denied in a per curiam order
on August 15, 2014. Washington v. Commonwealth. R.
No. 0095-14-1 (Va. Ct. App. Aug. 15, 2014) On November 18,
2014, petitioner's request for review by a three-judge
panel was denied. Id. Petitioner sought further
review by the Supreme Court of Virginia, and his petition for
appeal was dismissed and refused on June 4, 2015.
Washington v. Commonwealth. R. No. 141701 (Va. June
January 21, 2016, Washington filed a petition for a state
writ of habeas corpus in the Supreme Court of Virginia,
raising the following claims:
1. Counsel was unethical and unlawful in his efforts to be
hired by the petitioner.
2. Counsel was ineffective for: (a) failing to impeach the
victim with prior inconsistent statements made to the
investigator, and (b) failing to use exculpatory evidence
"found by the former prosecutor."
3. Counsel was ineffective for: (a) misleading petitioner
regarding the use of evidence and (b) pressuring petitioner
to accept the plea agreement.
4. Counsel was ineffective for failing adequately to
investigate witnesses known to him prior to trial.
5. Counsel was ineffective for failing to use evidence
provided by Lawrence W. Daly.
Doc. 21, Ex. B-l. The petition was dismissed on September 1,
2016. Washington v. Director. Dep't of
Corrections. R. No. 160196 (Va. Sept 1, 2016); Doc. 21,
then turned to the federal forum and timely filed the instant
petition for relief pursuant to § 2254, reiterating the
same claims he exhausted in his state habeas corpus
proceeding. See 28 U.S.C. § 2254(b); Granberry v.
Greer, 481 U.S. 129 (1987). On May 11, 2017, respondent
filed a Rule 5 Response and a Motion to Dismiss the petition
with a supporting brief and exhibits, and provided petitioner
with the notice required by Roseboro v. Garrison.
528 F.2d 309 (4th Cir. 1975) and Local Rule 7K. (Doc. 8-11)
Petitioner subsequently filed an opposition captioned as a
Reply Brief. (Doc. 17) Accordingly, this matter is ripe for
Standard of Review
state court has addressed the merits of a claim raised in a
federal habeas petition, a federal court may not grant the
petition based on that claim unless the state court's
adjudication is contrary to, or an unreasonable application
of, clearly established federal law, or based on an
unreasonable determination of the facts. 28 U.S.C. §
2254(d). Whether a state court decision is "contrary
to" or "an unreasonable application of federal law
requires an independent review of each of those standards of
review. See Williams v. Taylor, 529 U.S. 362, 412-13
(2000). A state court's determination runs afoul of the
"contrary to" standard if it "arrives at a
conclusion opposite to that reached by [the United States
Supreme] Court on a question of law or if the state court
decides a case differently than [the United States Supreme]
Court has on a set of materially indistinguishable
facts." 14 at 413. Under the "unreasonable
application" clause, "a federal habeas court may
not issue the writ simply because that court concludes in its
independent judgment that the state-court decision applied
[the law] incorrectly." Woodford v. Visciotti,
537 U.S. 19, 24-25 (2002). Thus, "[t]he question under
the AEDPA is not whether a federal court believes the state
court's determination was incorrect, but whether that
determination was unreasonable - a substantially higher
threshold." Schriro v. Mandrisan, 550 U.S. 465,
673 (2007). "As a condition for obtaining habeas corpus
from a federal court, a state prisoner must show that the
state court's ruling on the claim being presented in
federal court was so lacking in justification that there was
an error well understood and comprehended in existing law
beyond any possibility for fairminded disagreement."
Harrington v. Richter. 562 U.S. 86, 103 (2011).
"If this standard is difficult to meet - and it is -
'that is because it was meant to be.'" Burt
v. Titlow, 571 U.S. ___, 134 S.Ct. 10, 16 (2013)
(quoting Richter. 562 U.S. at 102).
federal habeas petitioner challenges the reasonableness of
the factual basis for a state conviction, the AEDPA
"requires federal habeas courts to presume the
correctness of state courts' factual findings unless
applicants rebut this presumption with 'clear and
convincing evidence.'" Schriro. 550 U.S. at
473-74. Under the AEDPA standard, "[t]he focus of
federal court review is now on the state court decision that
previously addressed the claims rather than the
petitioner's free-standing claims ...