United States District Court, E.D. Virginia, Richmond Division
RODERICK C. YOUNG UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE.
Muhammad, formerly known as Bruce Williams, a Virginia state
prisoner proceeding pro se, brings this petition
pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2254 ("§ 2254
Petition, " ECF No. 1) challenging his 2013 conviction
in the Circuit Court of the City of Portsmouth, Virginia
("Circuit Court"). Muhammad argues that he is
entitled to relief on the following grounds:
Claim One: "[His] Fifth Amendment right against
self-incrimination was violated when the police ignored [his]
requests for an attorney prior to soliciting a statement that
was later used against [him]." (§ 2254 Pet. 3.)
Claim Two: "The evidence was . . . insufficient as a
matter of law to support a conviction of second-degree murder
beyond a reasonable doubt . . . [because his] substantial
right to due process was violated when the trial court
rejected the mental health expert's testimony that [he]
suffered from disorders that would otherwise have excused
criminal liability." (Id. at 6.)
moves to dismiss ("Motion to Dismiss, " ECF No.
15),  arguing that Muhammad's claims lack
merit. Muhammad has responded. For the reasons set forth
below, the Motion to Dismiss (ECF No. 15) will be GRANTED and
the § 2254 Petition (ECF No. 1) will be DENIED.
bench trial, Muhammad was convicted of second-degree murder,
and was sentenced to forty years of incarceration. (ECF No.
17-1, at 1.)
appealed, raising the following two assignments of error that
are relevant here:
1. "The trial court erred in denying Defendant's
motion to suppress' Defendant's statement because the
police did not stop the interrogation of Defendant after he
requested to speak with an attorney in violation of
Defendant's Fifth and Fourteenth Amendment right to
2. "The trial court erred in finding Defendant guilty of
second degree murder and in not finding Defendant not guilty
by reason of insanity, because Defendant acted out of an
irresistible impulse when he killed Carroll."
for Appeal 14, Williams v. Commonwealth, No.
0502-13-1 (Va. Ct. App. filed on Aug. 23, 2013)
(capitalization corrected). The Court of Appeals of Virginia
denied the petition for appeal. (ECF No. 17-2, at 1.) A
three-judge panel also denied the petition for appeal.
Williams v. Commonwealth, No. 0502-13-1, at 1 (Va.
Ct. App. Feb. 14, 2014). Subsequently, the Supreme Court of
Virginia refused the petition for appeal. (ECF No. 17-3, at
October 6, 2015, Muhammad filed a petition for a writ of
habeas corpus in the Circuit Court, raising two claims that
were similar to those he raised on direct appeal. Petition
for Writ of Habeas Corpus Attach. 2(A), 3(B), Muhammad v.
Clarke, No. 15-3655 (Va. Cir. Ct. filed Oct. 6, 2015).
On October 6, 2016, the Circuit Court dismissed
Muhammad's petition, concluding that his claims were
barred in habeas corpus because he had raised the same claims
on direct appeal. Muhammad v. Clarke, No. 15-3655,
at 2-3 (Va. Cir. Ct. Oct. 6, 2016) (citing Henry v.
Warden, 265 Va. 246, 249, 576 S.E.2d 495, 496 (2003)).
Muhammad did not appeal the dismissal of his state habeas
petition. On September 28, 2016, the Court received the
instant § 2254 Petition.
APPLICABLE CONSTRAINTS UPON FEDERAL HABEAS REVIEW
order to obtain federal habeas relief, at a minimum, 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). The
Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act
("AEDPA") of 1996 further circumscribed this
Court's authority to grant relief by way of a writ of
habeas corpus. Specifically, "[s]tate court factual
determinations are presumed to be correct and may be rebutted
only by clear and convincing evidence." Gray v.
Branker, 529 F.3d 220, 228 (4th Cir. 2008) (citing 28
U.S.C. § 2254(e)(1)). Additionally, under 28 U.S.C.
§ 2254(d), a federal court may not grant a writ of
habeas corpus based on any claim that was adjudicated on the
merits in state court unless the adjudicated claim:
(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). The Supreme Court has emphasized
that the question "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.
Landrigan, 550 U.S. 465, 473 (2007) (citing Williams
v. Taylor, 529 U.S. 362, 410 (2000)).
Muhammad's instant § 2254 Petition, he raises two
claims. (§ 2254 Pet. 3-9.) Muhammad raised nearly
identical claims on direct appeal and in his state habeas
petition. (ECF No. 17-2, at 1-6); Petition for Writ
of Habeas Corpus Attach. 2(A), 3(B), Muhammad v.
Clarke, No. 15-3655 (Va. Cir. Ct. filed Oct. 6, 2015).
On direct appeal, the Court of Appeals of Virginia denied
Muhammad's petition for appeal (ECF No. 17-2, at 1), and
the Supreme Court of Virginia refused the petition for appeal
(ECF No. 17-3, at 1). Muhammad's state habeas petition
was dismissed on the ground that he had raised his claims on
direct appeal, and therefore, his claims were barred in
habeas corpus. Muhammad v. Clarke, No. 15-3655, at 2
decision of the Court of Appeals of Virginia was the last
reasoned state court decision addressing these claims, and
its reasoning is imputed to the Supreme Court of Virginia,
which refused further review without discussion of the
claims. See Ylst v. Nunnemaker, 501 U.S. 797, 803
(1991). For the reasons set forth below, the Court discerns
no unreasonable application of the law and no unreasonable
determination of the facts in the Court of Appeals of
Virginia's rejection of Muhammad's claims.
See 28 U.S.C. § 2254(d)(1)-(2).
Claim One, Muhammad contends that his "Fifth Amendment
right against self-incrimination was violated ... [because]
the police ignored [his] requests for an attorney prior to
soliciting a statement that ...