United States District Court, W.D. Virginia, Roanoke Division
JOHN A. ANDERSON, Petitioner,
JOHN F. WALRATH, Respondent.
ELIZABETH K. DILLON, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.
Anderson, a Virginia inmate proceeding by counsel, 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 Appomattox County Circuit Court. Respondent
filed a motion to dismiss, and Anderson responded, making the
matter ripe for disposition. After review of the record, the
court grants the motion to dismiss.
April 7, 2015, Anderson pleaded guilty, pursuant to a plea
agreement, to a marijuana possession misdemeanor charge and
six felonies: possession of a firearm while in possession of
a Schedule I or II drug, possession of methamphetamine with
intent to distribute, possession of Adderall, possession of
amphetamine/dextroamphetamine, and two counts of possession
of a firearm by a convicted felon. The trial court imposed a
$50 fine for the misdemeanor and sentenced Anderson to
twenty-five years' imprisonment for the felonies, with
seventeen years suspended. Anderson did not appeal.
Anderson did file a state habeas petition, in the Appomattox
County Circuit Court, alleging a single claim: that trial
counsel misadvised him to plead guilty by erroneously telling
him that, if he declined the Commonwealth's plea offer,
he would be exposed to additional charges with a potential
mandatory minimum aggregate sentence of twenty-to-twenty-five
years. The circuit court denied his petition, and the Supreme
Court of Virginia refused review.
then filed the current petition for a writ of habeas corpus,
raising the same claim as in his state petition.
acknowledges that Anderson's petition is timely and
properly exhausted, but moves to dismiss the petition as
STANDARDS OF REVIEW
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
(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)). “In reviewing a habeas petition, federal
courts must presume the correctness of a state court's
factual determinations unless the habeas petitioner rebuts
the presumption of correctness by clear and convincing
evidence.” Green v. Johnson, 515 F.3d 290, 299
(4th Cir. 2008) (citing 28 U.S.C. § 2254(e)(1)).
to state a constitutional claim for ineffective assistance of
counsel, a petitioner must satisfy the two-pronged
Strickland v. Washington test by showing (1)
“that counsel's performance was deficient, ”
and (2) “that the deficient performance prejudiced the
defense.” 466 U.S. 668, 687 (1984). “Judicial
scrutiny of counsel's performance must be highly
deferential, ” id. at 689, and counsel is
“permitted to set priorities, determine trial strategy,
and press those claims with the greatest chances of
success.” United States v. Mason, 774 F.3d
824, 828 (4th Cir. 2014). When reviewing a
Strickland claim under the AEDPA, the court's
review is doubly deferential. See Harrington, 562
U.S. at 105.
Strickland's first prong, a petitioner must show
“that counsel made errors so serious that counsel was
not functioning as the ‘counsel' guaranteed the
defendant by the Sixth Amendment.” Strickland,
466 U.S. at 687. “The question is whether an
attorney's representation amounted to incompetence under
‘prevailing professional norms, ' not whether it
deviated from best practices or most common custom.”
Harrington, 562 U.S. at 105 (quoting
Strickland, 466 U.S. at 690). For the second prong,
a petitioner must demonstrate that there is a
“reasonable probability that, but for counsel's
unprofessional errors, the result of the ...