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Brantley v. Clarke

United States District Court, E.D. Virginia, Alexandria Division

April 10, 2018

Harry Brantley, Petitioner,
v.
Harold W. Clarke, Respondent.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION

          HAM O. GRADDY UNITED DISRTICT JUDGE

         Harry Brantley, a Virginia inmate proceeding pro se, has filed a petition for a writ of habeas corpus pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2254, challenging a conviction of robbery and related offenses entered in the Circuit Court for the City of Hopewell.[1] The matter comes before the Court on a Motion to Dismiss the petition filed by the respondent, to which petitioner has filed a reply. For the reasons which follow, the Motion to Dismiss will be granted, and the petition will be dismissed, with prejudice.

         I. Background

         On July 29, 2013, following a jury trial, Brantley was convicted of robbery, use of a firearm in the commission of a robbery, and wearing a mask in public. Case Nos. CR12-233-234 and -244. He received a sentence of eight years and 12 months incarceration. In denying Brantley's direct appeal, the Court of Appeals described the facts underlying the conviction as follows:[2]

[O]n December 13, 2011, Megan Gammon was working at a McDonald's restaurant. She explained that shortly after the restaurant opened at 5:00 a.m., a man entered the restaurant, grabbed the phone from her hand, and ordered her to open the safe. The masked man took money from the cash drawers and safe and then fled the scene. He had repeatedly asked Gammon where the money was from the day before. Gammon understood the man's requests as pertaining to the restaurant's deposit which is left in the store overnight and then deposited the next morning.
Another employee saw the man with the gun. The intruder pointed the gun at her and ordered her to get on the floor. Arthur Jones, another employee, also saw the man with the gun. The man asked Jones where the night drop bag was, which suggested to Jones that the man currently or previously worked at a McDonald's restaurant.
George Armistead was working at the restaurant when he saw a man standing by the door. Armistead identified the man as appellant at trial. The man was outside and not wearing a mask. Armistead explained the man pulled on the door, which was not yet unlocked as the restaurant had not opened. Armistead went into the bathroom and when he emerged he learned the restaurant had just been robbed. Armistead described the man he had seen outside to the other employees who confirmed the robber wore the same distinctive clothing Armistead described.
Jasmine Reid testified that on the morning of the robbery, appellant was sleeping at her house. He awoke at three or four in the morning and stated he 'was about to go somewhere to make a run.' Appellant returned to the residence before 7:00 a.m., and Reid later found money stacked in her apartment. Appellant refused to state where he obtained the money. Reid also testified she believed appellant had a gun and that she had previously purchased ammunition for him. Reid recognized the jacket the robber is seen wearing in a surveillance video as well as the pink bag the robber had been seen carrying. She explained the jacket belonged to appellant and that the bag belonged to her.
The evidence revealed appellant had worked at the restaurant from 2004 to 2006. When first confronted by the police, appellant provided a false name.

Brantley v. Commonwealth, R. No. 1497-13-2 (Va. Ct. App. Feb. 19, 2014). Brantley sought further review by the Supreme Court of Virginia, which refused his petition for appeal on August 15, 2014. Brantley v. Commonwealth, R. No. 140448 (Va. Aug. 15, 2014).

         Brantley initially filed a petition for a state writ of habeas corpus in the Supreme Court of Virginia on December 1, 2014 and voluntarily withdrew it in January, 2015. On March 23, 2015, he filed a second state habeas petition in which he raised the following claims:

A. Counsel provided ineffective assistance by failing to file a motion for discovery and present "exculpatory evidence" to the jury.
B. The Commonwealth engaged in misconduct by failing to disclose the results of a fingerprint analysis.
C. Counsel provided ineffective assistance by failing: (1) to object to the Commonwealth's motion for nolle prosequi; (2) to argue "exculpatory evidence;" and (3) to move for a continuance.
D. The evidence was insufficient to prove that he committed the crimes.
E. Counsel was ineffective for failing to raise appealable issues on direct appeal.
F. Counsel was ineffective for failing to object to an in-court identification.
G. The Commonwealth engaged in prosecutorial misconduct by moving for the admission of false and inadmissible evidence, a pink handbag.
H. Counsel was ineffective for failing to object to the false and inadmissible evidence, the pink bag.

         The Supreme Court of Virginia dismissed the petition on January 7, 2016. Brantley v. Clarke, R. No. 150452 (Va. Jan. 7, 2016). Brantley's subsequent motion for a rehearing of that result was denied on March 24, 2016.

         Brantley then turned to the federal forum and filed the instant application for § 2254 relief by placing it into the institutional mail system on June 22, 2016.[3] Pet. at 15. In it, he makes the following claims:

1. Counsel provided ineffective assistance by failing to object to admission of the pink handbag which was retrieved from an unrelated crime scene and was alleged to have been used ...

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