United States District Court, E.D. Virginia, Alexandria Division
Maurice Williams, 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 his
conviction of arson and threatening to burn a dwelling
following a bench trial in the Newport News Circuit Court. On
March 8, 2017, respondent filed a Rule 5 Answer and a Motion
to Dismiss the petition as unexhausted because a state habeas
petition filed by Williams remained pending before the
Supreme Court of Virginia. After that state petition was
refused on April 5, 2017, the Motion to Dismiss was denied,
without prejudice to respondent's ability to file a
renewed motion within thirty (30) days. [Dkt. No. 18] On
December 15, 2017, respondent filed a renewed Motion to
Dismiss with a supporting brief and exhibits, and supplied
petitioner with the notice required by Roseboro v.
Garrison. 528 F.2d 309 (4th Cir. 1975) and Local Rule
7K. [Dkt. No. 22.] Petitioner has filed no reply.
Accordingly, this matter is now ripe for disposition. For the
reasons that follow, respondent's renewed Motion to
Dismiss will be granted, and the petition will be dismissed,
March 11, 2014, Williams was convicted of one count each of
arson of an occupied dwelling and threatening to burn a
dwelling, for which he received an active sentence of twenty
(20) years in prison. Case Nos. CR13000411-00 and CR
prosecuted a direct appeal, raising the sole claim that the
evidence was insufficient to sustain the convictions. The
Court of Appeals of Virginia denied the appeal on October 22,
2014. Williams v. Commonwealth. R. No. 0509-14-1
(Va. Ct. App. Oct. 22, 2014). A three-judge panel concurred
in that result on March 20, 2015. [Dkt. No. 11, Ex. 1]
Williams' subsequent petition for appeal was refused by
the Supreme Court of Virginia on November 3, 2015,
Williams v. Commonwealth. R. No. 150461 (Va. Nov. 3,
2015), and his petition for rehearing of that result was
denied on February 4, 2016. Id.
February 16, 2016, Williams filed a petition for a state writ
of habeas corpus in the Newport News Circuit Court, arguing
again that the evidence was insufficient to sustain his
convictions. In a Final Order dated May 5, 2016, the Court
held that to the extent Williams was re-arguing the same
allegations he made on direct appeal before the Court of
Appeals and the Supreme Court of Virginia, his claim was
foreclosed by the holding of Henry v. Warden. 265
Va. 246, 576 S.E.2d 495, 496 (2003) ("[A]
non-jurisdictional issue raised and decided either in the
trial [court] or on direct appeal from the criminal
conviction will not be considered in a habeas corpus
proceeding."). To the extent that petitioner attempted
to raise new arguments in support of his position, the Court
determined that the claim was barred by the doctrine of
Slavton v. Parrigan. 215 Va. 27, 205 S.E.2d 680, 682
(1974) ("A prisoner is not entitled to use habeas corpus
to circumvent the trial and appellate process for an inquiry
into a non-jurisdictional defect of a judgment of
conviction.") Case No. CR16-H00314; Dkt. No. 11, Ex. 1.
Williams did not appeal that decision.
September 20, 2016, Williams filed a petition for a writ of
habeas corpus in the Supreme Court of Virginia, raising the
A. The evidence was "insufficient and
B. He received ineffective assistance of trial and appellate
counsel for four reasons.
April 5, 2017, the Supreme Court dismissed the petition.
Specifically, it held that consideration of Claim A was
foreclosed because "[petitioner challenged the
sufficiency of the evidence to support his convictions in his
first petition for a writ of habeas corpus and the court
rejected that challenge. That judgment is conclusive. Code
§ 8.01-663." The Court further determined that the
four claims of ineffective assistance were barred by Va. Code
§ 8.01- 654(B)(2) because "[t]hese claims, the
facts of which were known prior to petitioner's first
petition for a writ of habeas corpus, were not previously
raised." Williams v. Commonwealth. R. No.
161385 (Va. Apr. 5, 2017).
Williams timely filed the instant federal petition by placing
it into his institution's mailing system on January 5,
2017. [Dkt. No. 1 at 15] In it, he reiterates the same claims
he made in his habeas corpus application to the Supreme Court
claims of ineffective assistance of counsel are procedurally
defaulted from federal review. When petitioner raised these
claims in his second state habeas corpus application, the
Supreme Court of Virginia expressly found them to be
defaulted pursuant to Va. Code § 8.01-654(B)(2). On
federal habeas corpus review, § 2254(d) mandates that a
state court's finding of procedural default be presumed
correct, provided that the state court relied explicitly on
procedural grounds to deny petitioner relief and that the
procedural rule relied on is an independent and adequate
state ground for denying relief. Ford v. Georgia.
498 U.S. 411, 423-24 (1991). Va. Code §8.01-654(B)(2),
the basis upon which the Supreme Court of Virginia explicitly
relied in defaulting Williams' ineffective assistance
claims, has been held to be an adequate and independent state
law ground that prevents federal habeas review of
procedurally defaulted claims. See Mackall v.
Angelone. 131 F.3d 442, 446 (4th Cir. 1997) (determining
procedural bar of successive habeas applications in Va. Code
§8.01-654(B)(2) to be a well-recognized adequate and
independent ground). Therefore, the ineffective assistance
claims raised in this petition are procedurally defaulted.
courts may not review a barred claim absent a showing of
cause and prejudice or a fundamental miscarriage of justice,
such as actual innocence. Harris v. Reed. 489 U.S.
255, 260 (1989). Here, after respondent asserted in the brief
supporting his renewed Motion to Dismiss that the ineffective
assistance of counsel claims are procedurally defaulted,
Williams made no attempt to demonstrate any of these factors.
Accordingly, the claims of ineffective assistance raised in
this petition are procedurally barred from federal review.