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Walden v. Clark

United States District Court, W.D. Virginia, Roanoke Division

May 21, 2018

HAROLD CLARK, Respondent.



         Jeffrey David Walden, a Virginia inmate proceeding pro se, 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 Pittsylvania County Circuit Court. Respondent[1] filed a motion to dismiss Walden's § 2254 petition, -and Walden failed to respond, making the matter ripe for disposition. After review of the record, the court concludes that Walden's petition is partially procedurally defaulted and ultimately without merit, requiring the motion to dismiss to be granted.

         I. Background

         On the night of August 24, 2013, Walden's then-wife Sandra Walden, Sandra Walden's daughter, Wendy Mitchell, and Mitchell's teenage daughter, J.M., were all at Mitchell's boyfriend's residence. The Court of Appeals of Virginia established the following facts regarding the events of that night:

Mitchell testified Walden and Q.M.] were very upset when they arrived at the residence. About ten minutes later, Mitchell saw through a window that appellant was walking up the steps to the front door of the residence. Appellant was carrying a pistol. Mitchell did not open the door, and she told appellant to leave. Mitchell testified appellant tried to open the door and he said he was "there to kill that bitch and if anything or anybody got in the way he was going to kill them too." Mitchell stated appellant eventually broke in the door and reached in with the gun. She testified appellant put the gun to her head and said, "I come here to kill all three of you all bitches and you're going to be the first one to die today." Mitchell was able to shut the door again, but appellant continued to push against it, repeatedly stating he was going to "kill that bitch." Mitchell heard a gunshot, and appellant entered the residence. Mitchell and appellant wrestled as [Sandra] Walden ran out of the back door. Mitchell struggled with appellant as he tried to get to the back door. They eventually went onto the back porch, and [Sandra] Walden was trying to climb over the fence in the backyard. Mitchell testified she and appellant were "wrestling over the gun and he shot at [Sandra Walden]." Mitchell struck appellant's hand onto the deck railing, and he dropped the gun. Q.M.] retrieved the gun and fled to a neighbor's residence. Mitchell testified appellant said, "You stupid bitch, I have another gun in the truck." Mitchell stated appellant looked for something in his truck and then he went to [Sandra] Walden's parked car, raised the hood, and was "doing something." The women then fled the residence.
Mitchell's thirteen-year-old daughter, J.M., testified she heard appellant say he "was going to kill all of us." She also stated she saw appellant break through the door, put the gun to her mother's head, and threaten to kill her. J.M. testified appellant pointed the gun at [Sandra] Walden and fired it just before Mitchell caused the gun to fall from appellant's hand to the ground.
[Sandra] Walden testified she saw appellant at the front door of the residence, beating on the door with the gun. She also heard him say he was going to kill "that bitch today" so she fled out of the back door. She testified she was trying to climb over the back fence when she heard two gunshots, arguing, and scuffling.
A witness who was fishing in a nearby lake at the time of the incident testified he heard a man and woman screaming and yelling and he heard several gunshots.
Appellant testified he went to the residence to talk to his wife and the gun was in a back pocket of his pants. He stated Mitchell would not let him into the residence. Appellant did not recall threatening to kill Mitchell. However, he stated he "could have" said that, but he would not have meant it. He also did not know if he threatened to kill his wife. Appellant admitted that he pushed his way into the residence, but he denied that he pointed the gun at Mitchell. Appellant testified the gun remained in his back pocket as he made his way to the back door of the residence. He stated that while he was on the back porch, Mitchell tried to get the gun and the gun fired into the air as they struggled over it. Appellant also testified he fired the gun into the air before he entered the residence "maybe to get their attention."
On cross-examination, appellant stated he had had an argument with [Sandra] Walden on the telephone prior to the incident. He also admitted he had consumed alcohol that day.

Walden v. Commonwealth. No. 1594-14-3, slip op. at 3-4 (Va. Ct. App. Apr. 2, 2015), ECF No. 7-5.

         On July 31, 2014, the Pittsylvania County Circuit Court convicted Walden of armed statutory burglary, two counts of attempted murder, assault and battery on a police officer, use of a firearm in commission of a felony, and property damage. The circuit court sentenced him to thirty-four years and twelve months' imprisonment, with sixteen years and twelve months suspended. Walden's direct appeals were unsuccessful. Walden then filed a petition for a writ of habeas corpus in the Virginia Supreme Court, arguing that the circuit court abused its discretion by denying his motion to separate the victim witnesses and that counsel was ineffective for not proffering facts supporting the motion to separate the victim witnesses. Several weeks later, Walden filed a motion to amend his habeas petition, alleging four new grounds of ineffective assistance. The Supreme Court of Virginia denied Walden's motion to amend and later dismissed the petition.


         On August 18, 2017, Walden filed the present petition, raising the following claims:[2]

1. The trial court abused its discretion in denying Walden's motion to separate the victim witnesses, and the Court of Appeals erred by affirming the trial court's ruling;
2. Counsel failed to move the trial court to suppress the gun evidence prior to trial;
3. Counsel failed to proffer evidence in support of Walden's motion to separate the victim witnesses; .
4. Counsel failed to investigate a defense witness prior to trial;
5. Counsel failed to seek a plea agreement from the Commonwealth; and
6. Counsel failed to develop and put on a reasonable defense.

         Respondent acknowledges that Walden's ...

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