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Walton v. Ray

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

June 11, 2018

MR. TRACY RAY, Respondent.


          John A. Gibney Jr., United States District Judge

         Bruce Duane Walton, a Virginia slate prisoner proceeding pro se, brings this petition pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2254 ("§ 2254 Petition." ECF No. 3), challenging his conviction in the Circuit Court of the County of Menrico, Virginia (hereinafter, "Circuit Court"). In his § 2254 Petition, Walton argues entitlement to relief based upon the following claims:[1]

Claim One: "Concealment of exculpatory facts in grounds of discovery during trial and newly found evidence while in trial." (Id. at 6.)
Claim Two: "Bill of Rights violations." (Id. at 8.)
Claim Three: "Errors in the Supreme Court of Virginia Petition for Appeal." (Id. at 9.)
Claim Four: "Errors in Statement of Facts prepared and slated in the Supreme Court of Virginia Appeal." (Id. at 11.)

         Respondent moves to dismiss on the ground that Walton's claims are procedurally defaulted and barred from review here. Walton has filed an "Answer and Objection to Brief" ("Response.'- ECF No. 16). For the reasons set forth below, the Motion to Dismiss (ECF No. 9) will be GRANTED.


         After a jury trial, Walton was convicted of first-degree murder, one count of felony credit card theft, one count of felony attempted credit card theft, two counts of misdemeanor credit card fraud, and one count of misdemeanor attempted credit card fraud. (ECF No. 10-1, at 1-2.) The jury recommended a sentence of life plus twenty-five years on the felony counts, and an additional thirty-six months on the misdemeanor counts. (Id. at 3-4.) On March 5. 2015, the Circuit Court imposed the sentence recommended by the jury. (Id. at 7.)

         Walton appealed, arguing that the evidence was insufficient to support his conviction of first-degree murder. (ECF No. 10-4, at 1.) The Court of Appeals of Virginia denied the petition for appeal. (See id.) The Supreme Court of Virginia refused the petition for appeal. (ECF No. 10-5, at 1.) Walton did not file a petition for writ of habeas corpus in the state courts. Rather, on July 18, 2017, Walton filed his § 2254 Petition in this Court.[2] (§ 2254 Pet. 16.)


         Before a state prisoner can bring a § 2254 petition in federal district court, the prisoner must first have "exhausted the remedies available in the courts of the State." 28 U.S.C. § 2254(b)(1)(A). State exhaustion "is rooted in considerations of federal-state comity." and in Congressional determination via federal habeas laws "that exhaustion of adequate state remedies will "best serve the policies of federalism.'" Slavek v. Hinkle, 359 F.Supp.2d 473, 479 (E.D. Va. 2005) (quoting Preiser v. Rodriguez, 411 U.S. 475, 491-92 & n. 10 (1973)). The purpose of exhaustion is "to give the State an initial opportunity to pass upon and correct alleged violations of its prisoners* federal rights.** Picard v. Connor, 404 U.S. 270. 275 (1971) (internal quotation marks omitted). Exhaustion has two aspects. First, a petitioner must utilize all available state remedies before he can apply for federal habeas relief. See O 'Sullivan v. Boerckel, 526 U.S. 838. 844-48 (1999). As to whether a petitioner has used all available state remedies, the statute notes that a habeas petitioner "shall not be deemed to have exhausted the remedies available in the courts of the State ... if he has the right under the law of the State to raise, by any available procedure, the question presented." 28 U.S.C. § 2254(c).

         The second aspect of exhaustion requires a petitioner to have offered the state courts an adequate opportunity to address the constitutional claims advanced on federal habeas. "To provide the State with the necessary 'opportunity, 1 the prisoner must 'fairly present' his claim in each appropriate state court (including a state supreme court with powers of discretionary review), thereby alerting that court to the federal nature of the claim." Baldwin v. Reese. 541 U.S. 27, 29 (2004) (quoting Duncan v. Henry, 513 U.S. 364, 365-66 (1995)). Fair presentation demands that "both the operative facts and the controlling legal principles" must be presented to the state court. Longworth v. Ozmint, 377 F.3d 437, 448 (4th Cir. 2004) (quoting Baker v. Corcoran, 220 F.3d 276, 289 (4th Cir. 2000)). The burden of proving that a claim has been exhausted in accordance with a "state's chosen procedural scheme" lies with the petitioner. Mallory v. Smith, 27 F.3d 991, 994-95 (4th Cir. 1994).

         "A distinct but related limit on the scope of federal habeas review is the doctrine of procedural default." Breanl v. Pruett, 134 F.3d 615, 619 (4th Cir. 1998). This doctrine provides that "[i]f a state court clearly and expressly bases its dismissal of a habeas petitioner's claim on a state procedural rule, and that procedural rule provides an independent and adequate ground for the dismissal, the habeas petitioner has procedurally defaulted his federal habeas claim." Id. (citing Coleman v. Thompson, 501 U.S. 722, 731-32 (1991)). A federal habeas petitioner also procedurally defaults claims when the "petitioner fails to exhaust available state remedies and 'the court to which the petitioner would be required to present his claims in order to meet the exhaustion requirement would now find the claims procedurally barred.'" Id. (quoting Caleman, 501 U.S. at 735 n. I).[3] The burden of pleading and proving that a claim is procedurally defaulted rests with the state. Jones v. Sussex I Stale Prison, 591 F.3d 707, 716 (4th Cir. 2010) (citing cases). Absent a showing of "cause for the default and actual prejudice as a result of the alleged violation of federal law, " or a showing that "failure to consider the claims will result in a fundamental miscarriage of justice, " this Court cannot review the merits of a defaulted claim. Coleman, 501 U.S. at 750; see Harris v. Reed, 489 U.S. 255, 262 (1989).

         To exhaust his claims, Walton was required to present properly these claims to the Supreme Court of Virginia. If Walton now attempted to raise his claims in the Supreme Court of Virginia in a habeas petition, that habeas petition would be barred as successive pursuant to section 8.01-654(B)(2) of the Virginia Code, [4] and as untimely pursuant to section 8.01-654(A)(2) of the Virginia Code.[5] Virginia's statute of limitations for habeas actions and the bar on successive habeas petitions are adequate and independent procedural rules when so applied. See Clagett v. Angelone, 209 F.3d 370, 379 (4th Cir. 2000); Sparrow v. Dir., Dep't of Con:, 439 F.Supp.2d 584, 587-88 (E.D. Va. 2006). In his § 2254 Petition. Walton admits that he never raised any of his claims in the state courts. Walton also fails to demonstrate any cause and prejudice for his default or a fundamental miscarriage of justice in his § 2254 Petition.

         Respondent acknowledges that under Martinez v. Ryan, 566 U.S. 1 (2012), ineffective assistance of counsel "at initial-review collateral proceedings may establish cause for a prisoner's procedural default of a claim of ineffective assistance at trial." hi. at 9.[6] Here, as just explained, Walton never pursued any collateral proceedings in state court. Thus. Martinez is inapplicable here. See Jones v. Pa. Bd. of 'Prob. & Parole, 492 Fed.Appx. 242, 246-47 (3d Cir. 2012) (holding that the "Martinez analysis is inapplicable where the criminal defendant did not initiate any state collateral review proceeding whatsoever*'); Pullen v. Dir., Va. Dep't of Con:, No. 7:14CV00211. 2015 WL 159533, at *3 (W.D. Va. Jan. 13. 2015), appeal dismissed, 604 Fed.Appx. 284 (4th Cir. 2015) (citing Jones and explaining that because petitioner "did not initiate a state habeas proceeding, ... he cannot benefit from the Martinez exception to default of his claims that trial counsel was ineffective"); Anderson v. Clarke, No. 2:13-CV-223, 2014 WL 1203032, at *5 (E.D. Va. Mar. 24, 2014).

         In response to argument made by Respondent, for the first time in his Reply, Walton argues that his "actual innocence" excuses his default and his conviction for first-degree murder would amount to a fundamental miscarriage of justice. (IiCF No. 16, at 3-5.)[7] Walton's actual innocence argument is comprised mostly of case law supplied by Respondent and recited by Walton and is short on facts to support his argument. As discussed at length below. Walton is neither actually innocent, nor does his conviction result in a fundamental miscarriage of justice.

         III. ...

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