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Baker v. Beale

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

August 1, 2018

ALTERIK JAMES BAKER, Petitioner,
v.
MR. BEALE, Respondent.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION (GRANTING RESPONDENT'S MOTION TO DISMISS)

          HENRY E. HUDSON SENIOR UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         Alterik James Baker, a Virginia inmate proceeding pro se, filed this petition for a writ of habeas corpus under 28 U.S.C. § 2254 ("§ 2254 Petition," ECF No. I)[1]challenging his convictions of two counts of rape in the Circuit Court of Prince Edward County, Virginia ("Circuit Court"). Respondent has moved to dismiss. (ECF No. 11.) Baker has responded. For the reasons that follow, the Motion to Dismiss will be granted.

         I. APPLICABLE CONSTRAINTS ON FEDERAL HABEAS REVIEW

         In order to obtain federal habeas relief, at a minimum, 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). The Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act ("AEDPA") of 1996 further circumscribed this Court's authority to grant relief by way of a writ of habeas corpus. Specifically, "[s]tate court factual determinations are presumed to be correct and may be rebutted only by clear and convincing evidence." Gray v. Branker, 529 F.3d 220, 228 (4th Cir. 2008) (citing 28 U.S.C. § 2254(e)(1)). Additionally, under 28 U.S.C. § 2254(d), a federal court may not grant a writ of habeas corpus based on any claim that was adjudicated on the merits in state court unless the adjudicated claim:

(1) resulted 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 States; or
(2) resulted 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). The Supreme Court has emphasized that the question "is not whether a federal court believes the state court's determination was incorrect but whether that determination was unreasonable-a substantially higher threshold." Schriro v. Landrigan, 550 U.S. 465, 473 (2007) (citing Williams v. Taylor, 529 U.S. 362, 410 (2000)). Given the foregoing restrictions, the Circuit Court's opinion denying Baker's petition for a writ of habeas corpus figures prominently in this Court's decision. Baker v. Manis, No. CL16000265-00 (Va. Cir. Ct. Aug. 10, 2016) ("State Habeas Op").

         II. PROCEDURAL HISTORY

         Baker was indicted on two counts of raping the victim, hereinafter VB.

         A. The Trial

         1. VB's Testimony

         At trial, VB testified that on December 26, 2013, she was sleeping in her apartment when she got a call from Baker's girlfriend, Sabrina. (Jan. 6, 2015 Tr. 47.) Sabrina asked VB if she wanted to have drinks with Baker and her. (Jan. 6, 2015 Tr. 47.) VB told Sabrina she would be over in a few minutes. (Jan. 6, 2015 Tr. 47.)

         VB then went to Sabrina's apartment where she played cards and drank with Sabrina and Baker. (Jan. 6, 2015 Tr. 48.) While in Sabrina's apartment, VB had one and a half beers and four or five shots of alcohol. (Jan. 6, 2015 Tr. 48.) After less than an hour, VB returned to her own apartment and watched TV. (Jan. 6, 2015 Tr. 49, 58.)

         Fifteen minutes after returning to her apartment, Baker knocked on VB's door. (Jan. 6, 2015 Tr. 49.) VB opened the door and Baker asked her for a cigarette. (Jan. 6, 2015 Tr. 49.) VB provided Baker with a cigarette and started to return to her bedroom. (Jan. 6, 2015 Tr. 49.) Baker then pushed VB over a chair and sought to pull VB's pants down. (Jan. 6, 2015 Tr. 49-50.) VB repeatedly told Baker "no" and to "stop" and fought Baker's efforts to remove her pants. (Jan. 6, 2015 Tr. 50-52.) Baker eventually lowered VB's pants and penetrated her vagina with his penis against her will. (Jan. 6, 2015 Tr. 52.) Although VB does not believe Baker ejaculated, Baker stopped raping VB. (Jan. 6, 2015 Tr. 52.) VB repeatedly asked Baker to leave. (Jan. 6, 2015 Tr. 53.)

         After a brief pause, Baker then forced himself on VB again. (Jan. 6, 2015 Tr. 53.) Baker pulled VB's pants down again against her will, and raped her on a mattress that was in the living room area of VB's apartment. (Jan. 6, 2015 Tr. 53.) Baker then left VB's apartment. (Jan. 6, 2015 Tr. 54.) VB acknowledged that she did not have any visible physical injuries. (Jan. 6, 2015 Tr. 62.)

         VB, who was crying, then called Paul Johnson and the manager of the apartment complex. (Jan. 6, 2015 Tr. 54.) VB told the manager and Johnson that Baker had raped her. (Jan. 6, 2015 Tr. 54-55.)

         2. Johnson's Testimony

         Johnson testified that after receiving a call from VB, he went to her apartment. (Jan. 6, 2015 Tr. 65.) When VB answered the door, she began crying and stated that Baker had raped her. (Jan. 6, 2015 Tr. 65.) Baker, who was standing in the hallway of the apartment complex, sought to talk to Johnson. (Jan. 6, 2015 Tr. 65.) Baker told Johnson that he did not rape VB, but Johnson "might be mad at [him]" and "might want to take a swing at [him]." (Jan. 6, 2015 Tr. 65.)

         Johnson then elicited VB's full version of the events. (Jan. 6, 2015 Tr. 65.) Thereafter, Johnson went back into the hallway to speak to Baker. (Jan. 6, 2015 Tr. 65-66.) Baker insisted that the sex was consensual, but that Johnson might want to take a swing at him. (Jan. 6, 2015 Tr. 66.) Baker then got on his knees and encouraged Johnson to take a swing at him. (Jan. 6, 2015 Tr. 66.) Johnson declined and stated he would let the police handle the situation. (Jan. 6, 2015 Tr. 66.)

         3. Other Testimony that Corroborated VB's Account

         Detective Samuel Entrekin spoke with Baker on the night of the rape. (Jan. 6, 2015 Tr. 73.) Baker told Detective Entrekin multiple times that he did not have sex with VB. (Jan. 6, 2015 Tr. 73.) When Detective Entrekin spoke with VB, he could smell alcohol on her person, but her thought and speech were reasonably clear. (Jan. 6, 2015 Tr. 83.)

         Theresa Francis, an expert in DNA analysis, testified that the police recovered VB's DNA from Baker's boxer shorts. (Jan. 6, 2015 Tr. 84-91.)

         4. Baker's Testimony

         Baker acknowledged drinking with VB and Sabrina on the day in question. (Jan. 6, 2015 Tr. 95-96.) According to Baker, however, Sabrina passed out, "vomited everywhere" and he and VB had to put her in the bathtub to clean her up. (Jan. 6, 2015 Tr. 96.) VB left Sabrina's apartment, but told Baker that she would be back to help him clean Sabrina up. (Jan. 6, 2015 Tr. 96.) When VB did not return, Baker went to VB's apartment and asked her for a cigarette. (Jan. 6, 2015 Tr. 97.) VB then got Baker a cigarette. (Jan. 6, 2015 Tr. 97.) According to Baker, VB then bent over the chair, pulled her pants down and encouraged him to have sex with her, which he did. (Jan. 6, 2015 Tr. 97.)

         Baker then said he began to regret his actions and got up to leave. (Jan. 6, 2015 Tr. 97.) According to Baker, VB then "laid on the floor on the mattress and said, if you don't finish this I'm going to call the cops and say you raped me." (Jan. 6, 2015 Tr. 97.) Baker refused and left. (Jan. 6, 2015 Tr. 97.)

         Baker later encountered Paul Johnson in the hallway and told him he had sex with VB. (Jan. 6, 2015 Tr. 98.) VB, however, intervened and told Johnson that Baker had tried to rape her. (Jan. 6, 2015 Tr. 98.) Baker acknowledged denying having sex with VB to the police. (Jan. 6, 2015 Tr. 99.) Baker explained that he did not want Sabrina to find out that he had had sex with VB. (Jan. 6, 2015 Tr. 99.) Baker insisted that VB had repeatedly flirted with him. (Jan. 6, 2015 Tr. 100.)

         B. Verdict and Sentencing

         The jury found Baker guilty of both counts of rape and sentenced him to ten years of imprisonment on each count.

         C. Appeals and Post-Conviction Proceedings

         Following his conviction and sentencing, Baker unsuccessfully appealed his conviction to the Supreme Court of Virginia. Baker v. Commonwealth, No. 151726 (Va. Feb. 8, 2016).

         Thereafter, Baker filed a petition for a writ of habeas corpus with the Circuit Court. State Habeas Op. 1. The Circuit Court denied his petition. Id. at 15. Baker appealed, and the Supreme Court of Virginia refused his appeal. (ECF No. 13, at 4.)

         III. BAKER'S FEDERAL HABEAS CLAIMS

         In his § 2254 Petition, Baker demands relief upon the following grounds:

Claim 1 The evidence was insufficient to support Petitioner's two convictions of ...

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