United States District Court, E.D. Virginia, Richmond Division
MEMORANDUM OPINION (GRANTING RESPONDENT'S MOTION
E. HUDSON SENIOR UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
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)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.
APPLICABLE CONSTRAINTS ON FEDERAL HABEAS REVIEW
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;
(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").
was indicted on two counts of raping the victim, hereinafter
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.)
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.)
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.)
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.)
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.
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.)
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.
Other Testimony that Corroborated VB's Account
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.)
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.)
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.)
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.)
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.)
Verdict and Sentencing
jury found Baker guilty of both counts of rape and sentenced
him to ten years of imprisonment on each count.
Appeals and Post-Conviction Proceedings
his conviction and sentencing, Baker unsuccessfully appealed
his conviction to the Supreme Court of Virginia. Baker v.
Commonwealth, No. 151726 (Va. Feb. 8, 2016).
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.)
BAKER'S FEDERAL HABEAS CLAIMS
§ 2254 Petition, Baker demands relief upon the following
Claim 1 The evidence was insufficient to support
Petitioner's two convictions of ...