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Pleasants v. Clarke

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

June 19, 2019

Lance Pleasants, Petitioner,
v.
Harold W. Clarke, Respondent.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION

         Lance Pleasants, 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 convictions in the Circuit Court of King George County. Respondent filed a Motion to Dismiss and Rule 5 Answer, along with a supporting brief and exhibits. Dkt. Nos. 12-13. Petitioner was given the opportunity to file responsive materials, pursuant to Roseboro v. Garrison, 528 F.2d 309 (4th Cir. 1975) and Local Rule 7K. Dkt. No. 14. Petitioner filed a response. Dkt. Nos. 17-18. For the reasons that follow, respondent's Motion to Dismiss will be granted, and the petition will be dismissed, with prejudice.

         I. Background

         The record reflects the following. Petitioner is detained pursuant to a final judgment of the Circuit Court of King George County, entered December 3, 2015. Nos. CR15-24, -27, -142. Pursuant to a jury trial, petitioner was convicted of burglary with intent to commit rape, attempted rape, and malicious wounding. Id. Petitioner was sentenced to seventy-eight years imprisonment. Id.

         Petitioner pursued a direct appeal to the Court of Appeals of Virginia, asserting, among other claims, that there was insufficient evidence to convict him of burglary with intent to commit rape and attempted rape because the evidence failed to prove he intended to rape the victim. Record No. 0163-16-2.

The facts as laid out by the Court of Appeals are as follows.[1]
[T]he evidence proved that D.K. was home alone in her bedroom at approximately 1:00 a.m. when she saw two flashes of light in the living room. Upon walking to her bedroom doorway, D.K. saw a man in her living room. The man, later identified as [petitioner], asked D.K. if her husband was home and walked toward her. D.K. retreated into her bedroom and sat on her bed.
[Petitioner] followed D.K. into her bedroom. When he was inches away from her, she turned on her bedside lamp. [Petitioner], who was wearing blue nitrile gloves and a mask, told her not to do so and turned off the lamp. He instructed D.K. to be quiet and to lie down on the bed. D.K. said, "No." [Petitioner] again told her to lie down and be quiet. D.K. again told him "no." When [petitioner] repeated the instruction a third time, he moved his right hand from about her knee up the inside of her legs and up towards her body.
D.K. pushed his hand away and said "no" more forcefully. [Petitioner] pulled out a folding knife and said, "Lay down and be quiet or I swear to God I'll come back and kill your kids." D.K. grabbed both of [petitioner's] wrists and tried to keep his hands away from her. The struggle continued as D.K. pushed [petitioner] out of her bedroom and into her kitchen. D.K. pulled a decorative dagger from the wall and stabbed [petitioner]. She turned on the light and saw a puddle of blood on the floor.
[Petitioner] yelled, "You stabbed me, bitch," and stabbed D.K. in the abdomen with his knife. D.K., fearing [petitioner] was going to try and stab her a second time, tried to get control of [petitioner's] wrist. Their struggle continued back into D.K.'s bedroom from which [petitioner] eventually fled. When emergency personnel arrived and prepared to transport D.K. to the hospital, a teenage boy approached and asked a deputy to come help his injured brother. The deputy followed the boy to a nearby trailer and found [petitioner] semi-conscious, bloody, and breathing heavily. He had a stab wound in his chest.
Upon investigating the perimeter of the residences, the deputies found several items between D.K.'s trailer and [petitioner's] trailer that matched D.K.'s account of her attack. They found a black mask, a pair of blue nitrile gloves, and a black folding knife. They also discovered a large pool of blood and a pool of vomit.
When the police searched [petitioner's] trailer, they found a pair of jeans wet with blood. In the pocket of the jeans were a condom, a set of keys, and a pair of eyeglasses. The keys opened the door to [petitioner's] home, and [petitioner] was known to deputies to normally wear eyeglasses with black frames.
D.K. suffered from a punctured abdomen and a perforated bowel as a result of the stabbing. She required surgery and was hospitalized for several days.
Deputies submitted samples of blood from around D.K.'s home for analysis. DNA tests determined the blood was that of [petitioner].

Id. The appeal was denied on June 28, 2016. Id. Petitioner then appealed to the Supreme Court of Virginia but his petition for appeal was refused on February 8, 2017. Record No. 161036.

         Petitioner then filed a petition for a writ of habeas corpus in the Supreme Court of Virginia where he claimed, inter alia, that his trial counsel was ineffective for failing to ensure that his petit jury was comprised of a fair cross section of petitioner's community and failing to raise a Batson challenge.[2] Record No. 171611. The state habeas petition was denied on August 15, 2018. Id.

         On September 27, 2018, petitioner filed the instant federal petition, wherein he challenges his convictions on the following grounds.

1. There was insufficient evidence to convict him of burglary with intent to commit rape and attempted rape.
2. Trial counsel was ineffective for failing to raise a Batson and/or fair-cross-section challenge regarding the Commonwealth's systematic exclusion of members of petitioner's race from the jury.

Dkt. No. 2.

         II. ...


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