United States District Court, E.D. Virginia, Richmond Division
E. Payne, Senior United States District Judge.
Eugene Williams, a Virginia inmate proceeding pro
se, brings this petition pursuant to 28 U.S.C. §
2254 ("§ 2254 Petition," ECF No.
challenging his convictions in the Circuit Court for the
County of Henrico, Virginia ("Circuit Court") for
grand larceny and possession of burglary tools with intent to
commit larceny. Williams contends that he was denied the
effective assistance of counsel by counsel's failure to
properly challenge the loss of stationary camera video
footage in a motion for a new trial. (Id. at 16.)
Respondent moves to dismiss on the ground that Williams's
claim lacks merit. For reasons set forth below, the Motion to
Dismiss (ECF No. 14) will be granted.
APPLICABLE CONSTRAINTS UPON 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) (1) - (2) . 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 standard, the opinion of the Circuit Court with
respect to Williams's claim figures prominently in this
PERTINENT PROCEDUAL HISTORTY
March 30, 2017, a jury convicted Williams of grand larceny
and possession of burglary tools. (ECF No. 16-1, at 1.)
"Following the trial, Williams filed a motion to set
aside the verdict. At a sentencing hearing on September 26,
2017, the Court denied the motion to set aside and sentenced
Williams to two years and 12 months in prison."
Id. On October 25, 2017, Williams filed a habeas
petition with the Circuit Court wherein he claimed "his
counsel at the sentencing hearing was constitutionally
ineffective for failing to present the correct argument
'in order to have the conviction vacated for being [an]
unconstitutional malicious prosecution in violation of the
Brady rule.'" Id. at 2 (alteration
in original) (footnote omitted).
Circuit Court provided the following summary of the relevant
facts pertaining to the above claim:
On October 3, 2016, loss prevention officers at a Target
store suspected Williams of shoplifting boxer shorts and
headphones. The loss prevention officers called the police,
who immediately arrested Williams outside the store and
recovered the stolen items from his backpack.
At trial, surveillance footage was played for the jury, which
showed Williams's movements in the store. Loss prevention
officer, Kevin Woods, testified that footage from the
store's stationary cameras had unfortunately not been
saved. (Trial Tr. 60). Woods, however, testified to what he
observed on those cameras, including Williams removing
security devices from the headphones. (Tr. 56, 66).
In his post-trial motion to set aside the verdict, Williams
argued, in part, that Target's failure to preserve the
stationary camera footage was spoliation. Williams further
argued that allowing Woods to testify as to what he had seen
on the stationary cameras violated the best evidence rule.
After considering defense counsel's arguments at the
sentencing hearing, the Court denied the motion to set ...