United States District Court, W.D. Virginia, Roanoke Division
Jonathan P. Sheldon, Sheldon & Flood, PLC, Fairfax,
Virginia, for Petitioner.
C. Campbell, Assistant Attorney General, Office of the
Attorney General of Virginia, Richmond, Virginia, for
P. Jones, United States District Judge.
Petition for a Writ of Habeas Corpus under 28 U.S.C. §
2254 (“Petition”), a Virginia inmate contends
that his confinement pursuant to a judgment entered by a
state court is unconstitutional. Upon review of the record, I
conclude that the respondent’s Motion to Dismiss must
order denying Bryant’s appeal, the Court of Appeals of
Virginia found the following facts:
In the early morning of January 7, 2012, a friend found Seams
in an alley near the home Seams shared with his mother. Seams
was bloody and in distress. Seams said that
“Jamie” had stabbed him, and he pointed in the
direction of a garage at the end of the alley. A trail of
blood led to the garage. There was money with blood on it on
the ground nearby. A blood trail also connected the garage to
the residence of [Bryant].
Police officers were called to the scene and immediately went
to [Bryant]’s home. [Bryant] had blood on his left ear
and the left shoulder area of his shirt. The police detained
[him] and removed him from the scene. Emergency medical
personnel arrived at the scene and transported Seams to the
hospital. However, Seams had sustained a fatal stab wound to
the neck and he subsequently died. Seams also had a stab
wound to the backside of his right forearm.
When the police asked [Bryant] if he knew Seams, [Bryant]
said they had a longstanding feud and he “finally put
an end to it.” [Bryant] later said he had acted in
self-defense. [Bryant] said he had met Seams in the garage.
[Bryant] had hoped to obtain drugs from Seams without paying
for them. Seams met [Bryant] in the garage, but Seams left
after finding out [Bryant] had no money. [Bryant] already
owed Seams $300. Seams returned a few minutes later. [Bryant]
told the police that Seams, who was holding a knife, backed
him into a corner. [Bryant] said he was scared of Seams.
[Bryant] indicated that he pushed away Seams’ hand, and
the knife went upward and struck Seams’ neck.
Susie Worrell, who lived with [Bryant], testified that
[Bryant] was covered in blood when he returned from the
garage on the night of the incident. [Bryant] handed her a
knife and told her to “do something” with it.
Worrell had found the knife while working near a highway. She
last had seen the knife in the garage. [Bryant] gave Worrell
the bloody clothing he had been wearing and told her to wash
it. He also gave her his work boots and said to “put
them up.” Worrell took the clothes and put them in the
washing machine in the basement. She hid the boots in a box
in the basement.
At the conclusion of the evidence, the trial court instructed
the jury on first-degree murder, second-degree murder,
second-degree felony homicide in the commission of attempting
to obtain drugs, and voluntary manslaughter. The trial court
also instructed the jury regarding self-defense. The jury
found [Bryant] guilty of second-degree murder.
Br. Supp. Mot. Dismiss Ex. A, 2–3, ECF No. 14-1. In
December of 2012, the trial court sentenced Bryant to 30
years in prison as recommended by the jury.
appealed the trial court’s refusal of an involuntary
manslaughter jury instruction. The court of appeals addressed
this claim as follows:
“Involuntary manslaughter is defined as the accidental
killing of a person, contrary to the intention of the
parties, during the prosecution of an unlawful, but not
felonious, act, or during the improper performance of some
lawful act.” Gooden v. Commonwealth, 226 Va.
565, 571, 311 S.E.2d 780, 784 (1984). There was no evidence
to prove that [Bryant] stabbed Seams during an unlawful, but
not felonious, act or in the improper performance of a lawful
act. [Bryant] claimed that he had called Seams to the garage
to obtain drugs from him. If the jury concluded [Bryant]
accidentally killed Seams during the course of the attempted
drug transaction, it could have found [Bryant] guilty of
second-degree felony homicide, as instructed by the trial
Id. at 4. The court of appeals found that because
the evidence did not support the requested instruction, the
trial court did not err in refusing it.
also contended on appeal that the trial court erred in
denying his motion for a new trial, in which he had argued
that the Commonwealth had failed to disclose purported
impeachment information about Sergeant Kenneth Duncan, the
lead investigator in Bryant’s case, in violation of the
rule in Brady v. Maryland, 373 U.S. 83 (1963).
Specifically, in seeking a new trial, Bryant
produced evidence that, in an unrelated criminal trial on
July 18, 2011, it was alleged that Duncan had violated the
trial court’s order not to discuss his trial testimony
with other witnesses outside the courtroom. [Bryant’s]
attorney argued that he learned of the allegation regarding
Duncan after [Bryant’s] trial had concluded. Counsel
maintained that Duncan had been evasive and untruthful when
confronted by the trial court in the other proceeding
regarding a violation of the witness sequestration ruling.
Id. at 2. The court of appeals denied relief upon
finding that the information about Duncan did not warrant a
new trial, because it was not material exculpatory evidence
that the Commonwealth was obligated to reveal to
Bryant’s trial counsel. Id.
Supreme Court of Virginia refused Bryant’s subsequent
petition for an appeal in a summary order dated January 2,
January 5, 2015, Bryant, by counsel, timely filed a state
post-conviction petition in the trial court. He alleged that
his trial counsel had provided ineffective assistance by:
(a) failing to present evidence favorable to the defense from
Alvin Roman, Denneka White, and Sakoyia Smith;
(b) failing to argue to the jury any of the facts in support