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Randy C. v. Maston

Supreme Court of Appeals of West Virginia

December 20, 2019

Randy C., Petitioner Below, Petitioner
v.
Russell Maston, Superintendent, St. Marys Correctional Center, Respondent Below, Respondent

          Cabell County 14-C-732 and 17-C-643

          MEMORANDUM DECISION

         Petitioner Randy C., [1] pro se, appeals the January 18, 2018, order of the Circuit Court of Cabell County dismissing his fifth petition for a writ of habeas corpus challenging his conviction for first-degree murder.[2] Respondent Russell Maston, Superintendent, St. Marys Correctional Center, [3] by counsel Julianne Wisman, filed a response in support of the circuit court's order.

         Petitioner filed a reply.

         The Court has considered the parties' briefs and the record on appeal. The facts and legal arguments are adequately presented, and the decisional process would not be significantly aided by oral argument. Upon consideration of the standard of review, the briefs, and the record presented, the Court finds no substantial question of law and no prejudicial error. For these reasons, a memorandum decision affirming the circuit court's orders is appropriate under Rule 21 of the Rules of Appellate Procedure.

         The record is sparse.[4] However, in Randy C. I, this Court set forth the underlying facts:

Petitioner arrived in West Virginia on August 25, 1996, after being paroled by Illinois on a conviction of armed robbery. On August 26, 1996, petitioner's sister was murdered. On November 4, 1996, petitioner pled guilty to the first[-]degree murder of his sister. Consistent with the plea agreement, the [Circuit Court of Cabell County] sentenced petitioner to a life term of incarceration with the possibility of parole. The circuit court committed petitioner to the custody of the West Virginia Division of Corrections ("DOC"). On January 29, 1997, the DOC compiled a report stating that there was evidence that in between strangling his sister and stabbing her to death, "[petitioner] removed his sister's clothing and sexually assaulted her."[5]

2016 WL 1547302, at *1. (Footnote added).

         Petitioner has filed five petitions for a writ of habeas corpus in the circuit court challenging his first-degree murder conviction. In the first habeas proceeding, the circuit court appointed petitioner habeas counsel and held an omnibus hearing on May 24, 2006, at which petitioner's trial counsel testified. By order entered on June 15, 2006, the circuit court denied petitioner's first habeas petition, finding: (1) trial counsel provided credible testimony; (2) trial counsel testified that he discussed petitioner's rights with petitioner and that he was satisfied petitioner understood his rights; (3) trial counsel conducted a reasonable investigation in that he was present at petitioner's preliminary hearing, talked to the investigating officer, was granted a full review of the evidence that the State intended to produce, and was given further information about what the State would prove at the time of the plea agreement; (4) the court did nothing to hurry petitioner into agreeing to the plea "as it was [petitioner]'s wish that the case be disposed of as soon as possible[, ] and there is no evidence alleged or proven which would show the [c]ourt was prejudiced against [petitioner] because of his HIV status"; and (5) at the November 4, 1996, plea hearing, petitioner gave a factual history of how he came to West Virginia to kill his sister and "at no time, did he indicate that he was innocent, had a defense[, ] or was dissatisfied with his [trial] counsel." Petitioner appealed the circuit court's June 15, 2006, order, which this Court refused on July 9, 2007.[6]

         Petitioner filed a second habeas petition in 2006, and the circuit court dismissed that petition by order entered on November 20, 2006. Petitioner did not appeal the November 20, 2006, order. In 2010, petitioner filed a third habeas petition, and the circuit court dismissed that petition by order entered on January 28, 2010. Petitioner appealed the circuit court's January 28, 2010, order, which this Court refused on June 22, 2010.[7]

         In petitioner's fourth habeas proceeding, the circuit court held a hearing on June 4, 2015. The circuit court heard petitioner's testimony and confirmed that he had a previous and full opportunity to raise any habeas grounds he wished to:

THE COURT: . . . The standard I have to apply today is what, if any, new grounds or new information [have] not been previously adjudicated by [the circuit court] in various earlier cases that [it] had considered. I guess [habeas counsel] filed a habeas [petition] at some point for you. Is that the one you had the hearing in? Did you come to this courthouse at some point and have a hearing similar to this?
[Petitioner]: Yes, sir.
THE COURT: And[, ] that you then argue[d] that you had ineffective assistance ...

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