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No ‘Gateway Innocence’ Claim for Inmate

Deborah Elkins//December 9, 2015

No ‘Gateway Innocence’ Claim for Inmate

Deborah Elkins//December 9, 2015//

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The 4th Circuit affirms denial of a writ of habeas corpus and upholds a capital murder conviction and death sentence for petitioner for his role in the New Year’s Day murder of a family with two small children, rejecting petitioner’s “gateway innocence” claim under Martinez v. Ryan.

Ricky Jovan Gray appeals the district court’s denial of his petition for a writ of habeas corpus. His appeal presents two questions. First, whether the Supreme Court of Virginia, in resolving factual disputes regarding an ineffective-assistance-of-counsel claim without an evidentiary hearing, made an “unreasonable determination of the facts” under the Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act of 1996, 28 U.S.C. § 2254(d)(2). Because we find that the state court did not ignore Gray’s evidence or otherwise reversibly err in resolving factual disputes on the record, we reject this first challenge.

The second question is whether Gray may belatedly raise in the district court a claim of ineffective assistance of trial counsel under the Supreme Court’s decision in Martinez v. Ryan, 132 S. Ct. 1309 (2012). Martinez provides a narrow exception to the general rule, stated in Coleman v. Thompson, 501 U.S. 722 (1991), that errors committed by state habeas counsel do not provide cause to excuse a procedural default.  But if claims are not procedurally defaulted – that is, they were properly presented to the state court – then Martinez does not apply.

We find that the claim Gray seeks to raise was presented to, and decided by, the state court. Therefore, it is not subject to de novo review in the district court under Martinez. Accordingly, we affirm the judgment of the district court.

Concurrence & dissent

Davis, S.J.: I agree with my friends in the majority that petitioner exhausted his claim that trial counsel were constitutionally ineffective in failing to present evidence during the penalty phase of his trial that he was voluntarily intoxicated during the commission of the crimes. Furthermore, because a reasonable fact-finder could have found the facts necessary to support petitioner’s claim from the evidence presented to the state court, I agree with the majority that the district court properly dismissed his Martinez claim. But I disagree, respectfully, with the majority’s determination that the Supreme Court of Virginia’s resolution of disputed issues of fact, based on conflicting and partially unaddressed sworn affidavits, without an evidentiary hearing, did not amount to an unreasonable determination of the facts under 28 U.S.C. § 2254(d)(2). I therefore concur in part and dissent in part.

I would vacate the judgment of the district court as to Gray’s ineffective assistance of counsel claim and remand for an evidentiary hearing and the development of a full factual record.

Gray v. Zook, Warden (Diaz) No. 12-5, Nov. 25, 2015; USDC at Alexandria, Va. (Trenga) Elizabeth Hambourger, Robert E. Lee Jr. for appellant; Matthew P. Dullaghan, AG Office, for appellee. VLW 015-2-174, 45 pp.

VLW 015-2-174

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