FOURTH REVERSES BLOUNT HABEAS ORDER
(Posted May 15, 2018) A panel of the Fourth Circuit today reverses an order by an Eastern District judge who had awarded a writ of habeas corpus to Trayvion Blount. In Blount v. Clarke, the appellate court chides the district judge for relying on a dissenting opinion in a previous split panel ruling.
This case has been a cause celebre for quite some time here in Tidewater. Blount was a juvenile when he joined a crime spree; that choice earned him an initial sentence of six life terms plus over 100 years in prison. When SCOTUS handed down a ruling that barred life terms for juvenile offenders without the possibility of parole, Blount sought habeas relief. Governor McDonnell headed that off at the pass by issuing a partial pardon, reducing the sentence to 40 years.
There followed a series of rulings in state and federal appellate courts, going back and forth over the question whether Blount’s term was invalid and whether the initial term was at all material to the proceedings anymore. Governor McAuliffe reduced the sentence even further, but the appeal still wound its way through the appellate system.
Today’s ruling holds that the initial reduction to 40 years foreclosed habeas relief. Since it was a partial pardon and not a commutation, Blount had no ability to refuse it in order to maintain that he was really facing a life sentence. That undoes the current habeas proceeding.
If you’re mapping out the process, Blount has two appellate options left: He can seek en banc rehearing from the Fourth or certiorari from the Supreme Court of the United States. Both are real long shots, but the alternative is to keep grinding away on all that prison time.