Hood v. Commonwealth, Record No. 0732-21-2

Citation75 Va.App. 358,876 S.E.2d 710
Docket NumberRecord No. 0732-21-2
Decision Date23 August 2022
Parties Stephen James HOOD, Petitioner, v. COMMONWEALTH of Virginia, Respondent.
CourtCourt of Appeals of Virginia

75 Va.App. 358
876 S.E.2d 710

Stephen James HOOD, Petitioner,
COMMONWEALTH of Virginia, Respondent.

Record No. 0732-21-2

Court of Appeals of Virginia.

August 23, 2022

75 Va.App. 360

Stephen James Hood petitioned this Court seeking a writ of actual innocence under Chapter 19.3 of Title 19.2 of the Code of Virginia. In 2002, Hood was convicted in the Circuit Court of the City of Richmond of being an accessory after the fact to abduction and first-degree murder as a principal in the second degree. Hood's convictions, however, were vacated by the circuit court following a successful petition for a writ of habeas corpus based on a claim of ineffective assistance of counsel. Hood nonetheless now petitions this Court for a writ of actual innocence declaring him factually innocent of the crimes underlying his now-vacated 2002 convictions.

Hood's petition therefore raises, as an issue of first impression, whether this Court has the authority to consider a petition for a writ of actual innocence for convictions that have been vacated. For the reasons below, we hold that we do not have subject matter jurisdiction over Hood's petition and accordingly dismiss his petition.

75 Va.App. 361


Trial, Appeal, and Habeas Proceedings

In the early morning hours of August 31, 1990, Ilouise Cooper was abducted from her apartment on Parkwood Avenue in the city of Richmond. Her body was discovered later that day, and an autopsy confirmed that she had suffered several fatal stab wounds. In February 1991, a jury convicted Jeffrey Cox of burglary, abduction, and first-degree murder.

The FBI, however, had information that strongly suggested that Cox was innocent of the crime and that Hood participated in Cooper's killing. Following further investigation by the FBI, Hood was indicted in 2001 for first-degree murder and abduction, and Cox's convictions were set aside. As part of plea negotiations, Hood and the government agreed that he would provide a "detailed oral proffer" of the crime and that none of the

876 S.E.2d 712

statements made in the proffer would be used against Hood in the Commonwealth's case-in-chief in a criminal prosecution of Hood. Hood stated that he and another man, Billy Madison, were the perpetrators of the abduction and killing of Cooper in a case of mistaken identity over being cheated in a drug deal. Hood confessed to driving Madison to Cooper's apartment, giving Madison Hood's knives which he used for his job as a cook, and then taking Madison and Cooper to a secluded area where Madison murdered Cooper.

Following a bench trial on April 3 and 4, 2002, the circuit court convicted Hood of abduction as an accessory after the fact (a lesser-included offense of the felony abduction charge) and first-degree murder as a principal in the second degree. At trial, the Commonwealth used Hood's proffer in its case-in-chief in what would later be found to be a violation of the proffer agreement. By final order entered September 13, 2002, the circuit court sentenced Hood to twelve months’ incarceration for the misdemeanor accessory conviction and sixty-five years’ incarceration for the first-degree murder conviction.

Hood's convictions were affirmed on appeal by this Court and the Supreme Court of Virginia. Hood v. Commonwealth , 269 Va. 176, 608 S.E.2d 913 (2005) ;

75 Va.App. 362

Hood v. Commonwealth , No. 2469-02-2, 2004 WL 290687 (Va. Ct. App. Feb. 17, 2004). On March 24, 2006, Hood filed a state habeas corpus petition in the circuit court challenging his convictions on multiple grounds. Hood argued, among other things, that his proffer was false and that his defense attorney and the Commonwealth coerced him to enter the immunity agreement with false promises. He also asserted that the Commonwealth "breached [the] cooperation/immunity agreement" and that his trial counsel rendered ineffective assistance of counsel by failing to object to the introduction of the proffer as substantive evidence in the Commonwealth's case-in-chief.

On November 10, 2009, the circuit court granted Hood's petition for a writ of habeas corpus on the grounds that trial counsel was ineffective for failing to argue that, under the immunity agreement, the Commonwealth could not introduce the proffer as substantive evidence in its case-in-chief even if Hood introduced contrary evidence. The circuit court set aside the convictions and stated for the record that "the writ vacated the convictions in those two file numbers." Following the Commonwealth's unsuccessful appeal of the circuit court's ruling, the Commonwealth advised the circuit court that it was electing not to retry Hood for first-degree murder. Instead, under a written plea agreement, the Commonwealth moved to amend the original indictment to reflect a charge of attempted abduction, employing the same case number as the original charge. Hood agreed to plead guilty to the amended charge under Alford in exchange for an eight-year sentence, which would be satisfied by the time he served during his post-conviction proceedings. The circuit court accepted Hood's plea, and Hood was released from custody.

Hood filed this petition on July 30, 2021, alleging various grounds for his writ. Hood contends that the Commonwealth violated his...

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