Federal Habeas Corpus
The final stage of the appellate process is generally considered federal habeas corpus relief. At this stage, after the inmate has lost at either the direct appeal, the PCR stage, or both, he may ask a federal judge to overturn his conviction or sentence. The federal judge reviews the records of the state trial, appeal, and state PCR proceeding provided by the Attorney General's Office in its fillings to determine if federal law was correctly applied by the state courts. Unlike the earlier stages, an attorney is rarely appointed for the inmate and hearings in open court are rarely held. Generally, the federal judge will decide the case based only upon the documents filed in the court. An appeal from this decision will be to the federal Court of Appeals in Richmond, Virginia.