The opinion of the court was delivered by: J. Ronnie Greer United States District Judge
Allen Hodgkinson, a state inmate serving sentences of life and a consecutive twenty years, brings this pro se petition for a writ of habeas corpus under 28 U.S.C. § 2254, alleging that he is being confined in violation of the Constitution. Respondents have filed a motion for summary judgment, a supporting brief, and copies of parts of the state court record and opinion. [Docs. 9, 10, and 11, Attachments 1-6].
Petitioner has filed a response, arguing that a motion for summary judgment is not authorized by the Rules Governing Section 2254 Cases and that the only proper response to a habeas corpus application is to file an answer, accompanied by all relevant records. [Doc. 12]. Though petitioner's position is certainly understandable, it misses the mark. It is true, as petitioner points out, that Habeas Corpus Rule 5 requires the respondent to answer the allegations in the petition, state whether the claims have been exhausted, and identify what transcripts are available. However, Rule 4 provides that the court shall order the respondent to file an answer, or take such other action as the judge deems appropriate." This italicized provision, as explained in the Advisory Committee Notes to Rule 4, "is designed to afford the judge flexibility in a case where either dismissal or an order to answer may be inappropriate." Habeas Corpus Rule 11 permits a federal court to apply the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure to a § 2254 petition when appropriate, see McFarland v. Scott, 512 U.S. 849, 866 n.2 (1994), and Rule 56 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure permits the filing of a motion for summary judgment.
According to the Supreme Court, the Habeas Corpus Rules confer upon a district court "ample discretionary authority to tailor the proceedings" in a habeas case. Lonchar v. Thomas, 517 U.S. 314, 325 (1996). Here, the Court used its discretionary authority to order respondents to file an answer "or other pleading" and allowed that response to be a dispositive motion. [Doc. 6]. Respondents chose to file a motion for summary judgment, along with the relevant portions of the state court record, a copy of which was sent to petitioner. This response is procedurally sanctioned.
As to the motion, the Court is persuaded that summary judgment is warranted in this case, as indicated below, and will GRANT respondents' motion.
Following a ten-day trial in 1987, petitioner was convicted, along with two co-defendants, of felony first-degree murder and conspiracy to sell over 30 grams of cocaine. State v. Hodgkinson, 778 S.W.2d 54, 58 (Tenn. Crim. App.), perm to app. denied (Tenn. 1989). Petitioner sought direct review in the Tennessee Court of Criminal Appeals, but his convictions were affirmed. Id. He next challenged his conviction by filing a petition for post-conviction relief on August 30, 1991, which remained pending in the trial court for more than eight years before appointment of counsel on October 5, 1999. Hodgkinson v. State 2006 WL 962950, *2 and n.1 (Tenn. Crim. App. 2006). The petition was amended, an evidentiary hearing was held, the case was dismissed, and the trial court's judgment was affirmed on post-conviction appeal. Id., at *7. This instant habeas corpus petition followed.
The following summary of the facts was taken from the state appellate court's opinion during petitioner's direct appeal.
Early in 1986, a man named James Hart delivered a kilo of cocaine to the victim, Bobby Hensley of Asheville, North Carolina. Hart, according to his trial testimony, had bought the cocaine in Florida upon Hensley's request and he [Hart] understood that arrangements had been made to resell the drug to a Johnson City, Tennessee, resident named "Buddy." On March 22, 1986, Hensley traveled to Johnson City with the drugs, checked into a motel, and called the home of Franklin "Buddy" Humphreys. Answering the call was Buddy's friend Richard Jones, whom Buddy had recruited to "ride" on a drug deal with the victim, for which he would receive $1,000.
Jones and Humphreys met Hensley at the motel and, after a brief conversation with Hensley, Humphrey left, saying that he was going to Myrtle Beach, South Carolina. Hensley then made a quick call and, when it ended, he asked Jones to take him to "Allen's." They departed, and upon arriving at petitioner's mobile home, Hensley told Jones to go in and ask petitioner for the money. Jones acted as instructed, but when he asked for the money, petitioner replied that he had no money. Jones insisted that petitioner personally convey that to Hensley, so they left the trailer and Jones climbed into the passenger's seat. Petitioner discussed the issue of the money with Hensley through the driver's side, and then turned to go back into his mobile home.
According to Jones, Hensley had become quite agitated, both had firearms, shots were fired from the car, and Jones, claiming self-defense, fired a fatal shot into Hensley's head. For hours after the shooting, petitioner and Jones tried to locate Humphreys. When they finally learned that Humphreys had gone to the beach, they covered the victim with a blanket and decided to find a friend, George Humphreys. While petitioner followed in his vehicle, Jones drove Hensley's car, inside of which was the owner's body and his cocaine, to Tommy Humphreys' home, where they found George Humphreys.
They explained to George Humphreys what had happened and he, along with petitioner and Jones-consuming beer the entire time- began to plan their next move. Eventually, they bound the victim's body to cinder blocks, dumped it in a nearby lake, removed the cocaine, retained a small sample for their personal use, hid the remainder, and abandoned the vehicle in a remote area, where it was later discovered burned. For several hours thereafter, Jones, George Humphreys, and petitioner drove around in the latter's car.
In the wee morning hours of the next day, Jones was dropped off at a friend's house, while his companions began driving to petitioner's mobile home. Petitioner became upset en route, jumped from the vehicle, ran to a nearby residence, pounded on the door, and began screaming hysterically "They are going to shoot me." The Sheriff's Department was called and, when the officers arrived, petitioner was arrested. In the midst of the arrest, George Humphreys drove past the scene and was followed by the officers, who then stopped him and ...