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Edwards v. Carlton

September 12, 2008


The opinion of the court was delivered by: Thomas W. Phillips United States District Judge


This is a petition for the writ of habeas corpus pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2254, filed by petitioner Byron M. Edwards ("Edwards"). The respondent has filed his answer to the petition and Edwards has filed his reply to the answer. For the following reasons, the petition for the writ of habeas corpus will be DENIED and this action will be DISMISSED WITH PREJUDICE.

I. Standard of Review

A state prisoner is entitled to habeas corpus relief "only on the ground that he is in custody in violation of the Constitution or laws or treaties of the United States." 28 U.S.C. § 2254. Under Rule 8 of the Rules Governing Section 2254 Cases In The United States District Courts, the court is to determine, after a review of the answer and the records of the case, whether an evidentiary hearing is required. If no hearing is required, the district judge is to dispose of the case as justice dictates. If the record shows conclusively that Edwards is not entitled to relief under § 2254, there is no need for an evidentiary hearing and the petition should be denied. Baker v. United States, 781 F.2d 85, 92 (6th Cir. 1986).

II. Factual Background

The respondent has provided the court with copies of the relevant documents as to Edwards' direct appeal and his state post-conviction and habeas corpus proceedings. [Court File No. 10, Notice of Filing Documents, Addenda 1-22]. Edwards was convicted by a jury, in the Circuit Court of Blount County, Tennessee, of aggravated robbery, and sentenced to 30 years as a career offender. State v. Edwards, No. 03C01-9812-CC-00436, 2000 WL 122233 (Tenn. Crim. App. Feb. 2., 2000) [Addendum 7], perm. app. denied, id. (Tenn. Oct. 9, 2000) [Addendum 9]. On direct appeal, Edwards raised five grounds for relief:

I. The trial court erred by denying the appellant's Motion for a Continuance;

II. The evidence was insufficient to support a conviction of aggravated robbery;

III. The trial court erred by failing to contemporaneously instruct the jury that a prior out of court statement was not substantive evidence and could only be considered for impeachment purposes;

IV. The trial court should have granted a new trial on the basis of newly discovered evidence;

V. The trial court erred by sentencing the appellant to a thirty year sentence as a career offender.

State v. Edwards, 2000 WL 122233 at *1.

The Tennessee Court of Criminal Appeals rejected Edwards' claims and affirmed his conviction and sentence. In doing so, the appellate court summarized the evidence against Edwards as follows:

At approximately 6:00 pm on the evening of May 21, 1996, Wade Nichols met his friends, Willie Lundy and Victor Hodge, at the Howe Street Park in Alcoa. While the three men were talking, two vehicles drove up to the men and stopped. One vehicle was driven by the appellant. The appellant was accompanied by Arthur "A.C." Copeland, the co-defendant. The appellant and "A.C." exited their vehicle. Willie Lundy approached the two men, the three men exchanged words, and then Lundy quickly rejoined Wade Nichols and Victor Hodge. The appellant walked toward the three men and ordered them to "lay it down." The appellant, thinking that Nichols had made a comment about him, questioned Nichols as to what he said. Nichols responded "I didn't say anything to you, I don't want any problems with you." Nichols then turned his back and reinitiated his conversation with Lundy. At this point, the appellant handed "A.C." his wallet and announced that "he was going to fade this nigger." The appellant then "struck [Nichols] from behind on the right side of [his] face." Nichols' glasses fell to the ground and [Nichols] turned to face him and that's when Arthur Copeland ..." "tackled [him]." "'A.C.' was punching [Nichols] on [one] side of [his] face and [the appellant] was kicking [him] on [the other side] of [his] face." When the beating subsided, "A.C." asked Nichols "where the money was and where the dope was." The appellant then "walked away," "picked up a dirt clod ... and hit [Nichols] in the back of the head with it." After the victim was incapacitated, "A.C." then began rummaging through Nichols' clothes. "A.C." took from Nichols' person a pager, a pocketknife, and two hundred dollars. "A.C." opened the knife and "threatened to stick [Nichols] in [the] throat with it." The appellant did not remove any of the items from Nichols' possession nor did the appellant threaten the appellant with a weapon or verbally. While Nichols remained face down on the ground, the appellant and "A.C." fled the scene. As a result of this incident, Wade Nichols underwent three reconstructive surgeries on his cheek and eye socket.

Meanwhile, frightened that "[Wade Nichols] was going to get killed," Willie Lundy and Lamont Martin, another bystander, went to the police department to obtain assistance. Officer Robert Simerly, with the Alcoa Police Department, was informed by Willie Lundy that, "Big B and another guy were down in the park beating up Wade and robbing him." Officer Simerly, accompanied by Officer Buddy Cooper, got in his patrol car and drove toward the park. As they approached the park, the officers observed the appellant driving his vehicle in the opposite direction. Officer Simerly activated his patrol car's emergency equipment and initiated pursuit of the appellant's vehicle. The appellant failed to stop his vehicle. Rather, the appellant "[w]ent down East Howe, disregarded the stop sign ... turned left ... [d]isregarded [another] stop sign." The pursuit reached over 65 mph. The appellant continued through intersections without stopping. Cars were skidding to avoid collisions. "[The appellant] actually hit the intersection so hard there were sparks coming out from under his car." People scattered to avoid being hit. He disregarded additional stop signs. The passenger in the appellant's vehicle, later identified as "A.C.", jumped out of the vehicle at the first opportunity and began to run. Officer Cooper pursued "A.C." on foot. Another patrol car joined the pursuit. Eventually, the officers were able to stop the appellant's vehicle.

Upon apprehending the appellant, Officer Simerly observed that the appellant "was real glassy-eyed, his eyes were bloodshot, and just rambling on about himself, talking continuously." Simerly could also "smell beer on [the appellant's] breath ..." and believed the appellant to be intoxicated. Upon searching the appellant's vehicle, Officer Simerly discovered a knife with a pearl handle under the passenger side seat and, in the glove box, a pager. Both items were later identified as those taken from the person of Wade Nichols. The appellant was "handcuffed ... placed in [the] patrol unit ... and read ... his Miranda rights." When questioned about the incident at Howe Street Park, the appellant responded, "Damn right, I robbed them, I'm going to rob all those bitches, including Stacy." Later, at the Blount County Jail, while booking both the appellant and "A.C." Copeland into the jail, deputies discovered "eighteen dollars in currency" on the person of "A.C." Copeland. The deputies recovered "eight hundred and seventy dollars in currency" from the person of the appellant.

Based on this evidence, the jury found the appellant guilty of ...

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