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Cope v. State

Court of Criminal Appeals of Tennessee, Knoxville

August 21, 2014


Assigned on Briefs July 23, 2014

Appeal from the Criminal Court for Sullivan County No. C62240 Robert H. Montgomery, Judge

Tracy Lynn Cope, Henning, Tennessee, Pro Se.

Robert E. Cooper, Jr., Attorney General and Reporter; Ahmed A. Safeeullah, Assistant Attorney General; and Barry P. Staubus, District Attorney General, for the Appellee, State of Tennessee.

Robert W. Wedemeyer, J., delivered the opinion of the Court, in which James Curwood Witt, Jr., J., and Joe E. Walker, III, Sp. J., joined.



I. Facts

A. Background and Direct Appeal

In our opinion in the Petitioner's direct appeal of his conviction, we summarized the facts presented at trial as follows:

The [Petitioner] in this case was convicted of kidnapping Amanda Wilson and Debbie Callahan. The victim, who was the [Petitioner]'s girlfriend, arrived home to find him engaged in sexual relations with a third woman, Jakia Ford. The victim told the [Petitioner] to gather his things and leave. She recalled that the [Petitioner] became angry and started to scream and yell. She testified that he had been smoking cocaine and had not slept in three days. He repeatedly said that there was someone in the apartment and that the women were trying to kill him. She said he picked up the box springs and opened the closet doors. She said that both women attempted to leave the apartment, but the [Petitioner] would not allow them to leave. He said he was going to "get" them before they got him.
The [Petitioner] forced both women into Wilson's van. He held Ms. Ford by the waist and Wilson by her shirt. Wilson said they did not resist or try to run away because she knew what the [Petitioner] could do. She testified that she was afraid because she knew she could not run away from the [Petitioner]. Once inside the van, the [Petitioner] locked the doors and drove through downtown Kingsport. Wilson testified that the [Petitioner] did not speak to the women, but he talked to himself. He said, "Damn, Tracy, look[ ] what you've done. You just need to take them out to the country and tie them up to a tree." He drove them to a public housing apartment complex in Kingsport where he forced them into an apartment. He told the man in the apartment that he had "taken" the women and that they needed to "pay the price" for trying to kill him. The [Petitioner] then forced the women back out to the van. Although the [Petitioner] stopped the van later and allowed Ms. Ford to leave, the victim testified that Ms. Ford appeared to be afraid the entire time.
The [Petitioner] then drove to another apartment complex and forced Wilson out of the van. He knocked on a door where Debbie Callahan, the second victim, answered. The [Petitioner] grabbed both women and made them sit on the floor. He accused them of trying to kill him. Wilson thought he was even angrier and more agitated than when she first saw him in their apartment earlier that evening.
The [Petitioner] forced Wilson to remove her clothes, and he was holding both women until Wilson tried to resist. At that point, Ms. Callahan was able to escape and ran out the front door. The police were called during the struggle, and Wilson could see a uniformed officer and his car outside the apartment door. The [Petitioner] screamed that the officer was not really the police. The [Petitioner] put Wilson in a choke hold from behind. He eventually walked out of the apartment but continued to hold Wilson by her throat. The [Petitioner] held her between him and the officer. He eventually let go of Wilson and lay on the ground as instructed by the officers.
Ms. Callahan, the second victim, testified that she lived in an apartment in Sullivan County and that she had met the [Petitioner] one day when they smoked crack in her apartment. She recalled that the [Petitioner] knocked on her door in the early morning hours of August 29, 2005. The [Petitioner] asked her if she wanted to buy some crack, but she told him she had no money. He asked to come in anyway, and they started to smoke some crack. She recalled that the [Petitioner] began to act strangely and became rough and mean toward her. He began grabbing at her in an attempt to have sex with her. She said he also wanted her to have sex with his girlfriend who was in the car.
Callahan went to the door and screamed for Wilson to come inside because the [Petitioner] was getting out of control. The [Petitioner] removed Wilson's clothes and also attempted to remove Callahan's clothes. She said that he grabbed her by her hair, shirt, and pants, but she did not want him to touch her. He told her that, if she tried to set him up, he would fix her so nobody would ever look at her again. She testified that she was afraid then and was still afraid at trial. She said that when she freed herself, she ran from the apartment and hid under a tree for a couple of hours.
Officer Jason McClain testified that he was a patrolman with the Kingsport Police Department when he was dispatched to Callahan's apartment. He arrived around 4:45 a.m. to find the [Petitioner] and Callahan inside the apartment. The door was open, and he heard a man's voice yelling, "Call 911, call 911, I want police here now, call 911." He looked inside and saw the [Petitioner] screaming as he held Callahan in a choke hold. She was crying, shaking, and appeared to be very frightened. The officer identified himself as the police and asked, "What's going on here, I am the police."
The officer testified that he could see something on or in the [Petitioner]'s hand, which he was holding behind Callahan. It turned out to be a cast on the [Petitioner]'s hand but, at the time, the officer was unable to determine if it was a weapon. The officer testified that he took cover behind the door frame, called for backup, and waited for additional officers. The [Petitioner] continued to hold Callahan in a choke hold. When backup officers arrived, they ordered the [Petitioner] to come out of the apartment. The [Petitioner] still had Callahan in a choke hold when he came outside and held her body between himself and the officers. He released her when the officers ordered him to the ground.
The officer testified that four to five minutes elapsed between his arrival until the [Petitioner] was on the ground outside the apartment. He estimated that the [Petitioner] held Callahan "just a minute" at the door to the apartment. The officer did not have his weapon drawn when he first saw the [Petitioner] through the apartment ...

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