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Davis v. Schofield

United States District Court, E.D. Tennessee, at Knoxville Division

March 23, 2015

KENNETH C. DAVIS, Petitioner,
DERRICK D. SCHOFIELD, Commissioner, Tennessee Department of Correction, Respondent.


THOMAS A. VARLAN, Chief District Judge.

Kenneth C. Davis ("Petitioner"), a Tennessee inmate acting pro se, brings this petition for a writ of habeas corpus pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2254, challenging the legality of his confinement under a 2006 Sevier County, Tennessee Criminal Court judgment [Doc. 2]. A jury convicted Petitioner of identity theft and violation of the habitual motor vehicle offender statute, for which he is serving a sentence of twelve years. Respondent has filed an answer to the petition, which is supported by copies of the state record [Doc. 8; Addenda Nos. 1-4]. Respondent subsequently filed a motion to construe the answer as a motion for summary judgment [Doc. 10], which the Court denied [Doc. 14]. Petitioner has failed to respond to Respondent's answer, and the time for doing so has passed.


Petitioner's convictions were affirmed on direct appeal by the Tennessee Court of Criminal Appeals ("TCCA"), see State v. Davis, No. E2006-01459-CCA-R3-CD, 2007 WL 1259206 (Tenn. Crim. App. Apr. 30, 2007), and the Tennessee Supreme Court denied permission to appeal. Petitioner's subsequent application for post-conviction relief was denied by the trial court, and affirmed on appeal by the TCCA. Davis v. State, No. E2010-00022-CCA-R3-PC, 2011 WL 319394 (Tenn. Crim. App. Jan. 27, 2011). The Tennessee Supreme Court denied permission to appeal. Petitioner next filed this timely application for habeas relief.


The following summary of the factual background is taken from the TCCA's opinion on direct appeal of Petitioner's conviction.

At trial, the jury heard the testimonies of Officer James Roberts of the Sevierville Police Department and the [Petitioner]. According to Officer Roberts, on March 22, 2005, he stopped a vehicle for driving sixty-two miles per hour in a thirty-five mile per hour zone. Officer Roberts identified the [Petitioner] as the driver of the vehicle. When Officer Roberts approached the vehicle, the [Petitioner] identified himself as Mitchell L. Davis. Even though the [Petitioner] was unable to produce a driver's license, he provided Officer Roberts with a social security number as identification. The [Petitioner] did not appear to be under the influence of alcohol or drugs.
Officer Roberts testified that the car also held a female passenger in the front seat and a male passenger in the back seat. Officer Roberts stated that Mitchell Davis' driver's license was revoked, but that he decided to issue the [Petitioner] a misdemeanor citation and release him.
Sometime later that morning, Officer Roberts responded to a call about an incident at the Wal-Mart in Sevierville involving the [Petitioner]. When Officer Roberts arrived on the scene, he learned that the [Petitioner], who had previously identified himself as Mitchell Davis, was really Kenneth C. Davis. A check of the [Petitioner's] driver's license number revealed that the [Petitioner] was a habitual motor vehicle offender. Officer Roberts also discovered that Mitchell Davis was the [Petitioner's] brother and that his social security number was one digit different from the [Petitioner's]. When Officer Roberts observed the [Petitioner] at Wal-Mart, he appeared to be under the influence of drugs.
Officer Roberts explained that when the blue lights on his patrol car are activated, an onboard video camera begins recording. When Officer Roberts was preparing to testify in front of the grand jury, he discovered that the video tape or video camera used during the [Petitioner's] stop for speeding malfunctioned and that there was nothing on the tape. Officer Roberts attempted to watch the tape on two different VCRs, but there was nothing on the tape.
The [Petitioner] testified in his own defense at trial. According to the [Petitioner], Officer Roberts did not stop him for speeding, rather he and two other people were in the car and were already stopped in a parking lot at the Co-op when Officer Roberts approached the car and addressed him as "Mitchell." The [Petitioner] stated that the officer asked him for his social security number and birth date. The [Petitioner] claimed that he told the officer that he was illiterate and did not know his social security number. The [Petitioner] also claimed that he was sitting on the passenger side of the vehicle and never saw the officer activate his blue lights. The [Petitioner] admitted that he was an habitual motor vehicle offender.
At the conclusion of the trial, the jury found the [Petitioner] guilty of identity theft and driving after being declared an habitual motor vehicle offender. After a sentencing hearing, the trial court sentenced the [Petitioner] to twelve years as a career offender for identity theft and six years as a career offender for driving in violation of the habitual motor vehicle offender act. The trial court ordered the sentences to run concurrently, for a total effective sentence of twelve years.

State v. Davis, 2007 WL 1259206, at *1-2.


Under the Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act ("AEDPA"), codified in 28 U.S.C. § 2241, et seq., a court considering a habeas claim must defer to any decision by a state court concerning the claim unless the state court's judgment: (1) resulted in a decision that was contrary to, or involved an unreasonable application of, clearly established Federal law, as determined by the Supreme Court of the United States; (2) resulted in a decision that was based on an unreasonable determination of the facts in light of the evidence presented in the state court proceeding. 28 U.S.C. § 2254(d)(1)-(2).

A state court's decision is "contrary to" federal law when it arrives at a conclusion opposite to that reached by the Supreme Court on a question of law, or resolves a case differently on a set of facts which cannot be distinguished materially from those upon which the precedent was decided. Williams v. Taylor, 529 U.S. 362, 413 (2000). Under the "unreasonable application" prong of § 2254(d)(1), the relevant inquiry is whether the state court decision identifies the legal rule in the Supreme Court cases which govern the issue, but unreasonably applies the principle to the particular facts of the case. Id. at 407. The habeas court is to determine only whether the state court's decision is objectively reasonable, not whether, in the habeas court's view, it is incorrect or wrong. Id. at 411.

The § 2254(d) standard is a high standard to satisfy. Montgomery v. Bobby, 654 F.3d 668, 676 (6th Cir. 2011) (noting that "§ 2254(d), as amended by AEDPA, is a purposefully demanding standard... because it was meant to be.'") (quoting Harrington v. Richter, 131 S.Ct. 770, 786 (2011)). Further, findings of fact which are sustained by the record are entitled to a presumption of correctness-a presumption which may be rebutted only by clear and convincing evidence. 28 U.S.C. § 2254(e)(1).


Petitioner's § 2254 habeas corpus petition raises four main grounds for relief: (1) insufficient evidence to support the conviction of identity theft; (2) the state's destruction of the videotape of his traffic stop violated his due process rights; (3) the TCCA denied his right to proceed pro se on appeal; and (4) several instances of ineffective assistance of counsel [Doc. 2].

In his answer, Respondent argues that Petitioner is not entitled to relief on Grounds one, two, and four because the state court decisions rejecting the claims on their merits are entitled to deference under 28 U.S.C. § 2254 [Doc. 8]. Respondent also argues that Ground three is not a federally cognizable claim, and is subject to dismissal [Doc. 8].

The Court agrees with the Respondent concerning Petitioner's entitlement to habeas relief, and for the reasons which follow, will DENY and DISMISS this case. Petitioner's Grounds for relief will be discussed in the order in which they were presented.

A. Insufficient Evidence

In his first claim, Petitioner contends that the evidence produced at trial was insufficient to support a conviction of identity theft under the applicable Tennessee statute. As support for his claim, Petitioner alleges that there were inconsistencies and discrepancies regarding the state's witness, and coupled with a lack of video evidence, the testimony could not be corroborated. Petitioner claims that the proof presented at trial, even when ...

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