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Lankford v. Holt

United States District Court, M.D. Tennessee, Nashville Division

March 24, 2015

BILL HOLT, [1] Respondent.


KEVIN H. SHARP, Chief District Judge.

John Pierce Lankford has filed a petition for the writ of habeas corpus under 28 U.S.C. § 2254, seeking to vacate a judgment and sentence entered in August 2013. Before the Court is the respondent's motion to dismiss the petition without prejudice for failure to exhaust state remedies (ECF No. 45), and numerous motions filed by the petitioner. For the reasons set forth herein, the habeas corpus petition will be denied on the merits and dismissed with prejudice, and all other pending motions denied as moot.


Petitioner John Pierce Lankford, a prisoner in state custody at the Robertson County Detention Facility in Springfield, Tennessee, instituted this action on or around November 25, 2014 by filing a petition for the writ of habeas corpus under 28 U.S.C. § 2254 (Case No. 3:14-cv-2312, ECF No. 1), and then an amended petition (Case No. 3:14-cv-2320, ECF No. 6) challenging his conviction in the Circuit Court for Sumner County, Tennessee and requesting the appointment of counsel.[2] After the petitioner paid the filing fee, the Court entered an initial order construing the petition as stating colorable claims for habeas relief, directing service of process on the petitioner's custodian and the Tennessee Attorney General's Office, ordering the respondent to respond to the motion within thirty days, and denying the petitioner's request for appointment of counsel. (ECF No. 9.)

Before and since entry of the initial order, the petitioner has bombarded the Court with motions and letters addressed variously to the undersigned personally, to the Clerk of Court, and to the pro se staff attorneys, primarily requesting that the Court consider documents submitted by the petitioner or demanding an order requiring the state to provide the petitioner with copies of portions of the underlying criminal court record, requesting that the Court provide the petitioner with copies of documents, or complaining about the jail's failure to provide the petitioner with copies of documents. ( See ECF Nos. 1, 6, 33, (motions); ECF Nos. 5, 7, 17, 21, 22, 25, 26, 31, 34, 35, 43, 44, 50, 51 (letters).) In addition, the petitioner has filed four separate documents entitled "Circumstances Raised for the Appointment of Counsel" (ECF Nos. 18, 19, 20, 24) and two "Petitions for Counsel" (ECF No. 29, 30), which the Court construes as renewed motions for the appointment of counsel. On February 13, 2015, the petitioner filed a Petition to Amend Legal Action, seeking to sanction the Robertson County Detention Facility for failing to provide copies or access to a law library and legal materials, and attaching various documents related to the underlying criminal case. (ECF No. 41.)

On March 6, the respondent filed his motion to dismiss for failure to exhaust and supporting memorandum. (ECF Nos. 45, 46.) Pursuant to Court order, the respondent subsequently submitted exhibits that were intended to have been filed with the motion to dismiss but were erroneously omitted. (ECF No. 48.)

The petitioner then filed a "Motion to Proceed with Writ of Habeas Corpus 2254 due to Full Exhaustion of State Remedies" (ECF No. 54), which the Court construes as a response in opposition to the respondent's motion to dismiss. The petitioner also filed a motion for a hearing (ECF No. 55) and two motions to service notice (ECF Nos. 56, 57), requesting that the Court serve notice of this action on the Hendersonville, Tennessee Police Department and Hendersonville City Attorney John Bradley.


According to Lankford's amended petition, the "date of judgment of conviction" on the underlying criminal charges was October 20, 2014. (ECF No. 6, at 1.) In fact, based on the documentation submitted with his petition, it appears that a hearing was conducted on October 20, 2014 at which the petitioner was found guilty of violating the terms of his probation. The order adjudging him guilty of probation violation was entered on November 14, 2014. (ECF No. 6, at 33.) Pursuant to that order, the petitioner's sentence in case number 2013-CR-21 of six years at thirty percent was imposed, with jail credits from September 9, 2013 through the date of the order. ( Id. )

The underlying six-year sentence was issued on August 9, 2013. (See Judgment, ECF No. 6, at 26.) It is actually this judgment the petitioner challenges. In his habeas petition, the petitioner indicates that he pleaded guilty to the charge of aggravated assault but claims that his guilty plea was entered "under duress." (ECF No. 6, at 1.) By "duress" he apparently means that he pleaded guilty despite disputing the prosecutor's version of the facts, because he understood that the terms of the plea agreement would permit him to go home immediately to care for his aged father. He claims that the terms of the plea agreement were misrepresented to him. ( Id. at 2.)

In fact, the documents submitted by the petitioner, including the judgments (ECF No. 41, 8-11) and the transcript of the plea and sentencing proceedings (ECF No. 41, at 7-27), show that the petitioner pleaded guilty in case number 2012-CR-762 to three charges of simple assault, for which he was sentenced to time served, and also pleaded guilty in case number 2013-CR-21 to one charge of aggravated assault, for which he received a sentence of six years as a standard offender (at 30%), suspended to one year of supervised probation with the balance to be served on unsupervised probation. (ECF No. 34, at 3-6 (judgments).) However, the suspension of the sentence was expressly contingent on the petitioner's compliance with the terms of his probation, which included refraining from the possession or consumption of alcohol and submission to weekly blood, breath, and/or urine screens. ( Id .; see also Plea Hr'g Tr., ECF No. 41, at 10 (assistant attorney general's summary of plea agreement).) And the period of unsupervised probation was contingent upon successful completion of the period of supervised probation. ( Id. )

The petitioner agreed to these terms in open court and clearly manifested his understanding that his probation was contingent on his refraining from consuming alcohol and on submitting to regular screenings to insure his compliance with that restriction:

MR. LASSISTER [defense counsel]: You're pleading to Counts 2, 3, and 4 [in Case No. 2012-CR-762]. They're all simple assaults, and you're receiving 11/29 at 75 percent.

* * *

MR. LASSITER:.... You're receiving a time-served sentence.
MR. LASSITER: And you'll be released today.
MR. LASSITER: And you're also pleading on case [2013-CR-21] to agg. assault, receiving a six-year sentence, do you understand?
THE DEFENDANT: I understand.
MR. LASSITER: You're going to be on supervised probation for a period of one year.
MR. LASSITER: And it'll be on State probation, but you will be supervised by Community Corrections. Amber McCrory is here today with them. You'll be reporting once a week and you will be - have to take ...

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