United States District Court, M.D. Tennessee, Nashville Division
H. SHARP CHIEF UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.
a habeas corpus action brought by a state prisoner pursuant
to 28 U.S.C. § 2254. The petitioner is serving a term of
70 years imprisonment imposed by the Sumner County Criminal
Court on August 8, 2013, pursuant to a plea agreement. The
respondent has filed an answer to the petition (ECF No. 17)
stating that the petition should be denied because the claims
raised therein are procedurally defaulted, do not comply with
pleading requirements, are not cognizable in federal habeas
proceedings and are without merit.
matter is ripe for review and the court has jurisdiction. 28
U.S.C. § 2241(d). The respondent does not dispute that
the petition is timely. (ECF No. 17 at Page ID# 54.) The
respondent states that the petition at issue here appears to
be the petitioner's first application for federal habeas
a federal court must presume the correctness of a state
court's factual findings unless the petitioner rebuts
this presumption with ‘clear and convincing evidence,
” 28 U.S.C. § 2254(e)(1), and because the issues
presented can be resolved with reference to the state-court
record, the court finds that an evidentiary hearing is not
necessary. See Schriro v. Landrigan, 550 U.S. 464,
474 (2007) (holding that if the record refutes a
petitioner's factual allegations or otherwise precludes
habeas relief, the district court is not required to hold an
evidentiary hearing (citing Totten v. Merkle, 137
F.3d 1172, 1176 (9th Cir. 1998))). Upon review and applying
the AEDPA standards, the court finds that the petitioner is
not entitled to relief on the grounds asserted. Accordingly,
the petition will be denied and this matter dismissed.
state prosecution arose from the petitioner's sexual
abuse of his two children, aged 3 and 5 years old, in August
and September, 2012. On December 6, 2012, the petitioner was
indicted by the Sumner County Grand Jury and charged with 50
counts of especially aggravated sexual exploitation of a
minor; 11 counts of rape of a child; 17 counts of aggravated
rape of a child and 5 counts of aggravated sexual battery.
(ECF No. 18-2 at Page ID## 113-196.) On August 8, 2013,
pursuant to a plea agreement entered into between the
parties, the petitioner pleaded guilty to 50 counts of
especially aggravated exploitation of a minor, 10 counts of
rape of a child, and 17 counts of aggravated rape of a child
in exchange for an effective sentence of 70 years.
(Id. at Page ID## 197-260, ECF No. 18-3 at Page ID##
263-75.) That same day, the trial court imposed sentence
pursuant to the plea agreement. (Id.)
November 20, 2013, the petitioner filed a petition for
post-conviction relief, alleging that his plea had not been
voluntary and knowing, and that he was denied the effective
assistance of counsel. (ECF No. 18-3 at Page ID## 276-87.)
The post-conviction court appointed counsel, but no amended
petition was filed. (Id. at Page ID## 289-90;
291-92.) The court conducted an evidentiary hearing on March
7, 2014, and thereafter, denied relief. (Id. at Page
ID# 297; ECF No. 18-4.) The petitioner appealed to the
Tennessee Criminal Court of Appeals (“TCCA”),
which affirmed the denial of post-conviction relief. (ECF No.
18-9; see also Cook v. State, No.
M2014-00616-CCA-R3-PC; 2015 WL 2445868, at *1 (Tenn. Crim.
App. May 22, 2015) (“Cook I”).) The
petitioner filed an application for permission to appeal to
the Tennessee Supreme Court, which was denied on August 12,
August 24, 2015, the petitioner filed a petition for the writ
of habeas corpus in the Sumner County Criminal Court, (ECF
No. 18-12 at Page ID## 513-16), which was denied on August
20, 2015 (ECF No. 18-12 at Page ID## 519-20). The petitioner
appealed to the TCCA, which denied relief on March 8, 2016.
(ECF No. 18-15; see also Cook v. Cook, No.
M2015-01886-CCA-R3-HC, 2016 WL 877852, at *1 (Tenn. Crim.
App. Mar. 8, 2016) (“Cook II”).) The
petitioner filed an application for permission to the appeal
to the Tennessee Supreme Court, which was denied on June 23,
STATEMENT OF FACTS
plea hearing, the State set forth the factual basis for the
petitioner's plea, describing the evidence as follows:
On September 6th, 2012, the Hendersonville Police Department
received a report of a burglary at the co[-]defendant's
residence, Ashley Wright's residence, in Hendersonville.
They reported to that burglary - - it became clear relatively
quickly that it was not a burglary. There were some items
missing including a camera, a computer, and some other
electronic items. However, there was no sign of a forced
entry. As this became clear, Ms. Wright pulled Detective
Harris aside and told him that she had something that she
needed to tell him.
She then proceeded to disclose to Detective Harris that the
defendant had been having extensive sexual contact with his
three- and five-year-old children, his three-year-old
daughter and his five-year-old son, that she had personally
observed this, that he had taken pictures of that behavior
and that he had posted that sexual activity - - that she
believed he had posted some of that, those pictures, online
on a Russian child pornography website.
Some of the items that were missing were the camera that he
used to take those pictures as well as the computer, the
laptop computer that he had used to allegedly upload those
images to the internet. Pretty much right away the
Hendersonville Police Department made arrangements to have
the children interviewed, and that was done the next day.
Both the three-year-old and the five-year-old disclosed
numerous - -due to their ages, they couldn't pinpoint how
many occasions, but it became clear from the interview, their
forensic interviews, that this behavior, the sexual activity
with their father had been going on for quite some time and
involved sexual penetration, digital penetration, oral sex
and slight penile-vaginal penetration and penile-anal
penetration. In addition, they were encouraged to engage in
sexual activity with each other, including penile-vaginal
intercourse and oral sex with each other.
Upon interviewing the defendant, the defendant did not make
any real admissions during his interview after the forensic
interviews were done. However, he was arrested at that point.
A few days later when his car was impounded or taken - -
repossessed by the company that had sold it to Mr. Cook, Ms.
Wright was called to come get her personal items out of
there, and there was an S.D. card that fit in the camera that
was found in the car. In addition, the camera that we believe
was used to take the photographs that are part of this
offense was found and had been pawned by Mr. Cook shortly
before he was arrested.
A forensic examination of that S.D. card was done and
hundreds - - well, probably about 60 to 70 sexually explicit
images were found. We have charged 50 counts because some of
them were close. They were taken over, I think, two or three
separate dates. Most of the counts in this case came from
specific incidents that we tied to the images on the card.
These images involved fondling by the children of the
defendant's genitals. It involved pictures of the
defendant engaging again in penile-vaginal or penile-anal
penetration with both of the children. It involved sexual
activity between the children, and quite frankly, Your Honor,
I don't think I will ever not - - ever be able to forget
the things that I saw in those images, and I'm sure
Detective Harris can tell you the same thing. I think that
basically sums up what the proof was.
* * *
Ms. Wright did give a detailed statement in which she laid
out the number of occasions and the dates that she saw the
defendant engage in sexual activity with his children. The
children were, as I stated, three and five at the time of the
offenses. That is the basis for the aggravated rape of a
child and rape of a child.
(ECF No. 18-1 at Page ID## 86-89.)
ISSUES PRESENTED FOR REVIEW
pro se petition, the petitioner raises the following
grounds for relief:
A. Whether the petitioner's guilty plea was knowing and
B. Whether trial counsel was ineffective
C. Whether the petitioner's Due Process rights were
violated (ECF No. 1 at Page ID ## 5-8.)
STANDARD OF REVIEW
matter is governed by the provisions of the Antiterrorism and
Effective Death Penalty Act, Pub. L. No. 104-132, 110 Stat.
1214 (“AEDPA”). See Penry v. Johnson,
532 U.S. 782, 792 (2001). AEDPA “dictates a highly
deferential standard for evaluating state-court rulings,
which demands that state-court decisions be given the benefit
of the doubt.” Bell v. Cone, 543 U.S. 447, 455
(2005) (citations omitted); see Hardy v. Cross, 132
S.Ct. 490, 491 (2011); Felkner v. Jackson, 562 U.S.
594, 597 (2011). “AEDPA requires heightened respect for
state court factual and legal determinations.”
Lundgren v. Mitchell, 440 F.3d 754, 762 (6th Cir.
2006). “State-court factual findings . . . are presumed
correct; the petitioner has the burden of rebutting the
presumption by clear and convincing evidence.”
Davis v. Ayala, 135 S.Ct. 2187, 2199-2200 (2015)
(citations and internal quotations omitted).
state court adjudicated the claim, deferential AEDPA
standards must be applied. 28 U.S.C. § 2254(d); see
Premo v. Moore, 562 U.S. 115');">562 U.S. 115, 121 (2011); Waddington
v. Sarausad, 555 U.S. 179, 190 (2009). AEDPA prevents
federal habeas “retrials” and “ensure[s]
that state-court convictions are given effect to the extent
possible under law.” Bell v. Cone, 535 U.S.
685, 693 (2002). It prohibits “using federal habeas
corpus review as a vehicle to second-guess the reasonable
decisions of state courts.” Parker v.
Matthews, 132 S.Ct. 2148, 2149 (2012).
AEDPA limits the source of law to cases decided by the United
States Supreme Court. 28 U.S.C. § 2254(d). This Court
may consider only the “clearly established”
holdings, and not the dicta, of the Supreme Court.
Williams v. Taylor, 529 U.S. 362, 412 (2000);
Bailey v. Mitchell, 271 F.3d 652, 655 (6th Cir.
2001). In determining whether federal law is clearly
established, this court may not rely on the decisions of
lower federal courts. Lopez v, Smith, 135 S.Ct.1, 4
(2014); Harris v. Stovall, 212 F.3d 940, 943-44 (6th
Cir. 2000). Moreover, “clearly established Federal
law” does not include decisions of the Supreme Court
announced after the last adjudication of the merits in state
court. Greene v. Fisher, 132 S.Ct. 38, 44 (2011).
Thus, the inquiry is limited to an examination of the legal
landscape as it would have appeared to the Tennessee state
courts in light of Supreme Court precedent at the time of the
state-court adjudication on the merits. Miller v.
Stovall, 742 F.3d 642, 644-45 (6th Cir. 2014) (citing
Greene, 132 S.Ct. at 44).
AEDPA standard is difficult to meet “because it was
meant to be.” Harrington v. Richter, 562 U.S.
86, 102 (2011); see Burt v. Titlow, 134 S.Ct. 10, 16
(2013); Metrish v. Lancaster, 133 S.Ct. 1781, 1786
(2013); Cullen v. Pinholster, 563 U.S. 170, 181
(2011). Indeed. “habeas corpus is a guard against
extreme malfunctions in the state criminal justice systems,
not a substitute for ordinary error corrections through