United States District Court, E.D. Tennessee, Knoxville
JIMMIE R. ROBINSON, Petitioner,
SHAWN PHILLIPS, Respondent.
a pro se prisoner's petition for a writ of habeas corpus
pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2254 [Doc. 1]. Petitioner also
filed a memorandum in support of his § 2254 petition
[Doc. 2]. Respondent filed a response in opposition thereto,
as well as a copy of the state record [Docs. 14 and 16].
Petitioner filed a reply [Doc. 19]. Petitioner has also filed
a motion to ascertain status of the case [Doc. 24] that will
be GRANTED to the extent that this
memorandum opinion and an order will enter. For the reasons
set forth below, however, the Court determines that no
evidentiary hearing is warranted in this case,
Petitioner's § 2254 petition [Doc. 1] will be
DENIED, and this action will be
23, 2011, Petitioner entered a plea of guilty to a charge of
second-degree murder [State Court Record, Exhibits 1 and 2 to
Post-Conviction Hearing]. Petitioner did not appeal the
resulting conviction, but did file a petition for
post-conviction relief raising claims of ineffective
assistance of counsel based on counsel's (1) failure to
move for a change of venue, recusal of Sevier County judges,
and disqualification of prosecutors; (2) failure to fully
investigate the case;
failure to inform Petitioner of the defense of necessity; (4)
failure to inform Petitioner of a police/prosecution
fabrication defense [State Court Record p. 48-75]; and (5)
failure to inform Petitioner of all of the essential elements
of the relevant offenses prior to his guilty plea [State
Court Record, Amendment to Petition for Post-Conviction
Relief]. Petitioner also raised claims based on allegations
of suppression of exculpatory evidence and an allegation that
his guilty plea was not knowing and voluntary due to the
alleged ineffective assistance of counsel and/or judicial and
prosecutorial misconduct [Id. at 75-88]. The state
post-conviction court denied relief [State Court Record p.
appealed this denial to the Tennessee Court of Criminal
Appeals (“TCCA”), raising claims for ineffective
assistance of counsel based on allegations that counsel (1)
raised a dishonest defense; (2) failed to prepare for trial;
and (3) coerced Petitioner into a guilty plea [Id.,
Brief of Appellant p. 4]. Petitioner also raised a claim that
the post-conviction court erred by finding that
Petitioner's guilty plea was made intelligent and
voluntarily [Id.]. The TCCA affirmed the
post-conviction court's denial of relief. Robinson v.
State, No. E2013-01163-CCA-R3-PC, 2014 WL 1285502, at
*7-9 (Tenn. Crim. App. March 31, 2015), perm. app.
denied (Tenn. Aug. 26, 2014).
following factual background is taken from the TCCA's
opinion on Petitioner's appeal of the denial of his
petition for post-conviction relief:
The Petitioner pleaded guilty on June 23, 2011, to
second[-]degree murder as a lesser included offense to the
charged offense of first
degree premeditated murder. At the plea hearing, the State
set forth the factual basis for the plea as follows:
[T]he facts in this case the State would expect to prove are
the following, first through Leah Brackins, the mother of the
victim, James Jason Hicks.
He was born in 1979 and grew up and in 2003 met Wendy
Robinson, the [Petitioner's] daughter.
Thereafter, he and Wendy had . . . three children. Ethan,
born August 24, 2005, Samuel and Jake are twins born April 9,
Subsequently, there was an order of protection filed by Ms.
Robinson against the victim. Subsequently he filed a divorce.
That case was pending and was a hotly contested divorce and
custody dispute. That case was proceeding in both this court
and the juvenile court until April 8 and 9 of 2009 when Judge
Strand ordered that the victim, who had been separated from
his children would be given the right to start . . .
Thereafter, on April 19, according to the testimony of Ms.
Brackins-well, actually on the 20th, she had went [sic] to
her son's house and found him killed in his carport and
Thereafter, Detectives Brown and Bush, along with Lieutenant
Hinson of the Sevierville Police Department conducted an
investigation. During the course of their investigation the
body was autopsied. Dr. Steven Cogswell, who was the medical
examiner at UT Hospital would testify that the victim died
from three gunshot wounds to the head, two on the right side
and one on the back left.
The detectives investigated. They were able to locate several
witnesses, including Marlene Forrester, and she would testify
that the [Petitioner] made statements that he intended to
ensure that the children would never see their father again.
Allen Adams and Don McFalls would further testify that [the
Petitioner] made statements along those lines. Mr. McFalls
discovered a gun on the morning of April 20th in his car and
it was arranged that that would be destroyed by him and that
was in fact done and that would be his immunized testimony in
The detectives located projectiles, or a projectile. That was
tested and compared with the projectiles found in the victim,
and they matched.
Taking all this information, the detectives were able to
locate [the Petitioner]. [The Petitioner] made statements to
them after being Mirandized implicating himself in this
killing. As the Court is aware from a motions hearing, he
stated his reasons for doing that.
At the evidentiary hearing on the Petitioner's claim for
post-conviction relief, the Petitioner testified that he
retained trial counsel to assist him in defending against the
first[-]degree murder charge that the State brought against
him. He retained trial counsel no more than two months prior
to the scheduled trial date. He thought they met
approximately five times. After the first several meetings,
trial counsel claimed to have developed “a strategy
that was not going to fail.” The Petitioner testified
that trial counsel wanted to conduct the case in a manner so
as to allow the jury to conclude that the Petitioner's
daughter had shot and killed the victim. The Petitioner
refused to cooperate with this strategy “because it was
not true.” The Petitioner also was dissatisfied with
trial counsel's attitude about the abuse that the
Petitioner claimed that the victim had inflicted on the
The Petitioner testified that, about six days before trial,
there was a hearing that impacted negatively the
Petitioner's defense of necessity. After the hearing,
trial counsel told the Petitioner that he would have to take
a plea bargain or he would “never get out of
prison.” Subsequently, they went to court, and the
Petitioner signed the plea agreement at the podium. The
Petitioner did not recall reviewing the agreement with trial
counsel prior to signing it. The Petitioner did not recall
trial counsel's explaining second[-]degree murder to him.
He testified that trial counsel “always told me it [the
facts of the case as related by the Petitioner] rose at best
to manslaughter, two to six years.” However, trial
counsel did not explain the elements of manslaughter to the
The Petitioner recalled telling trial counsel that, right
before the Petitioner killed the victim, the Petitioner's
grandson asked him “if he would have to put [the
victim's] pee-pee in his mouth again.” According to
the Petitioner, trial counsel's response to this reported
conversation was, “that's too F-ing pat.” On
cross-examination, the Petitioner acknowledged that he was
not indicted and arrested for the killing of the victim until
almost one year after he killed the victim. In the meantime,
he had told the police that “there might be some bikers
that had it out for” the victim. Ultimately, however,
he confessed to the killing.
The Petitioner stated that he was sixty-seven years old at
the time he entered his plea. He knew at the time he went to
court on the day of the plea that he was going to plead
guilty to second[-]degree murder and that he was going to be
sentenced to seventeen and one-half years. He knew that he
would be going to prison that day. He did not remember any
specifics from the plea hearing because he was “in a
fog.” Crystal Piarrot testified that, during the
State's prosecution of the Petitioner, she had been
employed with the Department of Children's Services
(“DCS”) as a child protective services
investigator. She investigated a matter involving a child
that was relevant to the Petitioner's prosecution. Trial
counsel did not interview her.
On cross-examination, Piarrot stated that the victim was
never charged with a crime.
On re-direct examination, she stated that a detective had
been assigned to the case to determine if the victim ...