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Fuller v. Ford

United States District Court, W.D. Tennessee, Eastern Division

September 11, 2017

TROY FULLER, Petitioner,
TAMMY FORD, Respondent.



         Troy Fuller, a Tennessee state prisoner, has filed a petition under 28 U.S.C. § 2254 seeking habeas corpus relief (“Petition”). (Pet., ECF No. 1.) For the reasons that follow, the Petition is DENIED.


         The following background summary is drawn from the state court record (St. Rec., ECF No. 8) and the state appellate court's recitation of the evidence presented at Fuller's trial. See Fuller v. State, No. W2010-02582-CCA-R3-PC, 2012 WL 2115563, at *1 (Tenn. Crim. App. June 12, 2012), perm. appeal denied (Tenn. Sept. 27, 2012).

         I. Petitioner's Trial and Delayed Direct Appeal

         In 2007, Fuller was indicted by a Madison County, Tennessee, grand jury of aggravated rape, aggravated robbery, and violation of an order of protection, in connection with an incident involving his ex-girlfriend. See Id. at *2. At Fuller's trial in 2008, the victim testified that on March 2, 2007, she heard someone “creeping” in her house. Id. at *1. She walked into her living room to find the defendant, whom she had previously dated and against whom she had an order of protection. She asked Fuller why he was there and demanded that he leave. Fuller refused. The two struggled, and as the victim was trying to escape, the defendant trapped her into a corner with a table. Fuller then pulled out a knife and held it to the victim's neck and dragged her to her bedroom. While there, the defendant demanded that the victim take off the boxer shorts she was wearing. Afraid that he was going to hurt her, she complied. Fuller then forced her onto the bed, got on top of her, and while holding her down and pressing his arm against her throat, he penetrated her. After the defendant left, the victim picked up her daughter at school, and then called the police. She was taken to the hospital and a rape kit was collected. Id. at *1-2.

         An officer from the Jackson Police Department, who had responded to the victim's call, testified that the condition of the victim's home was in disarray when he arrived and looked like a struggle had taken place. The back door appeared to have been forced open. A special agent with the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation testified that sperm from the rape kit matched the defendant's DNA profile. Id. at *2. Fuller took the stand and testified that, although he and the victim had been arguing in her living room on March 2, 2007, she had consensual sex with him in her bedroom. He also testified that he had believed that the order of protection had been dismissed. Id. at *3.

         The jury convicted Petitioner of rape, aggravated criminal trespass, and violation of an order of protection. Id. The court held a sentencing hearing on October 14, 2008, at which Petitioner presented no evidence. Id.; see also State v. Fuller, No. W2013-01244-CCA-R3-PC, 2014 WL 1101869, at * 1 (Tenn. Crim. App. Mar. 19, 2014). He was sentenced as a Range I, standard offender, receiving an effective sentence of twelve years' incarceration. Fuller, 2014 WL 1101869, at * 1. Petitioner, through counsel, failed to properly file a notice of appeal. Fuller, 2012 WL 2115563, at *3. Proceeding pro se, Fuller successfully secured permission to file a delayed appeal and to represent himself before the TCCA. Id. The TCCA affirmed the convictions, and the Tennessee Supreme Court denied permission to appeal. Id. at *1.

         II. Post-conviction Proceeding

         On December 3, 2012, the defendant filed a pro se petition for post-conviction relief. (PC Pet., ECF No. 8-8 at 4-45.) After appointing counsel, the post-conviction court conducted an evidentiary hearing, at which Petitioner and his trial attorney testified. Fuller, 2014 WL 1101869, at *1-3. Upon consideration of the evidence, the court denied the petition. (Order Den. Pet., ECF No. 8-8 at 64-65.) Represented by counsel, Petitioner appealed the denial of his post-conviction petition. (P-C Appellant Br., ECF No. 8-16.) The TCCA rejected his arguments and affirmed the lower court's decision. See Fuller, 2014 WL 1101869, at *6.

         III. Federal Habeas Petition

         On September 24, 2014, Fuller filed his pro se § 2254 Petition, in which he asserts three claims and several sub-claims:

         Claim 1: Trial counsel was ineffective at sentencing by:

A. Not reviewing the presentence report (“PSR”) with the defendant until the morning of the sentencing hearing and not asking for a continuance to allow more time to review the PSR;
B. Not objecting to the admission of the PSR at the sentencing hearing, despite mistakes in the PSR;
C. Making a “deal” with the prosecution for the defendant to receive the maximum years of incarceration within Range I without telling the defendant; and
D. Failing to investigate mitigating factors for sentencing.

(Pet., ECF No. 1 at 5, Pet. Ex. 1, ECF No. 1-1.)

Claim 2: Trial counsel was ineffective by failing to file a notice of appeal from the judgment of conviction and sentence (Pet., ECF No. 1 at 7; Pet. Ex. 2, ECF No. 1-4.)
Claim 3: Petitioner was “[d]eni[ed] . . . effective appellate court review” when the “Court of Criminal Appeals did wrongfully” determine that Fuller had waived a challenge to his sentence. ...

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