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Simmons v. Lindamood

United States District Court, E.D. Tennessee, Winchester

September 22, 2017

SHAWN SIMMONS, Petitioner,



         In 2009, Shawn Simmons (“Petitioner”) was convicted of first degree murder by a Lincoln County Circuit Court jury, receiving a sentence of life imprisonment for the offense [Doc. 1]. Petitioner now brings this pro se petition for a writ of habeas corpus under 28 U.S.C. § 2254, challenging the legality of his confinement under that judgment [Id.]. Warden Cherry Lindamood (“Respondent”) has filed a response to the petition [Doc. 9], arguing that relief is not warranted with respect to Petitioner's claims and, in support of those arguments, she has filed copies of the state court record [Doc. 10]. Petitioner has failed to reply to Respondent's answer, and the time for doing so has passed. See E.D. Tenn. L.R. 7.1(a), 7.2.

         For the reasons set forth below, 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 DISMISSED.


         On March 25, 2009, a Lincoln County jury convicted Petitioner of first degree murder. State v. Simmons, No. M2009-01362-CCA-R3CD, 2010 WL 3719167, at *2 (Tenn. Crim. App. Sept. 23, 2010), perm. App. Denied (Tenn. Feb. 17, 2011). The trial court later sentenced him to life in prison. Id. On September 23, 2010, the Tennessee Court of Criminal Appeal (“TCCA”) affirmed the convictions and sentence and, in an order filed February 17, 2011, the Tennessee Supreme Court denied his application for permission to appeal.

         On September 22, 2011, Petitioner filed a petition for state post-conviction relief. Simmons v. State, No. M2012-00987-CCA-R3PC, 2013 WL 1225857, at *1 (Tenn. Crim. App. Mar. 27, 2013). Following the appointment of counsel, an amended petition was filed. Id. A hearing on the matter was held and the post-conviction court denied relief. Id. On March 27, 2013, the TCCA affirmed the post-conviction court's ruling, and on September 19, 2013, the Tennessee Supreme Court denied Petitioner's application for permission to appeal. Id.

         There followed this timely § 2254 habeas corpus application in which Petitioner alleges three claims: (1) ineffective trial counsel, (2) insufficiency of the convicting evidence, and (3) improper jury instruction [Doc. 1]. Respondent argues in her answer that the claims alleged were adjudicated by the state court and resulted in a decision which must remain undisturbed under the deferential review standards set forth in 28 U.S.C. § 2254 [Doc. 9]. The state court decision should stand, the Warden argues, because that decision is not contrary to or an unreasonable application of well-established Supreme Court precedent or an unreasonable determination of the facts presented to the state court [Doc. 9].


         The following factual scenario has been drawn from the facts contained in the TCCA's opinion on Petitioner's direct appeal.

On February 3, 2008, a group of friends and relatives planned to gather at the home of Keith and Jana Buchanan in Fayetteville, Tennessee to watch the Super Bowl game. Rodney Howard, Mr. Buchanan's half-brother, Richard Askins, James Battle, Shevonta Love, and Stephen Whitaker all planned to watch the game at the Buchanan residence. Early in the afternoon, the partygoers were sitting in the house when [petitioner] and Angie Hill walked into the house. Ms. Hill is the sister of Mr. Buchanan and Mr. Howard. Petitioner walked across the living room and asked Mr. Whitaker to see him outside. Mr. Whitaker followed [petitioner] out of the house. Mr. Whitaker came back shortly thereafter, and [petitioner] left.
Mr. Buchanan was agitated that [petitioner] would walk into their house without acknowledging either him or his wife. Soon thereafter, [petitioner] walked back into the house, telling Mr. Buchanan that he had “disrespected” his family for the last time. [Petitioner] added that Mr. Buchanan was no longer welcome in his home. [Petitioner] told Mr. Buchanan, “I got you” before he left the residence.
At that point, most of the people at the party left to go home and take showers prior to the Super Bowl game. After the game started, Mrs. Buchanan informed Mr. Buchanan that his sister called to tell them that [petitioner] was beating her.
The two brothers left the house, along with the three other men, in Mr. Howard's red Cadillac with twenty-two inch rims. The men left unarmed. On the way to Ms. Hill's house, they spotted Ms. Hill and her truck on the side of Hedgemont Avenue. [Petitioner] was standing next to Ms. Hill's truck, talking to her.
When they got close to the scene, Mr. Howard threw the car in park and got out. Mr. Howard threw his hands up in the air, demanding to know what was going on. They all wanted to know what was going on with [petitioner] and Ms. Hill. Mr. Buchanan also exited the vehicle and went around towards [petitioner]. At that time, a shot was fired that hit Mr. Buchanan. Ms. Hill exclaimed, “I can't believe you shot my brother, Shawn!” Mr. Buchanan was placed back in the car and driven to the hospital where he later died from a gunshot wound to the upper torso.
A witness living nearby called 911 and reported the incident. Police were dispatched to the area and witnessed [petitioner] walking down Wilson Parkway, about 250 yards from the crime scene. [Petitioner] began to walk faster when he saw the police and was seen lobbing an object onto the top of a building. [Petitioner] was wearing a glove on his left hand and holding a glove in his right hand.
[Petitioner] was subsequently arrested. When the area around the building was searched, officers located a .38 caliber revolver, one spent casing, and one unspent casing.
During the investigation, police located an empty gun holster at the home of Ms. Hill and a fanny pack that held shells similar to those used in the shooting. Ms. Hill had not given [petitioner] permission to use her weapon. Forensic tests determined that the gun found near the scene fired the shot that killed Mr. Buchanan. Additionally, [petitioner]'s shirt indicated the presence of gunshot primer residue.

Simmons, 2010 WL 3719167, at *1-2.


         Under the Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act (“AEDPA”), codified in 28 U.S.C. § 2254, 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; or (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 hard 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)). The Supreme Court pointedly has observed, “AEDPA prevents defendants - and federal courts - from using federal habeas corpus review as a vehicle to second-guess the reasonable decisions of state courts.” Renico v. Lett, 559 U.S. 766, 781 (2010). Further, factual findings sustained by the record are entitled to a presumption of correctness and may be rebutted only by clear and convincing evidence. 28 U.S.C. § 2254(e)(1).


         Petitioner contends that he received ineffective assistance of counsel from his trial attorney. Within his claim of ineffective assistance of counsel, Petitioner raises the following five subcategories: (1) failure to call a witness; (2) replacement of counsel; (3) failure to sequester jury; (4) failure to object; (5) failure to file a motion to suppress.

         The TCCA, applying Strickland, concluded that Petitioner had not met his burden of proving deficient performance or prejudice. See Strickland v. Washington, 466 U.S. 668, 687 (1984). Thus, the task before the Court is to determine whether the state court's application of Strickland to the facts of Petitioner's case was unreasonable.

         A. ...

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