United States District Court, E.D. Tennessee, Winchester
W. PHILLIPS SENIOR UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
following factual scenario has been drawn from the facts
contained in the TCCA's opinion on Petitioner's
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
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
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.
STANDARD OF REVIEW
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. §
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.
§ 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).
INEFFECTIVE ASSISTANCE OF COUNSEL
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.
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