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Hines v. Holloway

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

March 27, 2018

JAMES M. HOLLOWAY, Respondent.



         This is a petition for a writ of habeas corpus pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2254, filed by pro se prisoner Jason Osmond Hines (“Petitioner”), challenging the constitutionality of his confinement under a state court judgment of two counts of second-degree murder and one count of aggravated assault [Doc. 1]. Respondent filed a response in opposition, as well as a copy of the state record [Docs. 14 and 15]. Petitioner filed a reply to Respondent's response followed by an amended reply updating changes in case law used in his earlier filing [Docs. 17 and 27]. For the reasons set forth below, Petitioner's § 2254 petition [Doc. 1] will be DENIED, all pending nondispositive motions will be DENIED AS MOOT, and this action will be DISMISSED.


         On December 14, 2014, Petitioner was convicted following a jury trial of two counts of second-degree murder and one count of aggravated assault. State v. Hines, No. E2010-01021-CCA-R3CD, 2011 WL 5966910, at *1 (Tenn. Crim. App. Nov. 30, 2011), app. denied (Tenn. April 11, 2012). At a separate sentencing hearing, the trial court merged one conviction of second degree murder and the aggravated assault conviction into the remaining second degree murder conviction and sentenced Petitioner to twenty-two years imprisonment. Id. Petitioner appealed this conviction, raising the following arguments: (1) the evidence was insufficient to support his conviction for second degree murder; (2) the trial court erred in excluding a drawing from evidence; (3) the trial court erred in denying Petitioner's request for a mistrial; (4) the State committed prosecutorial misconduct by suborning perjury of one of its witnesses; (5) the State committed prosecutorial misconduct by making inappropriate comments during closing argument; (6) the cumulative effects of errors at trial precluded a fair trial; and (7) the trial court erred in sentencing Petitioner. Id. Discerning no reversible error, on November 30, 2011, the Tennessee Court of Criminal Appeals (“TCCA”) affirmed the trial court's judgment. Id. at *12. Petitioner sought permission to appeal to the Tennessee Supreme Court (“TSC”), but his request was denied on April 11, 2012. Id. at *1.

         On August 12, 2012, Petitioner filed a timely pro se petition for post-conviction relief. Hines v. State, No. E2013-01870-CCA-R3PC, 2014 WL 1576972, at *1 (Tenn. Crim. App. Apr. 21, 2014), app. denied (Tenn. Sept. 18, 2014). He was subsequently appointed counsel, and an amended petition was filed on November 9, 2012, alleging ineffective assistance of counsel based on counsel's failure to properly impeach the State's witness and adequately present a theory of self-defense. Id. Following an evidentiary hearing on the matter, the post-conviction court denied the petition. Id. On April 21, 2014, the TCCA affirmed the post-conviction court's denial of relief and on September 18, 2014, the TSC denied review. Id.

         Petitioner then filed the instant petition for writ of habeas corpus on December 14, 2014 [Doc. 1]. This matter is now ripe for the Court's review.


         The following factual background is taken from the TCCA's opinion on appeal:

On the evening of September 9, 2007, Mr. Lovell Lightner was at his mother's house at 3308 3rd Avenue, Chattanooga. He saw Appellant ride up the street on a bicycle. Because Mr. Lightner knew Appellant he began talking to him. According to Mr. Lightner, Appellant told him that Appellant had come to the area to rob a white person. Appellant lifted up his shirt and showed Mr. Lightner, “something like a big old automatic, like a .44, 9mm, or .45.”
Mr. Lightner saw Keosha Byrd and Terrell Harris, the victim, drive down the street. Mr. Harris stopped the car and spoke with Appellant. The victim asked Appellant whether he had the forty dollars that he owed him. Appellant responded that he had the money. The victim drove up the street and turned around. He parked in front of Ms. Byrd's uncle's house. Appellant parked his bicycle in Mr. Lightner's mother's driveway and got into the back seat of the victim's car.
Mr. Lightner began to walk towards his mother's house. He heard a gunshot and turned around. He saw Ms. Byrd jump out of the car and run up to the door of 3303 3rd Avenue. He could see the victim and Appellant struggling inside the car. He heard a second shot. He saw Appellant jump out of the car and run away.
Mr. Lightner ran to his mother's house yelling for her to call 911. At the same time, Ms. Byrd ran to 3303 3rd Avenue beating the door to get into the house. He saw the victim get out of the car and stagger around walking like a “zombie.” He saw the victim go to Ms. Watkins's house, at 330 3rd Avenue, and knock on the door. When he was not let into the house, the victim went back to the sidewalk and sat down and did not get up again.
Marquita Watkins lives at 3303 3rd Avenue. She stated at trial that she saw Appellant and Mr. Lightner talking. She was on her porch and heard Appellant tell Mr. Lightner that he was in the area to rob someone. Shortly thereafter, she saw Ms. Byrd and the victim drive up in their car. She saw Appellant speaking to the victim while the victim was in the car. She saw the victim drive up the street, turn around, and come back and park on her side of the street. Ms. Watkins saw Appellant get into the back seat of the victim's car. She saw a “flash of light inside the car” and heard a gunshot. Ms. Watkins saw Ms. Byrd get out of the car and run up to her house. She let Ms. Byrd into the house, and they called 911.
She looked back out the window and saw Appellant still in the car bending over to the front seat of the car by the victim. Ms. Watkins saw Appellant jump out of the car, carrying something in his hand, and run away from the scene. After Appellant ran away, the victim got out of the car and came up to Ms. Watkins's porch. She did not let him into the house. The victim walked back to his car and sat down. However, the victim could not talk because when he tried “a big bubble of blood would come out of his mouth and bust all over his face.”
Ms. Byrd stated that the victim had been her boyfriend. On the date in question, Ms. Byrd and the victim were driving on 3rd Avenue when they saw Appellant. According to Ms. Byrd, Appellant flagged them down and told the victim he wanted to buy some crack cocaine. The victim told him that they would be “back around” because they had to drop a friend off at a house up the street.
Ms. Byrd testified that the victim had been selling cocaine that day and that he had over $1, 000 in his possession. They returned to Appellant and parked in front of Ms. Watkins's house. Appellant got in the backseat behind the victim. The victim said something that made Ms. Byrd turn around and look at him. When she did that, she saw Appellant pulling a gun from his waistband. Appellant was pointing the gun toward the victim's face or neck. When Ms. Byrd saw the victim trying to get out of the car, she got out and ran to Ms. Watkins's house.
Ms. Byrd saw the victim get out of the car. She said he came to her friend's house. When he returned to the car, he fell on the ground. Ms. Watkins and her boyfriend went to check on the victim by the car. Ms. Byrd said she did not see anyone take anything from the car. She also denied that the victim had a gun the night of the incident. Ms. Byrd gave a statement to officers when they arrived, and she identified Appellant in a photographic lineup immediately when she was shown the photographs.
Officer Peter Miller was a patrol officer with the Chattanooga Police Department. He responded to a shooting call at the 3300 block of 3rd Avenue. When he arrived, he found the victim lying on the ground. The victim had a single gunshot wound. He was still alive but unable to speak.
Lieutenant Edwin McPherson worked for the Chattanooga Police Department. He headed up the search for Appellant. On September 11, 2007, Lieutenant McPherson received information as to where Appellant was hiding. The officers went to the location, found Appellant, and arrested him.
Investigator Greg Mardis, with the Chattanooga Police Department, collected evidence at the scene of the crime. He found $300 worth of cocaine between the console and seat of the car. He could not find the weapon and found no shell casings in the car. He testified that this could have been because a revolver was used rather than an automatic weapon.
Scientists with the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation (“TBI”) also testified at the trial. Don Carmen testified that the bullet he received for testing was a bullet from a .44 special Smith and Wesson. It was a revolver bullet. Laura Hodge testified that the gunshot residue kit collected from the victim indicated no gunshot residue. She stated that this result did not eliminate the possibility that the victim had gun.
An autopsy was performed on the victim. James K. Metcalfe was the forensic pathologist with the Hamilton County medical examiner's office who performed the autopsy. He determined that a gunshot wound to the neck was the cause of death. Dr. Metcalfe testified that the bullet entered the victim's neck near his right ear, exited on the left side of his neck, and came to rest in his shoulder. There were also markings that suggested close-range contact.
Appellant also testified at the trial. He stated that he arrived on 3rd Avenue and found Mr. Lightner. He spoke with Mr. Lightner about buying some crack cocaine. He saw the victim, whom he knew from serving time in jail together. The victim said that he would sell him some cocaine but needed to take a friend home who was in the backseat of the car. When the victim returned, Appellant tried to give the victim $40, but the victim told Appellant he needed to get into the car.
Appellant got into the backseat of the car. He placed his $40 on the console. According to Appellant, the victim grabbed the money and started arguing with him about Appellant's owing him money from a prior drug deal. Appellant told the victim he needed to give him his money back or give him some cocaine. According to Appellant, the victim pointed a gun at him and demanded the rest of the money Appellant owed him. Appellant testified that they began to argue and struggle with each other to gain control of the gun. Appellant thinks that during the struggle his finger hit the trigger and caused the victim to accidentally shoot himself. He stated that he got scared when the victim was shot and ran away. Lieutenant McPherson arrested Appellant at his friend's house.
The Hamilton County Grand Jury indicted Appellant for one count of first-degree murder, one count of first degree felony murder, and one count of attempted especially aggravated robbery. At the conclusion of a jury trial held May 5-7, 2009, the jury convicted Appellant of two counts of second-degree murder as lesser included offenses of the first degree murder charges and of aggravated assault as a lesser included offense of attempted especially aggravated robbery.
On June 8, 2009, the trial court held a separate sentencing hearing. The trial court sentenced Appellant to twenty-two years as a Range I, violent offender for each of the second degree murder convictions and five years for the aggravated assault conviction. The trial court then merged one of the second-degree murder counts and the aggravated assault into the remaining second-degree murder conviction. The result was one twenty-two year sentence.

Hines, 2011 WL 5966910, at *1-3.


         The Court must review Petitioner's request for habeas corpus relief pursuant to the standards set forth in the Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act of 1996 (“AEDPA”), which allows state prisoners to seek federal habeas corpus relief on the ground that they are being held in custody in violation of the Constitution, laws, or treaties of the United States. 28 U.S.C. § 2254; Reed v. Farley, 512 U.S. 339, 347 (1994). Congress has mandated that federal courts review state court adjudications on the merits of such claims using a “highly deferential” standard of review. See, e.g., Harrington v. Richter, 562 U.S. 86, 105 (2011). Under this deferential standard, this Court is bound to accept the state court's findings of fact as true unless a petitioner presents “clear and convincing evidence” to the contrary. 28 U.S.C. § 2254(e)(1)(providing that “a determination of a factual issue by a State court shall be presumed to be correct” unless the petitioner rebuts that presumption with clear and convincing evidence); see Seymour v. Walker, 224 F.3d 542, 551-52 (6th Cir. 2000). Additionally, this Court may not grant habeas relief to a state prisoner unless the state court's decision on the merits of his claims “(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).

         “Clearly established federal law, ” for the purposes of § 2254(d)(1), refers to rulings of the United States Supreme Court in place at the time of “the last state-court adjudication on the merits.” Greene v. Fisher, 132 S.Ct. 38, 44 (2011); Lockyer v. Andrade, 538 U.S. 63, 71-72 (2003) (defining clearly established federal law as “the governing legal principle or principles set forth by the Supreme Court at the time the state court renders its decision”). A decision is “contrary to” clearly established federal law if “the state court arrives at a conclusion opposite to that reached by [the Supreme Court] on a question of law or if the state court decides a case differently than [the Supreme Court] on a set of materially indistinguishable facts.” Williams v. Taylor, 529 U.S. 362, 413 (2000). A state-court decision unreasonably applies clearly established federal law if “the state court identifies the correct governing legal principle from [the Supreme Court's] decisions but unreasonably applies that principle to the facts of the prisoner's case.” Id.

         The standards set forth in the AEDPA's are “intentionally difficult to meet.” Woods v. Donald, 135 S.Ct. 1372, 1376 (2015) (quoting White v. Woodall, 134 S.Ct. 1697, 1702 (2014)). Ultimately, the AEDPA's highly deferential standard requires this Court to give the rulings of the state courts “the benefit of the doubt.” Cullen v. Pinholster, 563 U.S. 170, 181 (2011) (quoting Woodford v. Visciotti, 537 U.S. 19, 24 (2002)).

         However, before a federal court may review a federal claim raised in a habeas petition, it must first determine whether the petitioner has exhausted the remedies available to him in state court. See 28 U.S.C. § 2254(b)(1). If a federal habeas claim has not been presented to a state court for adjudication, then it is unexhausted and may not properly serve as the basis of a federal habeas petition. See Wainwright v. Sykes, 433 U.S. 72, 87 (1977).

         The exhaustion “requirement is satisfied when the highest court in the state in which the petitioner was convicted has been given a full and fair opportunity to rule on the petitioner's claims.” Wilson v. Mitchell, 498 F.3d 491, 498-99 (6th Cir. 2007) (quoting Lott v. Coyle, 261 F.3d 594, 608 (6th Cir. 2001)). Under Tennessee Supreme Court Rule 39, a Tennessee prisoner exhausts a claim by raising it before the TCCA. See Adams v. Holland, 330 F.3d 398, 402 (6th Cir. 2003). A federal court will not review claims that were not entertained by the state court due to the petitioner's failure to (1) raise those claims in the state courts while state remedies were available, or (2) comply with a state procedural rule that prevented the state courts from reaching the merits of the claims. Lundgren v. Mitchell, 440 F.3d 754, 763 (6th Cir. 2006).

         A petitioner who fails to raise his federal claim in the state courts and who is now barred by a state procedural rule from returning with the claim to those courts has committed a procedural default. See Coleman v. Thompson, 501 U.S. 722, 732 (1991). A procedural default forecloses federal habeas review, unless the petitioner can show cause to excuse the failure to comply with the state procedural rule and actual prejudice resulting from the alleged constitutional violation. Id. at 750.

         IV. ...

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