United States District Court, E.D. Tennessee, Winchester
S. MATTICE, JR., UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
a petition for a writ of habeas corpus pursuant to 28 U.S.C.
§ 2254, filed by pro se prisoner Brooke Lee
Whitaker (“Petitioner”), challenging the
constitutionality of her confinement under a state court
judgment of conviction of rape [Doc. 1]. Respondent filed a
response in opposition, as well as a copy of the state record
[Docs. 18 and 20]. For the reasons set forth below,
Petitioner's § 2254 petition [Doc. 1] will be
DENIED and this action will be
was indicted for aggravated rape of a fellow inmate in the
Bedford County Jail. See State v. Brooke Lee
Whitaker, No. M2009-02449-CCA-R3-CD, 2011 WL 2176511, at
*1 (Tenn. Crim. App. May 31, 2011), perm. app.
denied (Tenn. Sept. 21, 2011). Following negotiations
with the State, Petitioner pleaded guilty to one count of
rape, and the trial court sentenced her to serve twelve years
in confinement. Id. The judgment reflects that
Petitioner was also sentenced to community supervision for
life. Id. On direct appeal, the Tennessee Court of
Criminal Appeals (“TCCA”) affirmed the judgment
of the trial court and the Tennessee Supreme Court
(“TSC”) denied permission to appeal. Id.
Petitioner filed for post-conviction relief, arguing that she
received ineffective assistance of counsel, that her guilty
plea was unknowing and involuntary, and that her trial
counsel had a conflict of interest. See Brooke Lee
Whitaker v. State, No. M2013-00919-CCA-R3-PC, 2014 WL
2553441, at *1 (Tenn. Crim. App. June 4, 2014), perm.
app. denied (Tenn. Sept. 22, 2014). The TCCA affirmed
the post-conviction court's denial of relief and on
September 22, 2014, the TSC denied permission to appeal.
Id. at *12.
then filed a motion under Tennessee Rule of Criminal
Procedure 36.1 for the correction of an illegal sentence,
arguing, “her sentence is illegal because the trial
court failed to advise her that she would be subject to
community supervision for life.” State v. Brooke
Lee Whitaker, No. M2015-01853-CCA-R3-CD, 2016 WL
4547991, at *1 (Tenn. Crim. App. Aug. 31, 2016), no perm.
app. filed. Petitioner argued that Tennessee Rule of
Criminal Procedure 11 and Ward v. State, 315 S.W.3d
461 (Tenn. 2010), rendered her sentence illegal. Id.
The trial court dismissed Petitioner's Rule 36.1 motion,
and the TCCA affirmed the dismissal, holding that
Ward did not apply retroactively and that
Petitioner's sentence was legal. Whitaker, 2016
WL 4547991, at *2.
November 18, 2016, Petitioner filed a petition for a writ of
habeas corpus. Whitaker v. Minter, No.
W201700127CCAR3HC, 2017 WL 4004163, at *1 (Tenn. Crim. App.
Sept. 8, 2017). Once again, Petitioner argued that her
sentence was illegal pursuant to Tennessee Rule of Criminal
Procedure 11 and Ward because the trial court did
not inform her that she would be subject to community
supervision for life. Id. The state habeas court
denied her petition on November 29, 2017. Id. On
January 3, 2017, Petitioner filed an unsigned notice of her
appeal. Id. Because Petitioner's notice of
appeal was untimely, her appeal was dismissed. Id.
filed the instant petition for writ of habeas corpus on
November 10, 2014 [Doc. 1]. This matter is now ripe for the
recitation of the facts by the Assistant District Attorney
General at Petitioner's guilty plea hearing provides the
In August 2008, Defendant and five other women, including the
victim, were all housed in the same cell in the Bedford
County jail. After lights were shut off and the cell was
locked on the night of August 20, Defendant and one other
inmate in the cell approached the victim. The victim was in
her own bunk bed. Defendant and the other inmate held down
the victim and began sexually assaulting her. They digitally
penetrated the victim's vagina and also performed
cunnilingus on the victim. Defendant yelled for other women
present to help hold down the victim, and two additional
inmates proceeded to assist in holding down the victim while
the sexual assault continued. The victim reported the sexual
assault the following day.
Whitaker, 2011 WL 2176511, at *1.
STANDARD OF REVIEW
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).
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.
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)).
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).
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
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.
raises six claims for relief in her § 2254 habeas corpus
petition [Doc. 2].
1. Petitioner's guilty plea was not knowingly,
voluntarily and intelligently entered into [Doc. 2 p. 2];
2. Ineffective assistance of trial counsel for failing to
properly advise Petitioner regarding material elements of the
accepted plea [Doc. 2 p. 7];
3. Ineffective assistance of trial counsel for failing to
investigate the facts of the case [Doc. 2 p. 9];
4. Ineffective assistance of post-conviction counsel [Doc. 2
5. Trial court failed to fully inform Petitioner of the
consequences of her ...