United States District Court, E.D. Tennessee
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER
A. VARLAN CHIEF UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.
case is before the Court upon an amended petition for habeas
corpus under 28 U.S.C. § 2254 brought by James Dellinger
(“Petitioner”). Presently pending is
Petitioner's motion for discovery [Doc. 113]. Respondent
has filed a response in opposition [Doc. 115], to which
Petitioner has replied [Doc. 121]. Because Petitioner has
failed to establish good cause for any of his discovery
requests, his motion for discovery [Doc. 113] will be
February 24, 1993, Petitioner, along with codefendant Gary
Wayne Sutton, was convicted by a Sevier County jury of
premeditated first-degree murder in the death of Connie
Branam. Petitioner was sentenced to life imprisonment. His
conviction and sentence were affirmed on direct appeal,
see State v. Dellinger, No. 03C01-9403-CR-0090, 1995
WL 406953 (Tenn. Crim. App. July 11, 1995), and the Tennessee
Supreme Court denied permission to appeal.
filed a petition for state post-conviction relief which the
trial court denied. The Tennessee Court of Criminal Appeals
affirmed the trial court's denial of that petition,
Dellinger v. State, No. E2004-010-68-CCA-R3-PC, 2006
WL 1679595 (Tenn. Crim. App. June 19, 2006), and the
Tennessee Supreme Court again denied permission to appeal.
filed a federal habeas petition on September 11, 2009.
Although the petition was untimely under 28 U.S.C. §
2244(d), Magistrate Judge C. Clifford Shirley, following an
evidentiary hearing, concluded that equitable tolling should
be applied in this case [Doc. 83], and the Court accepted in
whole his recommendation [Doc. 88]. On April 27, 2016,
Petitioner filed the pending amended habeas petition raising
a plethora of grounds for relief, including, inter
alia, multiple claims of ineffective assistance of
counsel and numerous claims alleging the concealment of
exculpatory evidence [Doc. 104].
now seeks discovery of physical evidence and law enforcement
records, as well as leave to serve a deposition subpoena
under Federal Rule of Civil of Procedure 45, for the purpose
of “investigating and establishing violations of his
constitutional rights” as alleged in his amended
petition [Doc. 113 p. 1]. In particular, he requests
ballistics evidence and tire tread impressions; records from
various law enforcement agencies involving investigations
into a 1990 assault on Mike Vaughn, a retaliatory attack
committed by Lester Ray Johnson, and any records indicating
Branam was cooperating with law enforcement; and, finally,
leave to take the deposition of Billy Griffin [Doc. 113 p.
opposes the motion. As an initial matter, Respondent contends
that discovery should not be permitted in an attempt to
develop facts related to any claims that were adjudicated on
the merits in state court because the Court's review of
such claims will be confined to the state court record
[Id. pp. 5, 6, 11]. Although Respondent has raised a
credible argument on this point, the Court need not wade into
these procedural waters at this time because, substantively,
Petitioner has failed to establish good cause for the
a normal civil case, there is no entitlement to discovery in
habeas proceedings as a matter of ordinary course. Bracy
v. Gramley, 520 U.S. 899, 908-09 (1997). Rather, a
district court has discretion to grant discovery in a habeas
case upon a fact specific showing of good cause under Rule 6
of the Rules Governing Section 2254 Cases in the United
States District Courts. Stanford v. Parker, 266 F.3d
442, 460 (6th Cir. 2001).
6(a) of the Rules Governing Section 2254 Cases provides:
“A judge may, for good cause, authorize a party to
conduct discovery under the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure
and may limit the extent of discovery.” A party
requesting discovery must provide “reasons for the
request . . . and must specify any requested
documents.” Rule 6(b), Rules Governing Section 2254
Cases in the United States District Courts.
Supreme Court has held that “good cause” under
Rule 6(a) is met “where specific allegations before the
court show reason to believe that the petitioner may, if the
facts are fully developed, be able to demonstrate that he is
. . . entitled to relief . . . .” Bracy, 520
U.S. at 908-09 (quoting Harris v. Nelson, 394 U.S.
286, 295 (1969)). The burden of demonstrating the materiality
of information requested under Rule 6(a) is on the moving
party. See Stanford, 266 F.3d at 460.
addressing whether Petitioner is entitled to discovery under
Rule 6, the Court first must identify the “essential
elements” of the claims he hopes to be able to
establish if the facts are fully developed. See
Bracy, 520 U.S. at 905 (citing United States v.
Armstrong, 517 U.S. 456, 468 (1996)). The Court then
must determine whether the facts alleged, if proven, may be
the basis for relief. Id. If so, discovery should be
granted under Rule 6(a). Conversely, discovery requests based
on allegations that would not develop facts that may entitle
a petitioner to relief, even if the facts would be found in
his favor, should not be granted. See Stanford, 266
F.3d at 460. And requests that amount to a “fishing
expedition masquerading as discovery” also should not
be granted. Id.
has requested discovery of the following physical evidence:
(1) a rifle shell casing found at the crime scene in Sevier
County, along with Petitioner's rifle; (2) tire tread
impressions and photographs of Petitioner's truck and
tires; and (3) the two .12 gauge shotgun hulls found at the
crime scene in Blount County. Petitioner avers generally that
this physical evidence is related to his constitutional
claims of ineffective assistance of ...