United States District Court, E.D. Tennessee, Greeneville
RONNIE GREER UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.
Lynn Cope (“Petitioner”), an inmate at the
Northeast Correctional Complex, brings this pro se petition
for a writ of habeas corpus under 28 U.S.C. § 2254,
challenging the legality of his confinement pursuant to a
2007 judgment issued by the Sullivan County Criminal Court
[Doc. 1]. Respondent filed a response in opposition thereto
[Doc. 8], as well as a copy of the state record [Doc. 9].
Petitioner also filed a motion seeking the status of his case
[Doc. 18]. 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, Petitioner's status motion [Doc.
18] will be DENIED as moot, and this action
will be DISMISSED.
2, 2007, after a jury trial, Petitioner was convicted of one
count of especially aggravated kidnapping, one count of
aggravated kidnaping, and one count of false imprisonment
[Doc. 9-1 at 10-12]. Then, on June 27, 2007, Petitioner was
sentenced to forty years' imprisonment for the especially
aggravated kidnapping charge, twenty years' imprisonment
for the aggravated kidnapping charge, and eleven months and
twenty-nine days imprisonment for the false imprisonment
charge [Id.]. The sentences were ordered to run
concurrently for a total effective sentence of forty
years' imprisonment [Id.]. The judgment was
affirmed on direct appeal by the Tennessee Court of Criminal
Appeals (“TCCA”), and the Tennessee Supreme Court
(“TSC”) then denied Petitioner permission to
appeal. State v. Tracy Lynn Cope, No.
E2009-00435-CCA-R3-CD, 2010 WL 2025469 (Tenn. Crim. App. May
20, 2010), perm. app. denied (Tenn. Sept. 22, 2010).
April 11, 2011, Petitioner filed his first petition for
post-conviction relief pursuant to Tennessee Code Annotated
§ 40-30-101, et seq., in the Sullivan County
Criminal Court [Doc. 9-11 at 3-13]. However, the Sullivan
County Criminal Court summarily dismissed the petition
without a hearing on May 2, 2011 [Id. at 14-17]. The
TCCA affirmed this dismissal on September 11, 2012 [Doc. 9-15
then filed a petition for a writ of error coram nobis in the
Sullivan County Criminal Court on April 15, 2013 [Doc. 9-17].
The Sullivan County Criminal Court dismissed the petition for
a writ of error coram nobis on October 1, 2013 [Doc. 9-18 p.
153-57]. The TCCA affirmed the dismissal of the petition on
August 21, 2014, and the TSC then denied Petitioner's
Rule 11 application [Doc. 9-22]; see Tracy L. Cope v.
State, No. E2013-02590-CCA-R3-ECN, 2014 WL 4161480, at
*8 (Tenn. Crim. App. Aug. 21, 2014), perm. app.
denied (Tenn. Jan. 15, 2015).
April 17, 2015, Petitioner filed the instant petition for a
writ of habeas corpus in this Court [Doc. 1]. Respondent
thereafter filed a response to the petition, arguing that
Petitioner's claims were all procedurally defaulted or
without merit [Doc. 8]. This matter is now ripe for the
following factual background is taken from the TCCA's
opinion on Petitioner's direct appeal of his conviction:
The defendant in this case was convicted of kidnapping Amanda
Wilson and Debbie Callahan. The victim, who was the
defendant's girlfriend, arrived home to find him engaged
in sexual relations with a third woman, Jakia Ford. The
victim told the defendant to gather his things and leave. She
recalled that the defendant became angry and started to
scream and yell. She testified that he had been smoking
cocaine and had not slept in three days. He repeatedly said
that there was someone in the apartment and that the women
were trying to kill him. She said he picked up the box
springs and opened the closet doors. She said that both women
attempted to leave the apartment, but the defendant would not
allow them to leave. He said he was going to
“get” them before they got him.
The defendant forced both women into Wilson's van. He
held Ms. Ford by the waist and Wilson by her shirt. Wilson
said they did not resist or try to run away because she knew
what the defendant could do. She testified that she was
afraid because she knew she could not run away from the
defendant. Once inside the van, the defendant locked the
doors and drove through downtown Kingsport. Wilson testified
that the defendant did not speak to the women, but he talked
to himself. He said, “Damn, Tracy, look[ ] what
you've done. You just need to take them out to the
country and tie them up to a tree.” He drove them to a
public housing apartment complex in Kingsport where he forced
them into an apartment. He told the man in the apartment that
he had “taken” the women and that they needed to
“pay the price” for trying to kill him. The
defendant then forced the women back out to the van. Although
the defendant stopped the van later and allowed Ms. Ford to
leave, the victim testified that Ms. Ford appeared to be
afraid the entire time.
The defendant then drove to another apartment complex and
forced Wilson out of the van. He knocked on a door where
Debbie Callahan, the second victim, answered. The defendant
grabbed both women and made them sit on the floor. He accused
them of trying to kill him. Wilson thought he was even
angrier and more agitated than when she first saw him in
their apartment earlier that evening.
The defendant forced Wilson to remove her clothes, and he was
holding both women until Wilson tried to resist. At that
point, Ms. Callahan was able to escape and ran out the front
door. The police were called during the struggle, and Wilson
could see a uniformed officer and his car outside the
apartment door. The defendant screamed that the officer was
not really the police. The defendant put Wilson in a choke
hold from behind. He eventually walked out of the apartment
but continued to hold Wilson by her throat. The defendant
held her between him and the officer. He eventually let go of
Wilson and lay on the ground as instructed by the officers.
Ms. Callahan, the second victim, testified that she lived in
an apartment in Sullivan County and that she had met the
defendant one day when they smoked crack in her apartment.
She recalled that the defendant knocked on her door in the
early morning hours of August 29, 2005. The defendant asked
her if she wanted to buy some crack, but she told him she had
no money. He asked to come in anyway, and they started to
smoke some crack. She recalled that the defendant began to
act strangely and became rough and mean toward her. He began
grabbing at her in an attempt to have sex with her. She said
he also wanted her to have sex with his girlfriend who was in
Callahan went to the door and screamed for Wilson to come
inside because the defendant was getting out of control. The
defendant removed Wilson's clothes and also attempted to
remove Callahan's clothes. She said that he grabbed her
by her hair, shirt, and pants, but she did not want him to
touch her. He told her that, if she tried to set him up, he
would fix her so nobody would ever look at her again. She
testified that she was afraid then and was still afraid at
trial. She said that when she freed herself, she ran from the
apartment and hid under a tree for a couple of hours.
Officer Jason McClain testified that he was a patrolman with
the Kingsport Police Department when he was dispatched to
Callahan's apartment. He arrived around 4:45 a.m. to find
the defendant and Callahan inside the apartment. The door was
open, and he heard a man's voice yelling, “Call
911, call 911, I want police here now, call 911.” He
looked inside and saw the defendant screaming as he held
Callahan in a choke hold. She was crying, shaking, and
appeared to be very frightened. The officer identified
himself as the police and asked, “What's going on
here, I am the police.” The officer testified that he
could see something on or in the defendant's hand, which
he was holding behind Callahan. It turned out to be a cast on
the defendant's hand but, at the time, the officer was
unable to determine if it was a weapon. The officer testified
that he took cover behind the doorframe, called for backup,
and waited for additional officers. The defendant continued
to hold Callahan in a choke hold. When backup officers
arrived, they ordered the defendant to come out of the
apartment. The defendant still had Callahan in a choke hold
when he came outside and held her body between himself and
the officers. He released her when the officers ordered him
to the ground.
The officer testified that four to five minutes elapsed
between his arrival until the defendant was on the ground
outside the apartment. He estimated that the defendant held
Callahan “just a minute” at the door to the
apartment. The officer did not have his weapon drawn when he
first saw the defendant through the apartment door, but his
weapon was drawn when the defendant exited the apartment.
During the hearing on the motion for new trial, Jakia Ford
testified that she was the woman with the defendant when
Wilson arrived home from work. She said that she was willing
to testify at trial that the defendant did not force her or
Wilson into the vehicle. She said that she spoke with the
defendant's trial counsel and repeated her willingness to
testify on the defendant's behalf. She testified that she
gave counsel her telephone number but was not contacted prior
The defendant testified that he spoke with trial counsel
twice before trial. He said that trial counsel did not advise
him that he could get a forty-year sentence at trial. He
chose not to testify because he was told by someone that his
entire criminal history could be used against him if he
testified. He said that his entire record had been put into
evidence during a bond reinstatement hearing and that he was
“under the assumption” it could be used at trial.
He did not discuss this assumption with trial counsel. He
said that trial counsel told him that he had been unable to
locate Ms. Ford before trial.
The defendant's trial counsel testified that, at the time
of the hearing, he had been a public defender for more than
eighteen years and also had experience in private practice.
He said that the State made an offer for an effective
sentence of twelve years at one-hundred percent. He said that
he met with the defendant “quite a bit more than
two” times before trial. He discussed sentencing with
the defendant, including the possibility of consecutive
sentences. He also discussed the possibility of a portion of
the defendant's prior record being used at trial to
impeach him if he decided to testify. He did not recall
telling the defendant that his entire record could be used.
He recalled that the defendant brought Ms. Ford to his
office, and he told trial counsel that she would testify. The
defendant told him he would keep her “happy”
until she testified. Counsel said that he did not have a
telephone number for Ms. Ford but attempted to locate her for
trial. Ms. Ford's grandmother told him that she did not
know where Ms. Ford was. He also tried to locate her through
her probation officer but was told that Ms. Ford was not
State v. Cope, 2010 WL 2025469, at *1-3.
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).
claims that have been adjudicated on the merits by the state
court, however, federal courts must utilize a “highly
deferential” standard of review. See, e.g.,
Harrington v. Richter, 562 U.S. 86, 88-89 (2011).
Under the AEDPA, 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. §
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,
565 U.S. 34, 40 (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 are “intentionally
difficult to meet.” Woods v. Donald, 135 S.Ct.
1372, 1376 (2015) (quoting White v. Woodall, 134
S.Ct. 1697, 1702 (2014)); see also Harrington, 562
U.S. at 102 (“If [§ 2254(d)] is difficult to meet,
that is because it was meant to be.”). Further, where
findings of fact are supported by the record, they are
entitled to a presumption of correctness which may be
rebutted only by clear and convincing evidence. 28 U.S.C.
§ 2254(e)(1). 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 Wood ford v. Visciotti, 537 U.S. 19, 24
sets forth the following claims for relief in his habeas
1. Whether the trial court erred in allowing Amanda Wilson to
testify that Petitioner broke his hand by hitting her in the
2. Whether Petitioner was denied the effective assistance of
counsel at trial when his counsel failed to adequately
investigate and procure the ...