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Cope v. Parker

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

June 20, 2018

TRACY LYNN COPE, Petitioner,
v.
TONY PARKER, Warden[1], Respondent.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION

          J. RONNIE GREER UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.

         Tracy 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.

         I. PROCEDURAL HISTORY

         On May 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).

         On 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 at 1].[2]

         Petitioner 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).

         On 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 Court's review.

         II. BACKGROUND

         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 the car.
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 to trial.
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 reporting.

State v. Cope, 2010 WL 2025469, at *1-3.

         III. STANDARD OF REVIEW

         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).

         For any 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. § 2254(d)(1)-(2).

         “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, 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.

         The 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 (2002)).

         IV. ANALYSIS

         Petitioner sets forth the following claims for relief in his habeas petition:

1. Whether the trial court erred in allowing Amanda Wilson to testify that Petitioner broke his hand by hitting her in the face;
2. Whether Petitioner was denied the effective assistance of counsel at trial when his counsel failed to adequately investigate and procure the ...

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