United States District Court, M.D. Tennessee, Nashville Division
A. TRAUGER UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.
Edwards, a state inmate, filed a pro se petition for
the writ of habeas corpus under 28 U.S.C. § 2254
(“Petition”) (Doc. No. 1), and the respondent
filed a response. (Doc. No. 14.) For the following reasons,
the Petition will be denied and this action will be
January 2007, a Davidson County grand jury indicted the
petitioner for first degree felony murder and first degree
premeditated murder. (Doc. No. 13-1 at 4-7.) The case
proceeded to trial, but the court granted a mistrial at the
request of the petitioner's counsel. (Id. at
78.) The petitioner later pleaded guilty to the
lesser-included offense of second degree murder on count one,
and count two was dismissed. (Id. at 79-82.) As a
result, the petitioner faced a range of 15 to 25 years'
imprisonment, to be determined by the court at a sentencing
hearing. (Id. at 79-80.) The court sentenced the
petitioner to 21 years' imprisonment. (Id. at
86.) The Tennessee Court of Criminal Appeals
(“TCCA”) affirmed the court's judgment, and
the Tennessee Supreme Court denied the petitioner's
application for permission to appeal on May 26, 2011.
State v. Edwards, No. M2009-01277-CCA-R3-CD, 2011 WL
497444, at *1, 4 (Tenn. Crim. App. Feb. 11, 2011), perm.
app. denied May 26, 2011.
1, 2011, the trial court received the petitioner's
pro se petition for post-conviction relief. (Doc.
No. 13-15 at 12-18.) The court appointed counsel
(id. at 28-29), and the petitioner filed an amended
petition (id. at 34-41). The court held an
evidentiary hearing (id. at 45; Doc. No. 13-17) and
then dismissed the petition (Doc. No. 13-15 at 46-50; Doc.
No. 13-16 at 3-8). The TCCA ultimately affirmed the
court's judgment, and the Tennessee Supreme Court denied
discretionary review on August 18, 2016. Edwards v.
State, No. M2014-01839-CCA-R3-PC, 2016 WL 1161084, at
*1, 7 (Tenn. Crim. App. Mar. 23, 2016), perm. app.
denied Aug. 18, 2016. The petitioner then filed a timely
pro se habeas petition in this court. (Doc. No. 1.)
plea hearing, the state provided a factual basis for the
petitioner's plea. According to the state, five
individuals-including the victim, Christopher Hudson-went to
Nashboro Village to buy ecstasy from the petitioner and
co-defendant Ryan Lewis. (Doc. No. 13-8 at 7.) The petitioner
was in the driver's seat of a car at the scene, with
Lewis in the passenger's seat. (Id.) Hudson
approached the car, leaned in on the driver's side, and
saw the petitioner's gun. (Id.) Hudson
“became frightened and started running back behind the
car, ” and the petitioner shot Hudson “in the
back as he was running.” (Id.) As Hudson
“tried to crawl to the sidewalk, ” the petitioner
got out of the car and went to where Hudson was lying.
(Id.) If the case had proceeded to trial,
co-defendant Lewis would have testified that he and the
petitioner intended to rob Hudson and that the petitioner
took over one hundred dollars from Hudson's body.
(Id.) Lewis would have testified that he and the
petitioner returned to an apartment and divided the money.
(Id.) Police went to this apartment and then a man
named Corey Ashley took them to another home to retrieve the
gun used to shoot Hudson. (Id. at 7-8.) The
petitioner testified that these facts were basically true,
but he disputed Lewis's expected trial testimony.
(Id. at 8-9.)
sentencing hearing, police detective Robert Swisher testified
that he interviewed the petitioner after taking him and
co-defendant Lewis into custody. (Id. at 15.) The
court viewed a video of this interview, and the TCCA
summarized it as follows on direct appeal:
[The petitioner] told detectives that he had completed the
eighth grade and that he lived in Nashville. He told
detectives that his co-defendant, Ryan Lewis, had gotten a
phone call from the victim asking for drugs. [The petitioner]
drove himself and Mr. Lewis to meet the victim. [The
petitioner] stated that the victim, who was standing at the
driver's side window of the vehicle, tried to grab the
drugs from Mr. Lewis, who was reaching across [the
petitioner]. The victim then swung a stick at them and
grabbed [the petitioner's] jacket. [The petitioner]
pulled out a gun, and the victim started running. [The
petitioner] told detectives that he fired the gun “to
scare him off.” [The petitioner] hit another car as he
drove away. [The petitioner] told detectives that he had
purchased the gun from a man on the street for one hundred
dollars. Detective Swisher also testified that [the
petitioner's] fingerprint was found on a box of
Edwards, 2011 WL 497444, at *1. The TCCA also
summarized Lewis's sentencing hearing testimony:
Ryan Lewis testified that he knew [the petitioner] through
[the petitioner's] cousin, Corey Ashley. He testified
that he knew the victim in this case, Christopher Hudson,
because he had sold drugs to him before at Dover Glen
Apartments. On the evening of the crime, Mr. Hudson called
Mr. Lewis, while Mr. Lewis was with [the petitioner] and Mr.
Ashley, and had requested to purchase some ecstasy pills. Mr.
Lewis initially told Mr. Hudson that he did not have any
pills, but in another conversation later that evening, he
told Mr. Hudson that [the petitioner] and Mr. Ashley had
drugs to sell.
Mr. Lewis testified that [the petitioner], Mr. Ashley, and he
discussed a plan to rob Mr. Hudson. [The petitioner] and Mr.
Lewis drove to Nashboro Village and pulled in facing Mr.
Hudson's vehicle. Mr. Ashley drove another vehicle and
his role in the robbery was to be the “lookout.”
Mr. Hudson walked to the driver's side window of the
vehicle where [the petitioner] was, and leaned into the car.
Mr. Lewis testified that [the petitioner] pulled out the
pistol and demanded the money. Mr. Hudson turned to run away,
and [the petitioner] shot him. Mr. Lewis opened the
passenger's side door to run, and [the petitioner]
pointed the pistol at him and told him to get back in the
car. [The petitioner] got out of the car to retrieve the
drugs and the money that fell on the ground. Mr. Lewis did
not see that the victim had any kind of weapon; however, he
testified, someone threw something “like a stick, or a
bat, or something” at the car as they drove away. As
they left Nashboro Village, Mr. Lewis saw Corey Ashley speed
away in his vehicle. [The petitioner] and Mr. Lewis returned
to Dover Glen Apartments. On the way there, [the petitioner]
told Mr. Lewis to change his cell phone number, which he did.
When they arrived back at the apartments, Mr. Ashley was
there. Mr. Ashley made a phone call to get rid of the gun.
The three men divided up the money. The police arrived about
two hours later. Mr. Lewis testified that he initially lied
Id. at *2. Finally, the TCCA summarized the
sentencing hearing testimony of petitioner's mother as
Pamela Rooks, [the petitioner's] mother, testified that
[the petitioner] was nineteen or twenty years old at the time
of his arrest. He had not been living with her for a few
months before his arrest because [the petitioner] “was
doing some things that [she] didn't approve of.”
She testified that [the petitioner] had dropped out of school
after the seventh or eighth grade. Mrs. Rooks testified that
[the petitioner's] father left home when [the petitioner]
was about one-year old. [The petitioner's] father was not
consistently involved with [the petitioner]. [The petitioner]
went to live with his father for one year when [the
petitioner] was thirteen years old. Mrs. Rooks knew that [the
petitioner] had smoked marijuana, but she denied knowledge of
any other drug use. She testified that when her son was about
eighteen years old, he had attempted suicide by taking pills
and was hospitalized for about one week. Several of [the
petitioner's] family members prepared letters in support
of [the petitioner], which were admitted into evidence.
Asserted Claims for Relief
Petition, the petitioner asserts that his: (1) confession was
coerced; (2) plea was unknowing and involuntary; (3) sentence
was improper; (4) conviction was not supported by sufficient
evidence; (5) trial counsel was ineffective; and (6)
post-conviction counsel was ineffective. He asserts that his
trial counsel was specifically ineffective in failing to: (1)
present mitigating evidence at sentencing; (2) move to
suppress his confession; (3) allow him to proceed to trial
rather than plead guilty; (4) investigate co-defendant Ryan
Lewis; (5) object to application of enhancement factors at
sentencing; (6) appeal the court's application of
sentencing enhancement factors; and (7) consult with his
first appointed attorney. (Doc. No. 1.)
Standard of Review
courts have the authority to grant habeas corpus relief to
state prisoners under 28 U.S.C. § 2254, as amended by
the Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act of 1996
(“AEDPA”). Harrington v. Richter, 562
U.S. 86, 97 (2011). Where a petitioner's claim was
“adjudicated on the merits” in state court, a
federal court may not grant habeas relief unless the
state's decision was: (1) “contrary to, or involved
an unreasonable application of, clearly established Federal
law, as determined by the Supreme Court of the United
States”; or (2) “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). Thus, “[t]he question under AEDPA is
not whether a federal court believes the state court's
determination was incorrect but whether that determination
was unreasonable-a substantially higher threshold.”
Schriro v. Landrigan, 550 U.S. 465, 473 (2007)
(citing Williams v. Taylor, 529 U.S. 362, 410
(2000)). “The petitioner carries the burden of
proof.” Cullen v. Pinholster, 563 U.S. 170,
181 (2011) (citing Woodford v. Visciotti, 537 U.S.
19, 25 (2002)).
Section 2254(d)(1), a state court's decision is
“contrary to” clearly established federal law
“‘if the state court applies a rule that
contradicts the governing law set forth in [Supreme Court]
cases' or ‘if the state court confronts a set of
facts that are materially indistinguishable from a decision
[of the Supreme Court] and nevertheless arrives at a
[different result].'” Hill v. Curtin, 792
F.3d 670, 676 (6th Cir. 2015) (en banc) (quoting Lockyer
v. Andrade, 538 U.S. 63, 73 (2003)). “Under the
‘unreasonable application' clause of [Section]
2254(d)(1), habeas relief is available 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. (quoting Harris v.
Haeberlin, 526 F.3d 903, 909 (6th Cir. 2008)). A state
court's application is not unreasonable under this
standard simply because a federal court finds it
“incorrect or erroneous”-“rather, ”
the federal court must find the state court's application
was “objectively unreasonable.” Id.
(quoting Wiggins v. Smith, 539 U.S. 510, 520-21
obtain relief under Section 2254(d)(2), the federal court
must find that “the state court's factual
determination was ‘objectively unreasonable' in
light of the evidence presented in the state court
proceedings.” Young v. Hofbauer, 52 Fed.Appx.
234, 236 (6th Cir. 2002). State-court factual determinations
are only unreasonable “if it is shown that the state
court's presumptively correct factual findings are
rebutted by ‘clear and convincing evidence' and do
not have support in the record.” Pouncy v.
Palmer, 846 F.3d 144, 158 (6th Cir. 2017) (quoting
Matthews v. Ishee, 486 F.3d 883, 889 (6th Cir.
2007)). “[I]t is not enough for the petitioner to show
some unreasonable determination of fact; rather, the
petitioner must show that the resulting state court decision
was ‘based on' that unreasonable
determination.” Rice v. White, 660 F.3d 242,
250 (6th Cir. 2011) (citing Byrd v. Workman, 645
F.3d 1159, 1172 (10th Cir. 2011)).
demanding review of claims rejected on the merits in state
court, however, is ordinarily only available to petitioners
who “exhausted the remedies available in the courts of
the State.” 28 U.S.C. § 2254(b)(1)(A);
Harrington, 562 U.S. at 103. In Tennessee, a
petitioner is “deemed to have exhausted all available
state remedies for [a] claim” when it is presented to
the Tennessee Court of Criminal Appeals. Adams v.
Holland, 330 F.3d 398, 402 (6th Cir. 2003) (quoting
Tenn. Sup. Ct. R. 39). “To be properly exhausted, each
claim must have been ‘fairly presented' to the
state courts, ” meaning that the petitioner presented
“the same claim under the same theory . . . to the
state courts.” Wagner v. Smith, 581 F.3d 410,
414, 417 (6th Cir. 2009) (citations omitted).
procedural default doctrine is “an important
‘corollary' to the exhaustion requirement”
under which “a federal court may not review federal
claims that . . . the state court denied based on an adequate
and independent state procedural rule.” Davila v.
Davis, 137 S.Ct. 2058, 2064 (2017) (citations omitted).
A claim also may be “technically exhausted, yet
procedurally defaulted, ” where “a petitioner
fails to present a claim in state court, but that remedy is
no longer available to him.” Atkins v.
Holloway, 792 F.3d 654, 657 (6th Cir. 2015) (citing
Jones v. Bagley, 696 F.3d 475, 483-84 (6th Cir.
obtain review of a procedurally defaulted claim, a petitioner
must “establish ‘cause' and
‘prejudice,' or a ‘manifest miscarriage of
justice.'” Middlebrooks v. Carpenter, 843
F.3d 1127, 1134 (6th Cir. 2016) (citing Sutton v.
Carpenter, 745 F.3d 787, 790-91 (6th Cir. 2014)). A
petitioner may establish cause by “show[ing] that some
objective factor external to the defense”- a factor
that “cannot be fairly attributed to” the
petitioner-“impeded counsel's efforts to comply
with the State's procedural rule.” Davila,
137 S.Ct. at 2065 (citations omitted). There is also “a
narrow exception to the cause requirement where a
constitutional violation has ‘probably resulted' in
the conviction of one who is ‘actually innocent' of
the substantive offense.” Dretke, 541 U.S. at
392 (quoting Murray v. Carrier, 477 U.S. 478, 496
(1986)). To establish prejudice, “a petitioner must
show not merely that the errors at his trial created a
possibility of prejudice, but that they worked to his actual
and substantial disadvantage, infecting his entire trial with
error of constitutional dimensions.”
Garcia-Dorantes v. Warren, 801 F.3d 584, 598 (6th
Cir. 2015) (quoting Hollis v. Davis, 941 F.2d 1471,
1480 (11th Cir. 1991)) (internal quotation marks omitted).
court will first address claims adjudicated in state court
and then turn to procedurally defaulted claims. As an initial
matter, however, the court notes that the petitioner's
assertion of ineffective assistance of post-conviction
counsel is not an independent ground for habeas relief. 28
U.S.C. § 2254(i) (“The ineffectiveness or
incompetence of counsel during Federal or State collateral
post-conviction proceedings shall not be a ground for relief
in a proceeding arising under section 2254.”).
Nonetheless, post-conviction ineffectiveness may be used to
establish the “cause” necessary to obtain review
of another procedurally defaulted claim in some
circumstances. Martinez v. Ryan, 566 U.S. 1, 17
(2012). Thus, the court will consider the assertion of
post-conviction ineffectiveness as allegations of
“cause” regarding the petitioner's defaulted
post-conviction appeal, the petitioner exhausted a claim that
his guilty plea was not knowing and voluntary and two of his
seven sub-claims for ineffective assistance of trial counsel-
that counsel coerced him to plead guilty and failed to
present mitigating evidence at sentencing. Edwards,
2016 WL 1161084, at *1, 4-7.