United States District Court, E.D. Tennessee, Knoxville
RONNIE GREER, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.
18, 2016, Erica Harris (“Petitioner”) filed a
petition for a writ of habeas corpus pursuant to 28 U.S.C.
§ 2254, challenging her 2011 Tennessee state court
conviction for the sale of cocaine within 1000 feet of a
school [Doc. 2]. Respondent has filed a response in
opposition to the petition [Doc. 10] and a copy of the state
court record [Doc. 8]. Petitioner has filed a reply to the
response [Doc. 12]. For the following reasons,
Petitioner's § 2254 petition will be
DENIED and this action will be
DISMISSED WITH PREJUDICE.
March 9, 2011, Petitioner was convicted by a Knox County jury
of the sale and delivery of 0.5 grams or more of cocaine.
State v. Erica Harris, No. E2012-01107-CCA-R3-CD,
2013 WL 1190826, at *3 (Tenn. Crim. App. Mar. 25, 2013),
perm. app. denied (Tenn. Aug. 14, 2013). At
sentencing, the trial court merged her convictions and
sentenced her to serve seventeen years' incarceration.
Id. On appeal, the Tennessee Court of Criminal
Appeals (“TCCA”) affirmed Petitioner's
conviction and sentence. Id.
November 12, 2013, Petitioner filed a pro se petition for
post-conviction relief. Harris v. State, No.
E2014-01893-CCA-R3-PC, 2015 WL 4366620, at *1 (Tenn. Crim.
App. July 16, 2015). Counsel was appointed, and an amended
petition was filed on February 26, 2014. Id. An
evidentiary hearing was held on August 28, 2014, after which
the post-conviction court denied the petition for
post-conviction relief. Id. Petitioner filed a
timely notice of appeal. Id. The TCCA affirmed the
judgment of the post-conviction court on July 16, 2015, and
the Tennessee Supreme Court (“TSC”) denied
Petitioner's application for permission to appeal on
October 15, 2015. Id.
on May 18, 2016, Petitioner, proceeding pro se, filed the
instant petition [Doc. 2]. This matter is now ripe for
TCCA summarized the facts of this case in its opinion on
direct appeal as follows:
The defendant's conviction arose from a controlled drug
purchase on August 24, 2009. At trial, 27-year-old Francis
Brady, who testified that she had a history of drug abuse and
drug-related criminal convictions, said that she became an
informant for the Knoxville Police Department
(“KPD”) in 2007 after discussing it with an
officer that attended her church. For the controlled buy
involving the defendant, she was searched and fitted with a
recording device before traveling to a residence on New
Street in the Austin Homes community. She said that before
the August 24, 2009 transaction, she had seen and interacted
with the defendant “[a] good five or six times, ”
that she was familiar with the defendant's apartment, and
that she knew both of the defendant's sons, Darius and
“Zonfo.” Ms. Brady explained that she had
arranged to purchase drugs from Zonfo on a previous occasion.
According to Ms. Brady, the plan on August 24, 2009, was for
Ms. Brady to go to the defendant's residence and purchase
crack cocaine from “just whoever was in the
residence.” When she arrived, the defendant let her
into the apartment, and Ms. Brady described what happened
I told her I needed a $100 worth of crack cocaine, and she
had gone in the kitchen and brought back a DVD which had
several rocks on it. And she had said that it was her
son's dope that she didn't know if she could give it
all to me, so she had got him on the phone and tried to call
him and he didn't answer the phone.
At that point, the defendant told her she “could have
all the dope that was on top of the ... DVD case.” Ms.
Brady said that she agreed because she “thought it was
pretty big. It was a little over a hundred dollars
worth.” She said that the defendant gave her “a
bread wrapper off of bread, ” and Ms. Brady packaged
the cocaine herself. Ms. Brady then gave the defendant $100.
An audio recording of the transaction was played for the jury
over the defendant's objection. The recording, which was
included in the record on appeal, is largely unintelligible.
A woman other than Ms. Brady identified herself as
“Erica” on the recording. Ms. Brady identified
the defendant as the woman with whom she interacted during
the recorded transaction.
During cross-examination, Ms. Brady said that the use of
street names and false identities was common in the illegal
KPD Officer Michael Geddings testified that he supervised Ms.
Brady in her role as a confidential informant and explained
the procedure for conducting controlled drug purchases. He
explained that confidential informants are paid in cash for
each controlled buy they complete if they are “not
working off charges.” Officer Geddings testified that
on August 24, 2009, Ms. Brady made him aware of “drug
activity at an apartment ... in the Austin Homes community,
” telling him that she had purchased drugs from a black
male named Zonfo and that Zonfo's mother, Erica Harris,
was present during the transaction. Although Ms. Brady did
not know the apartment number, she did know the location.
With the assistance of Google Earth, Officer Geddings was
able to determine the address. Through further investigation,
he confirmed that the address was the defendant's
residence. Officer Geddings testified that he showed the
defendant's driver's license photo to Ms. Brady, who
confirmed that the defendant was the woman named Erica that
Ms. Brady knew to live in the New Street apartment. Officer
Geddings testified that he fitted Ms. Brady with recording
equipment and “instructed [her] to attempt to purchase
a hundred dollars worth of crack cocaine from ... the
apartment ... that she had identified and that we had
identified as 1116 West New Street, apartment number
295.” He described what happened upon their arrival at
1116 West New Street:
[Ms. Brady] exited and then walked into the apartment through
the front door, was in there approximately a little over two
minutes and then exited through the same door. At which time,
she got back into the vehicle, handed me the crack cocaine
that had ...