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Long v. Mays

United States District Court, E.D. Tennessee

August 9, 2019

RUSSELL DEAN LONG, Petitioner,
v.
TONY MAYS, Respondent.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION

         Petitioner Russell Dean Long, a Tennessee inmate proceeding pro se, has filed a federal habeas petition pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2254 challenging the legality of his confinement under State-court judgments of conviction for two counts of first-degree felony murder, for which he received an effective lifetime sentence. Having considered the submissions of the parties, the State-court record, and the law applicable to Long's claims, the Court finds that the petition should be denied.

         I. BACKGROUND & PROCEDURAL HISTORY

         On March 6, 2009, Long's two-month-old daughter died from blunt force trauma [See, e.g., Doc. 13-1 p. 5]. On May 5, 2009, Long was indicted by the Washington County Grand Jury with two counts of first-degree felony murder, with the underlying felonies being aggravated child abuse and aggravated child neglect [Id. at 13].[1] Following a jury trial, Long was convicted as charged and was sentenced to serve a life term for each count in the Tennessee Department of Corrections [Doc. 13-1 p. 148, 151, 154-55]. Subsequently, the trial court merged Long's convictions and denied his motion for a new trial [Doc. 13-1 p. 155, 162]. On direct appeal, the Tennessee Court of Criminal Appeals (“TCCA”) affirmed the trial court's judgments. State v. Long, No. E2012-01166-CCA-R3-CD, 2013 WL 5436529, at *1 (Tenn. Crim. App. Sept. 27, 2013), perm. app. denied (Tenn. March 5, 2014). On March 5, 2014, the Tennessee Supreme Court denied Long's application for permission to appeal [Doc. 13-17].

         On June 18, 2014, Long filed a pro se petition for post-conviction relief, raising six claims of ineffective assistance of counsel [Doc. 13-18 p. 9]. On June 23, 2014, Long filed an amended petition for post-conviction relief with the assistance of appointed counsel, alleging one additional ground for relief and incorporating the claims raised in the original petition [Doc. 13-18 p. 29-31]. At the evidentiary hearing held on the petition, post-conviction counsel announced that Long was withdrawing all six of the claims raised in his original pro se petition and proceeding instead with the sole claim raised in the amended petition, which alleged that trial counsel erred in not playing the 911 tape for the jury [Doc. 13-19 p. 7-20]. Accordingly, the post-conviction court considered the original six claims abandoned and denied relief on the remaining claim through a written order [See id.; see also Doc. 13-18 p. 50]. The TCCA affirmed the decision of the post-conviction court. Long v. State, No. E2015-01903-CCA-R3-PC, 2016 WL 3130952 (Tenn. Crim. App. May 26, 2016), perm. app. denied (Tenn. Aug. 18, 2016). On August 18, 2016, the Tennessee Supreme Court denied the petitioner's application for permission to appeal [Doc. 13-27].

         On or about March 27, 2017, Long filed the instant federal habeas petition[2] raising the following claims, as paraphrased by the Court:

Claim 1: Counsel rendered ineffective assistance in failing to challenge Long's exposure to double jeopardy, as he was convicted on two counts of felony murder for a crime that occurred against a single victim [Doc. 1 p. 5].
Claim 2: Counsel rendered ineffective assistance in misleading Long into believing he should not testify in his own defense, in violation of Momon v. State of Tennessee, 18 S.W.3d 152 (Tenn. 2000) [Doc. 1 p. 7].
Claim 3: Counsel rendered ineffective assistance in failing to move for a change of venue due to pre-trial publicity in the case [Doc. 1 p.8].
Claim 4: Counsel rendered ineffective assistance in failing to object to gender imbalance in the jury panel, as the presence of nine females and only three males virtually ensured he would be convicted of the charges against him [Doc. 1 p. 9].
Claim 5: Counsel rendered ineffective assistance in failing to offer any lesser-included offenses even though there were grounds for them [Doc. 1 p. 10].
Claim 6: Counsel rendered ineffective assistance in failing to object to Long's illegal and excessive sentence, as a lesser sentence would have been sufficient [Doc. 1 p. 12].

         The Court ordered Respondent to respond to the petition, and Respondent complied by filing an answer on June 13, 2017 [Doc. 15]. Long did not file a reply to the answer, and the deadline to do so has passed. See E.D. Tenn. LR7.1(a).

         II. LEGAL STANDARD

         The Court's review of the instant petition is governed by the Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act of 1996 (“AEDPA”), which prevents the grant of federal habeas relief on any claim adjudicated on the merits in a State court unless that adjudication (1) resulted in a decision that was contrary to, or involved an unreasonable application of, clearly established United States Supreme Court precedent; or (2) resulted in a decision based on an unreasonable determination ...


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