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York v. Lee
United States District Court, E.D. Tennessee, Knoxville
August 12, 2019
WILLIAM W. YORK, Petitioner,
RANDY LEE, Respondent.
CLIFTON L. CORKER UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.
William W. York is a prisoner proceeding pro se on a petition
for a writ of habeas corpus under 28 U.S.C. § 2254, in
which he challenges the constitutionality of his confinement
under a State-court judgment of conviction for two counts of
first-degree murder [Doc. 2]. Having considered the
submissions of the parties, the State-court record, and the
law applicable to Petitioner's claims, the Court finds
that the petition should be denied.
FACTUAL BACKGROUND AND PROCEDURAL HISTORY
facts and procedural history of this case have been
previously summarized by the Tennessee Court of Criminal
Appeals (“TCCA”) as follows:
On May 30, 1977, William W. York and two others, Clifford T.
Caudill and Wes Finley, Jr., robbed the Hawkins Jewelry Store
in Madison, West Virginia. State v. Caudill, 170
W.Va. 74, 289 S.E.2d 748, 750 (1982).
The proprietors of the store, Aubrey and Alberta Hawkins,
were held at gunpoint during the robbery by Caudill and York.
Finley waited in [Caudill's] car in an alley behind the
After robbing the store, Caudill and York forced Mr. and Mrs.
Hawkins to accompany them as they fled. They put Mr. and Mrs.
Hawkins in the back seat of [Caudill's] car and left
Madison on a highway known as Corridor G. Shortly thereafter
the Hawkins were placed in the trunk of the car and held
captive. On June 3, 1977, they were found dead near Jellico,
Id. In West Virginia, York was convicted of armed
robbery and two counts of kidnapping. In Tennessee, as part
of a plea agreement, York pled guilty to two counts of
first[-]degree murder for which he received two concurrent
York began serving his sentence with the Tennessee Department
of Correction in 1989. Since that time, York has
unsuccessfully sought release on parole. In each instance,
York has resorted to the courts to challenge the statutory
and regulatory scheme for determining parole eligibility.
York became eligible for parole consideration in July 2001.
York v. Tenn. Bd. of Prob. and Parole, No.
M2003-00822-COA-R3-CV, 2004 WL 305791, at *1 (Tenn. Ct. App.
Feb. 17, 2004) (hereinafter “York I”).
The Tennessee Board of Probation and Parole (the
“Board”) denied parole. York appealed, arguing
due process, equal protection, and ex post facto violations.
Id. This Court affirmed the Board's denial of
parole based on the seriousness of the offense. Id.
at *3. However, we concluded that the Board's deferral of
parole consideration for ten years was arbitrary and remanded
for reconsideration of York's next parole review date.
Id. at *4.
On remand, the trial court directed the Board to hold a
hearing to set a new parole review date. York v. Tenn.
Bd. of Prob. and Parole, M2005-01488-COA-R3-CV, 2007 WL
1541360, at *1 (Tenn. Ct. App. May 25, 2007) (hereinafter
“York II”). On January 4, 2005, the
Board conducted the ordered hearing, but rather than only
scheduling a new parole review date, the Board again denied
York parole based on the seriousness of his offense.
Id. The Board set a new parole hearing for January
In his appeal from the January 4, 2005 review hearing, York
again argued that “the existing statutory and
regulatory scheme denied him equal protection and due process
and further constituted a violation of the Ex Post Facto
Clause” and that denial of parole “based solely
upon the ‘seriousness of the crime'” was
unconstitutional. Id. at *2. We made short work of
those arguments, noting that they had been addressed and
rejected in the prior appeal. Id. We also concluded
that the Board's decision to defer parole consideration
for six years was appropriate but modified the judgment such
that the six-year period would run from York's parole
hearing in July 2001. Id. at *6.
In January 2008, York again came before the Board, and again
the Board denied parole based solely on the seriousness of
the offense. York v. Tenn. Bd. of Prob. and Parole,
No. 3:08-CV-1093, 2010 WL 3522330, at *1 (M.D. Tenn. Aug. 12,
2010). York responded by asserting a claim under 42 U.S.C.
§ 1983 in federal court. Id. at *5.
Specifically, York alleged that,
“In denying [him] parole on January 7, 2008, the
Tennessee Board of Probation and Parole retroactively used
current parole laws, policies, and practices that were
different from those in effect when [he] committed his crimes
in June 1977; and the effect of these changes, individually
and cumulatively, created a harsher substantive standard for
parole creating a sufficient risk of increased punishment ...
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