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Ellington v. Phillips

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

November 5, 2019

MICHAEL D. ELLINGTON, Petitioner,
v.
SHAWN PHILLIPS, Warden, Respondent.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION

          HARRY S. MATTICE, JR. UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.

         Petitioner Michael D. Ellington, a Tennessee inmate proceeding pro se, has filed a federal habeas petition pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2254 challenging his Tennessee conviction for first-degree murder. Having considered the submissions of the parties, the State-court record, and the law applicable to Ellington's claims, the Court finds that the petition should be denied.

         I. SUMMARY OF EVIDENCE & PROCEDURAL HISTORY

         Michael D. Ellington shot and killed his girlfriend, Julia Kinsey, on March 17, 2009 [See, e.g., Doc. 6-1 p. 3-4]. He was indicted by a Monroe County Grand Jury with first-degree premeditated murder a few months later [See id.]. Following a jury trial where he claimed self-defense, Ellington was convicted as charged and was sentenced to life imprisonment [Id. at 6-7; see also Doc. 6-4 p. 59-66]. Ellington's conviction and sentence were affirmed by the Tennessee Court of Criminal Appeals (“TCCA”) on direct appeal. State v. Ellington, No. 2012-00908-CCA-R3-CD, 2013 WL 5718184, at * 1 (Tenn. Crim App. Aug. 13, 2013) perm. app. denied (Tenn. Jan. 15, 2014) (“Ellington I”). The Tennessee Supreme Court denied Ellington's application for permission to appeal [Doc. 6-10]. Ellington did not petition the United States Supreme Court for a writ of certiorari [See Doc. 1 p. 2].

         Thereafter, Ellington filed a pro se petition for post-conviction relief [Doc. 6-11 p. 3-17]. The post-conviction court subsequently appointed Ellington counsel who filed two amended petitions raising a claim that the State failed to disclose evidence favorable to the defense, along with numerous claims of ineffective assistance of counsel [Id. at 21-50]. Following an evidentiary hearing, the post-conviction court denied the petition [Id. at 74-92]. Ellington appealed the post-conviction court's decision to the TCCA, raising as a single issue whether the State failed to provide him with evidence to impeach the crime scene detective, and/or that counsel rendered ineffective assistance in failing to use the available impeachment evidence [See Doc. 6-18 p. 6-22]. The TCCA affirmed the denial of post-conviction relief. Ellington v. State, 2016 WL 7011578, at *1 (Tenn. Crim. App. Dec. 1, 2016) (“Ellington II”). Ellington did not file an application for permission to appeal to the Tennessee Supreme Court.

         On or about June 19, 2017, Ellington filed the instant petition for federal habeas relief, raising the following claims, as paraphrased by Respondent:

1. Trial counsel was ineffective “by failing to put on any facts or counter-evidence which challenged the underlying facts asserted at trial by the State that the killing of the victim was” premeditated.
2. Trial counsel was ineffective by failing to suppress Petitioner's statement to police.
3. Trial counsel was ineffective by failing to object to prosecutorial misconduct during closing arguments.
4. Trial counsel was ineffective by failing to effectively cross-examine the crime scene detective and to use impeachment evidence to attack his credibility.
5. Trial counsel was ineffective by failing to object to the testimony of the medical examiner.
6. Trial counsel was ineffective by failing to put on proof of Petitioner's mental state as to the required mens rea for first-degree murder.
7. Trial counsel was ineffective by failing to raise facts sufficient to support a defense of self-defense.
8. Trial counsel was ineffective by failing to pursue and preserve for appeal in a motion for new trial the trial court's denial of trial counsel's motion to continue and the trial court's failure to rule on a motion to strike.
9. Trial counsel was ineffective by failing to raise numerous Brady claims in the motion for new trial, thereby waiving the issue on appeal.
10. Trial counsel was ineffective by failing to obtain the services of a firearm expert to testify that it was not possible for ...

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