Searching over 5,500,000 cases.

Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.

Evans v. Hutchinson

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

November 6, 2019

TIMOTHY EVANS, Petitioner,
KEN HUTCHINSON, Warden, Respondent.



         Petitioner Timothy Evans, a Tennessee inmate proceeding pro se, has filed a federal habeas petition pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2254 challenging his Tennessee judgments of conviction for one count of conspiracy to commit first-degree premeditated murder, one count of first-degree premeditated murder, and one count of carrying a dangerous weapon. 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.


         Petitioner Timothy Evans was a seventeen-year-old member of the Skyline Bloods gang when he shot and killed Adrian Patton in Chattanooga, Tennessee, on June 13, 2006 [Doc. 11-1 p. 5; Doc. 11-8 p. 111]. Petitioner, along with Michael Daniels, a higher-ranking member of the Skyline Bloods, were subsequently indicted on murder, conspiracy, and firearms charges [Doc. 11-1 p. 4-13]. The State moved to consolidate the trials, to which the defendants both objected by filing motions to sever [Doc. 11-1 p. 18; Doc. 11-3]. After a hearing, however, the trial court denied the motions to sever, and the defendants proceeded jointly to trial [Doc. 11-1 p. 25; Doc. 11-3].

         At trial, the State presented evidence that Daniels believed Patton had shot at the home of Daniels' sister [See, e.g., Doc. 11-6 p. 108]. Daniels arranged a meeting with Patton, and Patton arrived at the meeting in his truck [Id. at 105-07]. Daniels and another individual, Darius Sneed, went to the truck's window and spoke with Patton while Petitioner stood at the back of Patton's truck [See, e.g., Doc. 11-7 p. 103-04, 106]. After a short discussion with Patton, Daniels walked to the back of the truck and told Petitioner to shoot Patton [Doc. 11-8 p. 119]. Petitioner walked to the front of the truck and shot Patton, hitting him six times, and fled the scene [Doc. 11-7 p. 109-11; Doc. 11-8 p. 104]. The State also introduced Daniels' redacted statement to police [Doc. 11-8 p. 72-74]. The redacted statement did not mention Petitioner's involvement in the murder [Id.].

         Petitioner testified in his own defense [Doc. 11-8 p. 110-24]. After talking to Daniels and others, but before the meeting with Patton, Petitioner “figured that something was going to happen” [Doc. 11-9 p. 19]. Based on this information, Petitioner loaded his gun using a bandana to keep his fingerprints off of the bullets [Doc. 11-8 p. 135-36]. Petitioner stated during his meeting with Patton, Daniels came to the back of Patton's truck while reaching for his gun and ordered Petitioner to shoot Patton [Id. at 119]. Petitioner stated that while he did not have an issue with Patton, he had “no choice” but to kill Patton because, as a lesser-ranked member of his gang, Daniels could punish him for not following orders [Id.]. However, on cross-examination, Petitioner admitted that he would kill because of his loyalty toward his co-defendant [Id. at 148-49]. The jury convicted Petitioner as charged, and he received an effective life sentence for his convictions [Doc. 11-1 p. 56-58].

         Petitioner's convictions were affirmed on appeal. State v. Evans, E2009-01627-CCA-R3-CD, 2011 WL 3667722, at *1 (Tenn. Crim. App. Aug. 22, 2011), perm. app. dismissed (Tenn. Nov. 17, 2011) (“Evans I”). The Tennessee Supreme Court dismissed Petitioner's untimely application for discretionary review. [Doc. 11-19].

         Petitioner filed a pro se petition for post-conviction relief in the trial court [Doc. 11-20 p. 38-47]. Thereafter, with the assistance of appointed counsel, he filed an amended petition for post-conviction relief [Id. at 54-56]. One of the claims in the amended petition alleged that trial counsel rendered ineffective assistance in failing “to effectively present a defense of duress” [Id. at 55]. The trial court held an evidentiary hearing on the petitions [See Doc. 11-23]. At the hearing, trial counsel testified that he raised the defense of duress at trial, and that the trial court had instructed the jury on duress [Doc. 11-23 p. 9-10, 16-18]. Trial counsel testified that he decided not to present a psychological expert for Petitioner's duress defense because he “did not feel it would be helpful, ” and that he believed Petitioner's testimony concerning duress “was the most powerful” [Id. at 18]. Trial counsel recalled speaking to Petitioner about his trial testimony and about “what his primary defense was going to be, which in this case was duress” [Id. at 19].

         The post-conviction trial court denied relief [Doc. 11-20 p. 59-90]. In its order, the court specifically determined “whether trial counsel was ineffective in failing to effectively present a defense of duress or in failing to call a psychological expert to testify on [Petitioner]'s behalf about the effect of [the co-defendant's] order to [Petitioner] to shoot the victim” [Doc. 11-20 p. 81]. The trial court described how trial counsel attempted to effectively raise the defense of duress and determined that the decision not to call a psychological expert was a strategic one reached “after careful consideration” [Doc. 11-20 p. 81-84]. The Tennessee Court of Criminal Appeals (“TCCA”) affirmed the decision of the post-conviction trial court. Evans v. State, No. E2017-00400-CCA-R3-PC, 2018 WL 1433396, at *1 (Tenn. Crim. App. Mar. 22, 2018), perm. app. denied (Tenn. July 19, 2018) (“Evans II”). The Tennessee Supreme Court denied discretionary review [Doc. 11-29].

         Thereafter, Petitioner timely filed the instant petition for writ of habeas corpus raising the following claims, as paraphrased by the Court:

Ground I: Ineffective assistance of counsel.
1. Trial counsel failed to argue Petitioner's defense of duress;
2. Trial counsel failed to have Petitioner evaluated to present an insanity or diminished capacity defense;
3. Trial counsel failed to call a psychological expert to support Petitioner's duress defense;
4. Trial counsel failed to adequately prepare Petitioner for cross-examination; and
5. Trial counsel deprived Petitioner of direct appellate review of his duress defense by failing to include the appropriate part of the trial transcript in the appellate records.
Ground II: Insufficient evidence.
Ground III: The trial court erred in refusing to grant the motions to sever.
Ground IV: The trial court erred in “using extreme and unnecessary security measures that prejudiced the jury against [Petitioner].”
Ground V: The trial court erred in failing to grant Petitioner's motion for a new trial where the State's gang expert committed perjury.

[Doc. 2]. The Court ordered Respondent to respond to the petition, and Respondent complied by filing an answer on September 25, 2018 [Doc. 12]. Petitioner sought and obtained an extension of time within which to file a reply to the answer, but he failed to submit any additional pleadings for the Court's review [See, e.g., Docs. 13-14]. This matter is now ripe for review.


         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 of facts in light of the evidence presented. See 28 U.S.C. § 2254(d)(1) & (2); Schriro v. Landrigan, 550 U.S. 465, 473 (2007).

         Federal habeas relief may be granted under the “contrary to” clause where the State court (1) arrives at a conclusion opposite that reached by the Supreme Court on a question of law; or (2) decides a case differently than the Supreme Court on a set of materially indistinguishable facts. See Williams v. Taylor, 529 U.S. 362, 405-06 (2000). Under the “unreasonable application” clause, a federal court may grant relief where the State court applies the correct legal principle to the facts in an unreasonable manner. See id. at 407-08; Brown v. Payton, 544 U.S. 133, 141 (2005). Whether a decision is “unreasonable” is an objective inquiry; it does not turn on whether the decision is merely incorrect. See Schriro, 550 U.S. at 473 (“The 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.”); Williams, 529 U.S. at 410-11. This standard will allow relief on a federal claim decided on its merits in State court only where the petitioner demonstrates that the State ruling “was so lacking in justification that there was an error understood and comprehended in existing law beyond any possibility for fairminded disagreement.” Harrington v. Richter, 562 U.S. 86, 103 (2011).

         When evaluating the evidence presented in State court, a federal habeas court presumes the correctness of the State-court's factual findings unless the petitioner rebuts the presumption by clear and convincing evidence. See 28 U.S.C. § 2254(e)(1). Additionally, a federal habeas court must defer to the State-court findings on credibility because it “is not as well positioned as the trial court is to make credibility determinations.” Miller-El v. Cockrell, 537 U.S. 322, 339 (2003). While reasonable minds may differ regarding credibility, such disagreement will not supersede the trial court's credibility determinations on federal habeas review. Rice v. Collins, 546 U.S. 333, 341-42 (2006). Rather, a habeas court cannot disturb a trial court's credibility determination unless evidence is presented that is “too powerful to conclude anything” other than an erroneous determination by the trial court. Miller-El v. Dretke, 545 U.S. 231, 265 (2005).

         The doctrine of procedural default also limits federal habeas review. See O'Sullivan v. Boerckel, 526 U.S. 838, 848 (1999) (holding prisoner's procedural default forfeits his federal habeas claim). A procedural default exists in two circumstances: (1) where the petitioner fails to exhaust all of his available State remedies, and the State court to which he would be required to litigate the matter would now find the claims procedurally barred, and (2) where a State court clearly and expressly bases its dismissal of a claim on a State procedural rule, and that rule provides an independent and adequate basis for the dismissal. See, e.g., Coleman v. Thompson, 501 U.S. 722, 731-32, 735 n.1 (1991). A procedural default may be circumvented, allowing federal habeas review of the claim, only where the prisoner can show cause and actual prejudice for the default, or that a failure to address the merits of the claim would result in a fundamental miscarriage of justice. Id. at 750; see also Wainwright v. Sykes, 433 U.S. 72, 87, 90-91 (1977).

         “Cause” is established where a petitioner can show some objective external factor impeded defense counsel's ability to comply with the State's procedural rules, or that his trial counsel rendered ineffective assistance. See id. at 753. The prejudice demonstrated to overcome the default must be actual, not merely a possibility of prejudice. See Maupin v. Smith, 785 F.2d 135, 139 (6th Cir. 1986) (citations omitted); see also United States v. Frady, 456 U.S. 152, 170 (1982) (holding prejudice showing requires petitioner to bear “the burden of showing, not merely that errors [in the proceeding] created a possibility of prejudice, but that they worked to his actual and substantial disadvantage, infecting his entire [proceeding] with error of constitutional dimension”) (emphasis in original). A fundamental miscarriage of justice of occurs “where a constitutional violation has probably resulted in the conviction of one who is actually innocent.” Murray v. Carrier, 477 U.S. 478, 496 (1986).


         A. Ineffective ...

Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.