United States District Court, E.D. Tennessee, Chattanooga
S. MATTICE, JR. UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.
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.
SUMMARY OF RELEVANT EVIDENCE & PROCEDURAL
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].
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.].
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].
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].
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].
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.
Petitioner timely filed the instant petition for writ of
habeas corpus raising the following claims, as paraphrased by
Ground I: Ineffective assistance of counsel.
1. Trial counsel failed to argue Petitioner's defense of
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
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
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
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.
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).
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).
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).
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
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).