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Alston v. Genovese

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

December 5, 2019

LARRY J. ALSTON, Petitioner,




         Petitioner Larry J. Alston, an inmate proceeding pro se, has filed a federal habeas petition pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2254, challenging the legality of his confinement under Knox County, Tennessee convictions for especially aggravated kidnapping, aggravated burglary, and aggravated robbery. 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.


         Carolyn Sue Maples was in front of her Knoxville residence on the afternoon of April 15, 2010, when three armed men confronted her, demanded her purse, and ordered her inside her home. State v. Alston, Young, and Webb, No. E2012-00432-CCA-R3-CD, 2013 WL 2382589, at *1 (Tenn. Crim. App. May 30, 2013) (“Alston I”), perm. app. granted (Tenn. Jan. 17, 2014). A neighbor witnessed the incident and telephoned police. Id. Petitioner and his co-defendants were apprehended at the victim's residence. Id.

         The following evidence was presented at trial. Ms. Maples's neighbor, Ashley Dawn Hill, testified that, at approximately 1:45 p.m. on April 15, 2010, she was sitting on the front porch when she saw two black men with dreadlocks and a white man with glasses walking down the street toward the victim's residence. Id. Ms. Hill witnessed the victim walk around her car, which was parked in front of Ms. Hill's house, to get in the vehicle. Id. The men approached the victim and said, “Excuse me.” Id. Ms. Hill heard the victim scream and saw one of the black men grab the victim's purse. Id. The victim got out of her car and ran toward her house, and the men followed her inside. Id. Ms. Hill telephoned 9-1-1. Id.

         Ms. Maples testified that, at approximately 1:45 p.m. on April 15, 2010, she went outside to get in her car when she saw three men - two black and one white - walking toward her. Id. She stated that, just as she began to get into her car, the “big” black man asked if she knew a particular girl. Id. Ms. Maples stated that she did not and went to get in the car. Id. She testified, “The next thing I know[, ] there were guns to my head.” Id.

         Ms. Maples stated that the two black men pointed guns at her, and that one of the men demanded that she give him her purse and then “get to the house.” Id. She stated that the men pushed her toward the door of the home, which she had difficulty opening due to her terror. Id. Once inside the home, the men pushed her to the couch and began ransacking her home for money, jewelry, and “anything [she] had.” Id. She testified that the men took $140 from her wallet, along with her bank card. Id. She stated that “the big” perpetrator demanded her “bank number.” Id. Ms. Maples also recalled that the white perpetrator had a sawed-off shotgun stuffed down his pants, while the two black men had pistols. Id.

         While Ms. Maples remained on the couch, one of the men took two flat screen televisions and walked to the door before stating, “Oh f***, there's the law.” Id. at 2. The man ran toward another man in the kitchen, at which point Ms. Maples escaped through the open front door. Id. When she got outside, a female officer told her to “[g]o somewhere and . . . get where nobody can see you.” Id. She identified Petitioner and his co-defendants as the perpetrators at trial, designating Defendant Kris Young as “the big one.” Id.

         Knoxville Police Department (“KPD”) Officer Amanda Bunch testified that, at approximately 1:41 p.m., she responded to the victim's residence to investigate a report that “three males force[d] a lady back into her house at gunpoint.” Id. Officer Bunch took position near the home and waited for backup to arrive. Id. Two other officers arrived nearly simultaneously to one another and, at that point, the front door opened and a black male carrying a television began to exit. Id. Officer Bunch saw the individual drop the television and run back into the house. Id. She testified that the other two officers went to the back of the house while she moved to the driveway of the residence. Id.

         Officer Bunch stated that the other officers placed one subject in custody at the back of the house. Id. An officer and his police dog arrived, and the dog was released inside the home. Id. The dog drove the other two suspects onto the back deck, where they were placed into custody. Id. Officer Bunch handcuffed a white male, identified as Joshua Webb, and performed a search of his person, where she discovered “[t]wo five-dollar bills, a lighter, his wallet, . . . a gold kind of bracelet chain type thing, and . . . a pill bottle” with the victim's name on it. Id.

         KPD Officer Tim Riddle was another of the responding officers, and he testified that he took cover next to a tree where he could see both the front and rear exits of the victim's home. Id. Officer Riddle observed a black male carrying something out of the home, and he saw the individual drop what he was carrying and go back in the house when the officers “began to give verbal commands.” Id. He then saw an elderly white woman run from the front door and a black male “trying to run out the back door.” Id. That man was apprehended by Officer John Stevens, who was in the back alley. Id. Officer Riddle radioed for K-9 assistance, and after the K-9 officer arrived and warned the home's occupants that the dog was going to be released, a white male and a black male exited the rear of the home and surrendered. Id. Officer Riddle placed the second black male, identified as Kris Young, into custody. Id.

         KPD Officer John Stevens, another responding officer, recalled that Petitioner was the first to exit the victim's home, followed quickly by Webb and Young. Id. at *3. Petitioner cooperated with officers' commands and got down on the ground immediately. Id. Officer Stevens placed Petitioner in custody and searched him, finding $110 in cash and the victim's automatic teller machine (“ATM”) card on his person. Id.

         A KPD forensic officer took photographs and collected evidence at the scene, which included a Ruger pistol, a nine-millimeter pistol, and a .20-gauge sawed-off shotgun, all of which were loaded. Id.

         At the conclusion of the State's proof, Petitioner and his co-defendants elected not to present any proof. Id. A Knox County Criminal Court jury convicted Petitioner of aggravated robbery, aggravated burglary, especially aggravated kidnapping, and possession of a firearm with the intent to go armed during the commission of a dangerous felony. (See Doc. 5-6, at 91-92.) Following the verdict, the trial court set aside the guilty verdicts for especially aggravated kidnapping and aggravated burglary. (See Doc. 5-2, at 57-59, 69-70.) The trial court also dismissed the firearms convictions, reasoning that the firearms convictions could not survive the dismissal of the especially aggravated kidnapping and aggravated burglary convictions, as they were the predicate dangerous felonies for the firearms offenses. (See ...

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