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Rucker v. Genovese

United States District Court, M.D. Tennessee, Nashville Division

December 12, 2019

JAMES R. RUCKER, Petitioner,
v.
KEVIN GENOVESE, Warden, Respondent.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION

          WAVERLY D. CRENSHAW, JR. CHIEF UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         James R. Rucker, an inmate of the Turney Center Industrial Complex in Only, Tennessee, filed a pro se petition for a writ of habeas corpus under 28 U.S.C. § 2254 challenging his conviction and sentence in the Davidson County Criminal Court for second-degree murder for which Petitioner is serving a sentence of 32 years in the Tennessee Department of Correction. (Doc. No. 1).

         Respondent has filed a motion to dismiss the petition as time-barred (Doc. No. 13), and Petitioner has responded to the motion in opposition. (Doc. No. 17). The petition is ripe for review, and this Court has jurisdiction pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2241(d).

         I. Procedural History

         On April 27, 2009, Petitioner was indicted in the Davidson County Criminal Court for first-degree premeditated murder and employing a firearm during the commission of a dangerous felony. (Doc. No. 12, Attach. 1, PageID# 45-48; Attach. 6, PageID# 87). On May 29, 2009, Petitioner pled guilty to the lesser-included offense of second degree murder. The trial court sentenced Petitioner to 32 years as a Range II multiple offender, and the judgment of conviction was entered on July 2, 2009. (Doc. No. 12, Attach. 1, PageID# 52-56; Attach. 6, PageID# 87, 89).

         On March 26, 2010, Petitioner filed a petition for writ of error coram nobis in the trial court under Tenn. Code Ann. § 40-26-105, challenging his sentencing as a Range II multiple offender. (Doc. No. 12, Attach. 4, PageID# 79-83; Attach. 6, PageID# 89). On December 18, 2012, the trial court dismissed the error coram nobis petition at Petitioner's request. (Doc. No. 12, Attach. 6, PageID# 89, 91).

         On October 16, 2018, Petitioner filed a second petition for writ of error coram nobis in the trial court, seeking a new trial based upon documents disclosed to him by the Davidson County district attorney general's office on April 23, 2018, pursuant to a public records request. Petitioner acknowledged that his petition was untimely and sought tolling of the one-year statute of limitations, arguing that the delay in receiving evidence from the district attorney general was not his fault. (Doc. No. 12, Attach. 1, PageID# 57-62; Attach. 6, PageID# 89). By order filed on January 2, 2019, and in an amended order filed on January 9, 2019, the trial court denied the petition; the court concluded that Petitioner failed to show his entitlement to due process tolling of the one-year statute of limitations and, applying Frazier v. State, 495 S.W.3d 246 (Tenn. 2016), concluded that Petitioner could not collaterally challenge his conviction in an error coram nobis petition. (Doc. No. 12, Attach. 1, PageID# 69-72; Attach. 6, PageID# 89).

         Petitioner initially appealed the trial court's decision. (Doc. No. 12, Attach. 6, PageID# 89). However, on March 25, 2019, Petitioner moved for a voluntarily dismissed of the appeal, acknowledging the Tennessee Supreme Court's decision in Nunley v. State, 552 S.W.3d 800 (Tenn. 2018), in which the court concluded that a claim of suppressed evidence raised under Brady v. Maryland, 373 U.S. 83 (1963), may not be litigated in a petition for writ of error coram nobis. (Doc. No. 12, Attach. 2, PageID# 76-77). The Tennessee Court of Criminal Appeals granted the motion and dismissed the appeal by order filed on March 27, 2019. (Doc. No. 12, Attach. 2, PageID# 78).

         On March 14, 2019, [1] Petitioner filed a petition for writ of habeas corpus under 28 U.S.C. § 2254. (Doc. No. 1 at 16). By Order entered on April 29, 2019, the Court ordered Respondent to file an answer, plead or otherwise respond to the petition. (Doc. No. 7). Respondent filed a motion to dismiss the habeas corpus petition on May 10, 2019 (Doc. No. 13), and Petitioner filed a response in opposition to the motion (Doc. No. 17). That motion is now before the Court.

         II. Standard of Review Rule 8(a) of the Rules Governing Section 2254 Cases permits the Court to examine the petition, the answer, and the state court record to determine whether an evidentiary hearing is warranted. If no hearing is warranted, the Court may dismiss the petition on the merits without a hearing. Habeas Rule 8(a).

         Having fully considered the record, the Court finds that an evidentiary hearing is not needed.

         III. Analysis

         In his motion to dismiss, Respondent contends that the instant petition is time-barred and must be dismissed. (Doc. No. 17).

         Under the Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act (AEDPA), Pub. L. No. 104-132, 110 Stat. 1214 (codified, inter alia, at 28 U.S.C. §§ 2244, et seq.), prisoners have one year within which to file a petition for habeas corpus relief that runs from the latest of four circumstances. The relevant circumstance here is “the date on which the [state court] judgment became final by the conclusion of ...


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