Smith v. Lindamood, 2:16-cv-02776-TLP-tmp

Decision Date29 August 2019
Docket NumberNo. 2:16-cv-02776-TLP-tmp,2:16-cv-02776-TLP-tmp
PartiesJOHN SMITH, Petitioner, v. CHERRY LINDAMOOD, Respondent.
CourtU.S. District Court — Western District of Tennessee

Petitioner John Smith1 petitions under 28 U.S.C. § 2254. (Petition ("Pet."), ECF No. 1.) The petition did not follow the format of the district court's official form. (Id.) In 2016, United States District Judge John T. Fowlkes ordered Petitioner to amend his petition using the official form. (Order, ECF No. 4.) Petitioner Smith amended his petition, but the amendment did not comply with the Court's order. (Amended ("Am.") Pet., ECF No. 6.) He then amended the petition a second time in 2017. (Second Am. Pet., ECF No. 10.) This Court considers the second amended petition as the operative pleading. Respondent filed the state court record and answered. (Record ("R."), ECF Nos. 14 & 15.) Smith then replied to Respondent's answer. (Reply, ECF No. 16.)

As more fully discussed below, Petitioner raises many issues here that fall into three categories: 1) whether the state court identified and applied the correct federal legal principles, 2) whether the claim is barred by the procedural default doctrine, and 3) whether the claim presents a question of federal law. For the reasons discussed below, the petition is DISMISSED.


In 2008, a Shelby County, Tennessee grand jury returned an indictment against John Smith and co-defendant James Snipes charging them with first-degree felony murder, premeditated murder, aggravated burglary, and employing a firearm during the commission of a felony. (R., Indictments, ECF No. 14-1 at PageID 287-94.) And the indictment charged a third co-defendant, Jesus Lujan, with facilitation of a felony and aggravated burglary. (Id. at PageID 290-91.)

Smith's defense counsel moved to suppress Petitioner Smith's confessions. (Motion ("Mot.") to Suppress, ECF No. 14-1 at PageID 324-25.) After a hearing, the trial court denied the motion to suppress. (Order, ECF No. 14-1 at PageID 326-33.) The case went to trial and the jury convicted John Smith of first-degree felony murder, aggravated burglary, and employing a firearm during the commission of a felony. (R., Minutes ("Mins."), ECF No. 14-1 at Page ID 338.)

The trial court sentenced Smith to life imprisonment plus six years. (R., Judgments ("J."), ECF No. 14-1 at PageID 367-71.) Smith appealed. (R., Notice of Appeal, ECF No. 14-1 at PageID 398-99.) The Tennessee Court of Criminal Appeals ("TCCA") affirmed Smith's conviction and sentence. State v. Smith, No. W2011-01438-CCA-R3-CD, 2012 WL 4372547 (Tenn. Crim. App. Sept. 25, 2012), perm. app. denied (Tenn. Feb. 13, 2013). The Tennessee Supreme Court declined to accept the case on further appeal. (Id.)

Next Smith petitioned pro se for relief in Shelby County Criminal Court under the Tennessee Post-Conviction Procedure Act, Tennessee Code Annotated §§ 40-30-101 to 40-30-122. (R., Pet. for Post-Conviction Relief, ECF No. 14-19 at PageID 1466-80.) Smith then amended that petition. (Supplemental R., Am. Pet., ECF No. 14-22 at PageID 1569-77.) A bit later, his appointed counsel filed an addendum to the amended petition. (R., Addendum, ECF No. 14-19 at PageID 1482-93.) The post-conviction court conducted an evidentiary hearing and denied relief in January 2015. (R., Order, ECF No. 14-19 at PageID 1494-1503.) Smith appealed that ruling. (R., Notice of Appeal, ECF No. 14-19 at PageID 1504.) The TCCA affirmed. Smith v. State, No. W2015-006333-CCA-R3-PC, 2016 WL 3345247 (Tenn. Crim. App. May 27, 2016), perm. app. denied (Tenn. Oct. 17, 2016).

For factual and procedural background from the state court, this Court will recite the summary from the TCCA's opinion from the direct appeal.

I. Facts
The defendant was indicted on charges of first degree felony murder, first degree premeditated murder, aggravated burglary, and employing a firearm during the commission of a felony due to his and a co-defendant's, James Snipes, involvement in the shooting death of the victim, Charles Beegle, Jr.

A. Motion to Suppress

The defendant filed a motion to suppress his statements to the police, and a hearing was held on the motion prior to trial. At the hearing, Sergeant Joe Stark of the Memphis Police Department testified that his first encounter with the defendant occurred on August 3, 2008. On that date, Sergeant Stark went to pick up the defendant from the jail at 8:55 a.m. Upon arriving at the homicide office, the defendant was allowed to use the restroom and given a snack and something to drink. At 10:03 a.m., Sergeant Stark advised the defendant of his rights, at which time the defendant informed him that he had an attorney. Based on the defendant's invocation of his rights, Sergeant Stark left the interview room. The defendant remained in the interview room, secured to a bench.
A few minutes later, the defendant started yelling that he wanted to talk to someone, so Sergeant Stark and Sergeant Davidson returned to the interview room. Sergeant Stark advised the defendant of his rights again, and the defendant said, "I am going to talk to you, but I want a cigarette, I want to talk to my dad and I want to talk to my lawyer." When Sergeant Stark asked the defendant for his attorney's name, the defendant responded, "Jeff Rosenblum." The defendant then began to question the officers about the case and the charges against him. Sergeant Stark informed the defendant that he was going to be charged with first degree murder and that they were going to take him back to the jail. At that point, the officers left the interview room again, and Sergeant Stark asked Sergeant Max to prepare the defendant to be transported back to the jail. According to Sergeant Stark, the defendant refused to waive his Miranda rights the second time at 10:17 a.m.
Shortly after Sergeant Max went into the interview room, he came out and informed the other officers that the defendant wanted to talk to them. Sergeants Stark and Davidson returned to the interview room and advised the defendant of his rights a third time, at 10:44 a.m. This time, the defendant waived his rights and the officers interviewed him and then took a typed statement from him, which the defendant signed at 3:37 p.m. In his statement, the defendant denied being responsible for the victim's death and said that James Snipes was the person responsible. Sergeant Stark recalled that the defendant appeared to be sober and not under the influence of any substance, and he was not threatened or coerced into giving a statement.
After Snipes, a co-defendant, was interviewed, Sergeant Stark returned to the defendant and confronted him with contradictions in their stories. Thereafter, the defendant gave another typed statement, which he signed at 5:10 p.m. Specifically, the defendant had not told the officers in his first statement about being in possession of a .38 revolver and shooting the victim or about Jesus Lujan being present at the time of the killing.
Sergeant James Terry Max of the Memphis Police Department testified that he was asked to prepare the defendant to be transported back to the jail. When he entered the interview room, the defendant asked what was going on, and Sergeant Max responded that he was going to take the defendant back to the jail. The defendant queried again as to what was going on, and Sergeant Max said to him, "I can't discuss with you what's going on, you don't want to waive your rights, I can't talk about this case." According to Sergeant Max, the defendant then stated that he wanted a cigarette and wanted to talk. Sergeant Max left the room and informed Sergeant Hanks, the case coordinator, that the defendant wanted to talk. Sergeant Max had no further interaction with the defendant.
The defendant testified that he was taken to the homicide department around 9:00 or 10:00 p.m. on August 2, 2008. He said that he told the officersthat he was intoxicated on "[h]eroin, powder and some pills." Due to his condition, the defendant was taken to the jail. He claimed that he was "dope sick" that evening and was not provided with medical attention. He eventually fell asleep around 2:00 or 3:00 a.m. on August 3 and was awoken at 7:38 a.m. The defendant recalled that Sergeants Stark and Davidson picked him up and took him to the homicide office around 10:00 a.m.
The defendant denied that the officers ever offered him anything to eat or drink. However, he said that the officers allowed him to use the restroom after he told them that his stomach was hurting from having used heroin. He said that he could tell he was suffering from heroin withdrawals but admitted that he did not explain that to the officers.
The defendant corroborated Sergeant Stark's testimony that Sergeant Stark left the room after the defendant refused to waive his Miranda rights and requested an attorney. However, the defendant denied that he thereafter screamed and yelled for Sergeant Stark to return, claiming instead that the officers came back in after ten or fifteen minutes without his beckoning. He recalled that, when the officers returned, they asked him if he wanted to make a statement. Similarly to Sergeant Stark, the defendant stated that he refused to waive his rights and requested a cigarette, to speak with his father, and to speak with his attorney, Jeff Rosenblum. Upon the defendant's refusal, the officers left the room again.
The defendant recalled that, ten or fifteen minutes later, Sergeant Max entered the room and told him that it was all right if he did not want to make a statement because Snipes, his co-defendant, had given them information. He claimed that Sergeant Max also told him that he was going to get the death penalty because there was someone who was going to testify against him. He said that Sergeant Max told him,

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