Seymore v. Parris
MEMORANDUM AND ORDER: The court has reviewed the R & R, the objections, and the file. The petitioner's objections are overruled, and the R & R is adopted and approved. Accordingly, the petition is DENIED, and this action is DISMISSED. The pe titioner may still seek a COA directly from the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals. Rule 11(a), Rules Gov'g § 2254 Cases. Signed by District Judge Aleta A. Trauger on 11/27/2017. (xc:Pro se party by regular mail.) (DOCKET TEXT SUMMARY ONLY-ATTORNEYS MUST OPEN THE PDF AND READ THE ORDER.)(mg)
IN THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
FOR THE MIDDLE DISTRICT OF TENNESSEE
JACKIE D. SEYMORE #411539,
MICHAEL W. PARRIS,
MEMORANDUM AND ORDER
Petitioner Jackie D. Seymore, an inmate in the Turner Trousdale Correctional Center in
Hartsville, Tennessee, filed a petition for the writ of habeas corpus under 28 U.S.C. § 2254,
which was referred to the Magistrate Judge for case management, decision on all pretrial,
nondispositive motions, and report and recommendation on disposition under 28 U.S.C.
§ 636(b)(1). (ECF No. 27.) The respondent has filed an answer and asserted that the court
should dismiss the petition with prejudice (ECF No. 26), and the petitioner filed a reply. (ECF
Pending before the court are the Report and Recommendation (“R & R”) of the
Magistrate Judge that the petition be dismissed (ECF No. 34), and objections filed by the
petitioner. (ECF No. 35.)
STANDARD OF REVIEW
When a magistrate judge issues an R & R regarding the disposition of a claim or a case,
the district court must review de novo any portion of the R & R to which a specific objection is
made, and “may accept, reject, or modify the recommended disposition; receive further
evidence; or return the matter to the magistrate judge with instructions.” Fed. R. Civ. P. 72(b);
28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1)(C); United States v. Curtis, 237 F.3d 598, 603 (6th Cir. 2001); Massey v.
City of Ferndale, 7 F.3d 506, 510 (6th Cir. 1993).
Federal courts have routinely deemed
objections “waived” where the objections merely restate the party’s arguments that were
previously addressed by the magistrate judge. See VanDiver v. Martin, 304 F.Supp.2d 934, 937
(E.D. Mich. 2004) (“An ‘objection’ that does nothing more than state a disagreement with a
magistrate’s suggested resolution, or simply summarizes what has been presented before, is
not an ‘objection’ as that term is used in this context.”); see also Charles v. Astrue, No. 3:10–cv–
134, 2011 WL 3206464 (E.D. Tenn. July 28, 2011).
The petitioner’s objection addresses three of his four habeas claims, which the court will
review in sequence below. To the extent that he relies on his previous reply or asserts a
blanket challenge to issues not specifically discussed in the objection, his objection is waived for
the reasons explained above.
The petitioner alleged in Claim 1 that trial counsel was ineffective for failing “to consult
with or call a medical expert . . . to review or challenge the medical evidence of penetration.”
(ECF No. 1, at 4.) His objection does not dispute the Magistrate Judge’s finding that this claim
was procedurally defaulted because it was never raised in state court. (See ECF No. 34, at 4–8;
ECF No. 35, at 2–3.) Instead, the petitioner argues that he has cause to overcome the default
because his post-conviction counsel was ineffective for failing to raise it, and because
Tennessee’s post-conviction scheme would not have allowed him the necessary funds to
develop the claim. (ECF No. 35, at 2–3.) Accordingly, he asks the court to appoint counsel and
authorize payment for investigative and expert services to develop this claim now.
The petitioner’s claim, however, is fundamentally flawed because there was no “medical
evidence of penetration” at trial that counsel had any need to rebut. The nurse practitioner who
examined the victim on March 17, 2008, testified that her anal-genital exam was within normal
limits, which was to be expected given the length of time between the rape and the examination.
(ECF No. 19-14, at 108–09.) As the petitioner himself argues, the report “neither confirm[ed]
nor rule[d] out the possibility of sexual contact,” (ECF No. 35, at 5) so it did not constitute
evidence of penetration. He argues that if counsel had properly investigated and consulted an
expert, “he would likely have discovered that qualified medical experts could be found who
would testify that the prosecution’s physical evidence was not indicative of sexual penetration
and thereby provided no corroboration of the victim’s story,” (ECF No. 35, at 6–7), but the
nurse’s testimony and report on its face already provided no medical corroboration of the
Accordingly, this claim lacks the merit required to be “substantial” for the purpose of
Martinez v. Ryan, 566 U.S. 1 (2012), without regard to whether the petitioner could satisfy the
other Martinez factors required to overcome procedural default.
In Claim 3, the petitioner alleged that “[c]ounsel was ineffective for failing to object to the
changes in the indictment or to bring out at trial changes in the indictment that established that
the alleged crimes occurred [when he] was in jail.” (ECF No. 1, at 8.) The Magistrate Judge has
concluded that the state court’s rejection of this claim on the merits was not unreasonable, even
though the state court only addressed the deficient performance prong of the ineffectiveassistance analysis set forth in Strickland v. Washington, 466 U.S. 668 (1984), and not the
prejudice prong. (ECF No. 34, at 11.)
The petitioner continues to argue that this court should review his claim de novo, with no
deference to the state court’s decision, because that court only addressed one prong of the
Strickland analysis. The petitioner is correct that when a state court limits its ruling to one prong
of Strickland, a reviewing habeas court that reaches the second prong must review that prong
de novo. See Wiggins v. Smith, 539 U.S. 510, 534 (2003) (“In this case, our review is not
circumscribed by a state court conclusion with respect to prejudice, as neither of the state courts
below reached this prong of the Strickland analysis.”). But a federal court will only reach that
second prong if it finds that the state court’s determination of the first prong was unreasonable,
as the Supreme Court did in Wiggins. Id. Otherwise, there is no need to address both prongs at
all: “there is no reason for a court deciding an ineffective assistance claim to approach the
inquiry in the same order or even to address both components of the inquiry if the defendant
makes an insufficient showing on one.” Strickland v. Washington, 466 U.S. 668, 697 (1984).
The Magistrate Judge correctly concluded that the state court’s determination that
counsel’s performance in “vigorously challeng[ing] the State’s timeline of the offenses” was not
deficient was not unreasonable. (See ECF No. 34, at 11.) The petitioner’s objection does not
dispute that finding, and is therefore without merit.
The petitioner alleged in Claim 4 that trial counsel was ineffective for failing to object
when the prosecutor questioned him about suppressed statements he made after his polygraph
examination. (ECF No. 1, at 11.) The Magistrate Judge has concluded that this claim was
defaulted at post-conviction appeal, where the state court found it waived due to insufficient
briefing, and alternatively found that it fails on the merits. (ECF No. 34, at 14–18.)
The petitioner devotes the bulk of his objection on this claim to his argument that failure
to consider the claim would result in a fundamental miscarriage of justice and other reasons he
says should overcome the procedural default bar. (ECF No. 35, at 15–22.) But it is clear from
the record that the claim would fail on its merits even if it were not defaulted. The trial court
granted the petitioner’s pre-trial motion to suppress his admission that he had rubbed his penis
on the victim, because the Miranda warnings he received before the statement were delivered
by a polygrapher rather than a law enforcement official. (ECF No. 19-14, at 2–6.) Despite
finding that the petitioner had waived his claim that counsel was ineffective for allowing him to
be questioned about the statement at trial, the Tennessee Court of Criminal Appeals noted the
Our review of the trial record confirms that the Petitioner’s statements made
during the polygraph examination were suppressed prior to trial for use by the
State in its case-in-chief, but the trial court specifically ruled that the State could
use such statements for impeachment purposes on cross-examination. The only
questions posed to the Petitioner by the State in the record that appear to
address statements he made during a police interview were asked during crossexamination by the State. Thus, it appears that these questions were not subject
to the trial court’s suppression order and that counsel had no grounds upon
which to object.
(ECF No. 19-17, at 6 n.2.)
The petitioner acknowledges that impeachment with otherwise
excluded evidence is not improper on cross-examination. (ECF No. 35, at 12–13.) He asserts
that the prosecutor’s questions were nevertheless objectionable because “the crossexamination was unrelated to any testimony made by the defendant on direct.” (ECF No. 35, at
13.) To the contrary, the transcript of his trial establishes that the prosecutor’s questions about
his admission were directly related to his testimony on direct examination:
When you were with them, did you ever have sexual contact with [the
No, that’s my baby.
During the time that she was given the physical examination, the Nurse
Practitioner stated that [the victim] was tested for diseases, she had none.
Did you have any disease at that time?
Me, no, but I never had any sex with my daughter so – I mean, of what
relevance would that be?
. . . [cross-examination]
I am just asking you about the Fleischer interview. Do you remember
telling Fleischer that you rubbed your penis on [the victim]?
Are you denying that you told Fleischer that you rubbed your penis on
Am I denying it?
Yes. Are you saying you didn’t tell Detective Fleischer you rubbed your
penis on [the victim]?
I didn’t – I didn’t rub my penis on [the victim].
Okay, the question is did you tell Fleischer that you rubbed your penis on
Yeah, I said it.
(ECF No. 19-3, at 136, 137, 158–59.)
The prosecutor thus used the petitioner’s previous
inconsistent statement to impeach his repeated denials of sexual contact with the victim, as the
state court held he was entitled to do. Claim 4 is without merit, and so is the petitioner’s
The court has reviewed the R & R, the objections, and the file.
objections are overruled, and the R & R is adopted and approved. Accordingly, the petition is
DENIED, and this action is DISMISSED.
The Court must issue or deny a certificate of appealability (“COA”) when it enters a final
order adverse to a § 2254 petitioner. Rule 11, Rules Gov’g § 2254 Cases. A petitioner may not
take an appeal unless a district or circuit judge issues a COA. 28 U.S.C. § 2253(c)(1); Fed.
R.App. P. 22(b)(1). A COA may issue only if the petitioner “has made a substantial showing of
the denial of a constitutional right,” 28 U.S.C. § 2253(c)(2). A petitioner makes a “substantial
showing” when he demonstrates that “reasonable jurists could debate whether (or, for that
matter, agree that) the petition should have been resolved in a different manner or that the
issues presented were adequate to deserve encouragement to proceed further.” Miller–El v.
Cockrell, 537 U.S. 322, 336 (2003) (citations and internal quotation marks omitted). “[A] COA
does not require a showing that the appeal will succeed,” but courts should not issue a COA as
a matter of course. Id. at 337.
Reasonable jurists could not debate whether the petitioner is entitled to relief.
Accordingly, the Court DENIES a COA. The petitioner may still seek a COA directly from the
Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals. Rule 11(a), Rules Gov’g § 2254 Cases.
It is so ORDERED.
ALETA A. TRAUGER
United States District Judge
Disclaimer: Justia Dockets & Filings provides public litigation records from the federal appellate and district courts. These filings and docket sheets should not be considered findings of fact or liability, nor do they necessarily reflect the view of Justia.
Why Is My Information Online?