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Tillman v. Neumann

United States District Court, N.D. Oklahoma

June 27, 2017




         This is a 28 U.S.C. § 2254 habeas corpus action. After the Court denied Respondent's motion to dismiss, see Dkt. # 12, Respondent filed a response to the petition (Dkt. # 13), and provided the state court records necessary for resolution of Petitioner's claims. See Dkt. ## 13, 14. Petitioner, a state inmate appearing pro se, filed a reply (Dkt. # 17) to the response. For the reasons discussed below, the Court finds that the petition shall be denied.


         At approximately 9:00 p.m., on August 16, 2005, an unmarked van with tinted windows carrying five (5) Tulsa Police Department (TPD) officers pulled into the parking lot of the Dash In, a convenience store located at 1500 East Apache Street in Tulsa, Oklahoma. Present in the van were Officers James Comstock, Jeff Henderson, Bill Yelton, Bruce Bonham, and Corporal Larry Edwards. The officers were investigating the area after having received multiple complaints of drug dealing and prostitution. As the van pulled into the parking lot, the officers observed a man, later identified as Tashiro Rudy Tillman, standing in front of a parked Lexus. The man initially approached the van and looked in as Corporal Edwards, wearing his full TPD uniform and sitting in the front passenger seat, began to roll down his window. As Edwards and Officer Henderson, seated in the rear passenger side seat, moved to exit the van, the man backed away and Edwards and Henderson observed him reach into the front passenger side window of the parked Lexus. The man then continued skipping backwards down the sidewalk of the convenience store until he reached the west end of the building. Edwards and Henderson gave chase. Both Edwards and Henderson saw the man make a throwing motion with his arm as he rounded the building and then began sprinting away through an open field behind the building. Edwards was able to tackle the man after running approximately 222 feet down a path in the field. Henderson arrived within a few minutes and helped Edwards subdue the man and return him to the parking lot. Henderson searched the man and found $220 in his pants pocket. Both Edwards and Henderson directed Officer Yelton to search the area where they saw the man make a throwing motion. Within a few minutes, Yelton located a small baggie containing a substance later identified as crack cocaine.

         Based on those events, Petitioner Tashiro Rudy Tillman was convicted by a jury of Unlawful Possession of a Controlled Drug (Cocaine), After Former Conviction of Two Felonies (Count 1), and Obstructing an Officer (Count 2), in Tulsa County District Court, Case No. CF-2005-3654. On January 17, 2006, the trial judge sentenced Petitioner, in accordance with the jury's recommendation, to twenty (20) years imprisonment on Count 1 and three (3) months imprisonment on Count 2, and ordered the sentences to be served concurrently. See Dkt. # 14-6 at 3. Petitioner was represented at trial by attorney Steven Vincent. See Dkt. # 14-4 at 1.

         Petitioner appealed to the Oklahoma Court of Criminal Appeals (OCCA). Represented by attorney Andreas T. Pitsiri, Petitioner raised five (5) claims, as follows:

Proposition 1: Admission of other crimes evidence prejudiced the jury, deprived Mr. Tillman of his fundamental right to a fair trial and warrants reversal of his convictions.
Proposition 2: Mr. Tillman was prejudiced by ineffective assistance of counsel.
Proposition 3: The 20-year sentence imposed against Mr. Tillman in Count 1 is excessive and should be favorably modified.
Proposition 4: The cumulative effect of all these errors deprived Mr. Tillman of a fair trial.
Proposition 5: The Court should remand Mr. Tillman's case to the district court of Tulsa County with instructions to correct the judgment and sentence by an order nunc pro tunc.

(Dkt. # 13-1). In an unpublished summary opinion, filed June 29, 2007, in Case No. F-2006-132 (Dkt. # 13-3), the OCCA affirmed the Judgment and Sentence of the state district court. Nothing in the record suggests that Petitioner filed a petition for writ of certiorari at the United States Supreme Court.

         On June 25, 2010, Petitioner filed an application for post-conviction relief (Dkt. # 10-1). The state district judge appointed an attorney from the public defender's office, Curtis Allen, to represent Petitioner in his post-conviction proceeding. See Dkt. # 10-3. On March 7, 2012, Mr. Allen filed a supplement to the application for post-conviction relief. Id. The district judge denied the requested relief on April 10, 2012 (Dkt. # 10-5). Petitioner then appealed to the OCCA. The OCCA ordered the district court to file a response to the issues raised on post-conviction appeal. On November 13, 2012, Tulsa County District Judge James M. Caputo filed a response brief as ordered by the OCCA (Dkt. # 13-4). By order filed February 14, 2014, in Case No. PC-2012-412 (Dkt. # 13-6), the OCCA affirmed the district court's denial of post-conviction relief.

         On March 31, 2014, Petitioner filed this petition for writ of habeas corpus (Dkt. # 1). In his petition, Petitioner raises two (2) claims, as follows:

Ground One: The State of Oklahoma failed to disclose evidence favorable to the Petitioner in violation of Brady v. Maryland, [373 U.S. 83 (1963)], under the Fifth and Fourteenth Amendments to the United States Constitution.
Ground Two: Newly discovered evidence establishes that the petitioner is entitled to the vacation of his conviction.

Id. Specifically, Petitioner claims that Tulsa police officers Jeff Henderson, Larry Edwards, Bill Yelton, and Bruce Bonham “manufactured a story, falsified the police reports, and intentionally testified falsely against the petitioner under oath at the preliminary hearing and jury trial.” Id. at 8-9. Petitioner states that “he ‘never' was in possession of the cocaine in question and believes it was planted.” Id. at 9. Petitioner's claims are based on the fact that, in 2010, Officers Henderson, Yelton, and Bonham were indicted and later tried on corruption charges in this federal district court.[1]See N.D. Okla. Case Nos. 10-CR-116-BDB, ...

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