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Norton v. State

Court of Criminal Appeals of Tennessee, Knoxville

September 25, 2014

RICHARD LYNN NORTON
v.
STATE OF TENNESSEE

Assigned on Briefs September 16, 2014

Appeal from the Criminal Court for Greene County No. 13CR535 John F. Dugger, Jr., Judge

Richard Lynn Norton, Russellville, Tennessee, Pro Se.

Robert E. Cooper, Jr., Attorney General and Reporter; Michelle L. Consiglio-Young, Assistant Attorney General; C. Berkeley Bell, Jr., District Attorney General; and Ritchie Dale Collins, Assistant District Attorney General, for the appellee, State of Tennessee.

Roger A. Page, J., delivered the opinion of the court, in which Norma McGee Ogle and Robert H. Montgomery, Jr., JJ., joined.

OPINION

ROGER A. PAGE, JUDGE

Petitioner filed the instant petition for writ of error coram nobis on September 23, 2013. The coram nobis court entered its order denying the petition on May 16, 2014. Petitioner filed a timely notice of appeal on May 28, 2014.

In this appeal, petitioner argues that State v. Walls, in which the Tennessee Supreme Court stated that "flight from the rear of a police patrol car does not constitute escape from a penal institution under Tenn. Code Ann. § 39-16-605, " constitutes newly discovered evidence. State v. Walls, 62 S.W.3d 119, 123 (Tenn. 2001). He argues that Walls renders his escape conviction void because his conviction was based on his "running around a police car in handcuffs." However, petitioner has failed to attach his indictment, any relevant transcripts, or his judgments of conviction to establish the factual basis underlying his convictions. Petitioner also argues that the coram nobis court erred by summarily dismissing his petition without appointing counsel and conducting an evidentiary hearing.

The decision to grant or deny a petition for writ of error coram nobis on its merits is left to the sound discretion of the trial court. Harris v. State, 301 S.W.3d 141, 144 (Tenn. 2010) (citing State v. Vasques, 221 S.W.3d 514, 527-28 (Tenn. 2007)). A trial court abuses its discretion when it applies incorrect legal standards, reaches an illogical conclusion, bases its decision on a clearly erroneous assessment of the evidence, or employs reasoning that causes an injustice to the complaining party. State v. Ruiz, 204 S.W.3d 772, 778 (Tenn. 2006) (citing Howell v. State, 185 S.W.3d 319, 337 (Tenn. 2006)). The writ of error coram nobis is an "extraordinary procedural remedy . . . into which few cases fall." State v. Mixon, 983 S.W.2d 661, 672 (Tenn. 1999). Our legislature has limited the relief available through the writ:

The relief obtainable by this proceeding shall be confined to errors dehors the record and to matters that were not or could not have been litigated on the trial of the case, on a motion for new trial, on appeal in the nature of a writ of error, on writ of error, or in a habeas corpus proceeding. Upon a showing by the defendant that the defendant was without fault in failing to present certain evidence at the proper time, a writ of error coram nobis will lie for subsequently or newly discovered evidence relating to matters which were litigated at the trial if the judge determines that such evidence may have resulted in a different judgment, had it been presented at the trial.

Tenn. Code Ann. § 40-26-105(b). To demonstrate he is entitled to coram nobis relief, petitioner must clear several procedural hurdles.

First, the petition for writ of error coram nobis must relate: (1) the grounds and the nature of the newly discovered evidence; (2) why the admissibility of the newly discovered evidence may have resulted in a different judgment had the evidence been admitted at the previous trial; (3) the petitioner was without fault in failing to present the newly discovered evidence at the appropriate time; and (4) the relief sought by the petitioner. Freshwater v. State, 160 S.W.3d 548, 553 (Tenn. Crim. App. 1995) (citing State v. Hart, 911 S.W.2d 371, 374-75 (Tenn. Crim. App. 1995)).

Next, a petition for writ of error coram nobis must generally be filed within one year after the judgment becomes final. Tenn. Code Ann. § 27-7-103. When a petition is filed outside of the statute of limitations, the coram nobis court must determine whether due process requires tolling. Harris v. State, 301 S.W.3d 141, 145 (Tenn. 2010). In doing so, the "court must weigh the petitioner's interest in obtaining a hearing to present a later-arising ground for relief against the State's interest in preventing stale and groundless claims." Id. (citing Workman ...


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