Court of Criminal Appeals of Tennessee, Knoxville
Session November 18, 2014
Appeal from the Criminal Court for Monroe County No. 12136 Amy F. Reedy, Judge
Joseph Crabtree, Athens, Tennessee, for the appellant, Coty Shane Smith.
Herbert H. Slatery III, Attorney General and Reporter; Lacy Wilbur, Senior Counsel; Steven Bebb, District Attorney General; and Wayne Carter, Assistant District Attorney General, for the appellee, State of Tennessee.
Timothy L. Easter, J., delivered the opinion of the court, in which John Everett Williams and Robert W. Wedemeyer, JJ., joined.
TIMOTHY L. EASTER, JUDGE
Factual and Procedural Background
This case arises out of the murder of the victim, Luther "Luke" Vineyard. A Monroe County grand jury indicted Defendant, Lorenz James Freeman, Jr., Joshua Lee Steele, and Jessica Renee Payne for conspiracy to commit aggravated robbery and felony murder. Mr. Freeman and Mr. Steele were also indicted for aggravated robbery. Ms. Payne was indicted for criminal responsibility for aggravated robbery. Defendant entered a plea of guilt to second degree murder in exchange for the dismissal of the remaining charges. The trial court was to determine the manner of service of the sentence at a sentencing hearing. At the guilty plea hearing on July 1, 2013, the State announced the factual basis underlying the guilty plea as follows:
[O]n March the 4th, 2012, that Mr. Freeman, [Defendant] and Ms. Payne had an attempt to go and rob the victim in this case, a Mr. Vineyard. That they went to his place of residence, that the female, Ms. Payne, stayed in the vehicle and the two gentlemen get out. That they approached his residence when another vehicle shows up and they get spooked and leave and so there's no event that happens at that point. They go to a residence where they get hold of Mr. Steele. At that point, sometime later on, and Ms. Payne does not return with them, but Mr. Freeman, [Defendant], and Mr. Steele go back to Mr. Vineyard's residence, and at that point they go in [wearing masks] and it is Mr. Freeman and Mr. Steele who are the ones that hold on to the victim Mr. Vineyard and he's hit in the head with a piece of iron, a piece of wrought iron, and eventually dies - -
[Defendant] was involved in the planning, [Defendant] goes through the house, the house is ransacked looking for what we expect they were looking for cash, there were some rumors going around that the victim Mr. Vineyard had a large amount of cash that was there. After this happens they leave, go back, and there's some other conversations that goes on. Fortunately law enforcement gets on top of this thing fairly quickly and does a[n] outstanding job of investigating the case and statements are taken from Mr. Freeman and Mr. Steele, and Ms. Payne that would support the facts that I've outlined to the court.
(Footnote added). Based upon the evidence, the trial court accepted Defendant's guilty plea.
Subsequently, on September 20, 2013, Defendant filed a motion to withdraw his guilty plea. On October 30, 2013, trial counsel filed a motion to withdraw. Trial counsel asserted that representing Defendant on the motion to withdraw the guilty plea was likely a conflict of interest due to the fact that it was, in part, based on the allegation that trial counsel did not adequately provide Defendant with information to make a knowledgeable decision about the entry of the guilty plea.
The trial court held a hearing on the motion to withdraw the guilty plea. At the hearing, Defendant explained that, prior to March of 2012, he had been charged with theft of property valued under $500. Defendant pled guilty to that charge but was not represented by an attorney.
Defendant explained that during the investigation of the incident at issue herein, he never admitted that he intended to cause injury or death to the victim or that he actually inflicted the injuries to the victim. Additionally, he informed investigators that he did not understand why or how he could be responsible for the death of someone when he did not perform the acts that resulted in the death. However, Defendant admitted on cross-examination that he understood after conversations with trial counsel that he could be ...