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Sandifer v. State

Court of Criminal Appeals of Tennessee, Nashville

October 31, 2014


Assigned on Briefs May 21, 2014

Appeal from the Criminal Court for Davidson County No. 2007A591 Steve R. Dozier, Judge

Scott Wilder, Nashville, Tennessee, (on appeal), and Ryan Caldwell, Nashville, Tennessee, (post-conviction hearing), for the appellant, Lance Thomas Sandifer.

Herbert H. Slatery, III, Attorney General and Reporter; Clark B. Thornton, Senior Counsel; Victor S. Johnson, III, District Attorney General; and Rachel Sobrero, Assistant District Attorney General, for the appellee, State of Tennessee.

Thomas T. Woodall, P.J., delivered the opinion of the court, in which D. Kelly Thomas, Jr., J., joined. Jeffrey S. Bivins, J., not participating.




Post-conviction hearing

Petitioner testified that he met with trial counsel on court dates, and they met at the jail one time. Petitioner said that he made both an oral and a written request to trial counsel to have an investigator appointed to his case but trial counsel told Petitioner that he was not "going to do it." He claimed that trial counsel did not do anything on his case concerning the interviewing of witnesses. Petitioner testified that the following witnesses would have helped in his case:

Ms. Susan Brooks, who came to my sentencing hearing, my mother, my resource coordinator from state custody, my old therapist. This, several different people. [Trial counsel] was offered help from my old attorney, who is now associate dean at a law school, he was offered her assistance, whatever she could do. He didn't reach out to her at all.

Petitioner testified that he had taken medication since the age of six for "[a]nxiety, childhood mental traumas, [and] emotional disorder." He claimed that he had not been taking the medication during the months leading up to trial. He could not give the name of the medication. Petitioner testified that his head was not clear during trial due to the fact that he was under a "whole lot of stress being locked up."

Petitioner testified that trial counsel failed to file a motion for speedy trial as Petitioner had requested. He said that trial counsel also failed to filed "a motion to obtain samples, statements and other evidence in the State's possession[.]" Petitioner testified: "The coverage from the interviews with myself, my charge partners, the interviews with the victims, all of that. I ain't seen none of it." Petitioner testified that although trial counsel filed a motion to suppress his statements, he did not file a motion to suppress the out-of-court identifications.

Petitioner testified that he tried to communicate with trial counsel during jury selection, but trial counsel did not discuss the strategy with Petitioner. Petitioner claimed that trial counsel failed to strike certain jurors. He said that one juror in particular worked at Middle Tennessee Mental Health Institute. When asked how that prejudiced his case, Petitioner replied: "For the simple fact that she probably worked around those type people, so she might feel like somebody's accountable for their actions, regardless of their mental stability or whatnot." Petitioner also acknowledged that the juror could also be more sympathetic to those with mental instability. Petitioner testified that trial counsel did not allow him to have input in the opening statement. He said, "[Trial counsel] didn't say nothing [sic] that I ask[ed] him to say."

Petitioner testified that trial counsel advised him "to an extent" of the "pros and cons" of testifying during trial. He said that trial counsel told him that "any statements that were made or anything that could be withheld or not, something like that. That all could be brought up or whatever, if I was to testify." Petitioner ultimately did not testify at trial.

Petitioner did not believe that trial counsel had his best interest in mind and that the trial strategy was faulty. When asked what his trial strategy would have been, Petitioner testified:

To address the issues with them, first of all. Like for example the victim trying to play as though she was a saint. And on the stand herself, she mentioned that she, for example, smokes marijuana, communicated and keeping with people, cat thugs and whatnot. So therefore, how can you be such a great person if you [sic] on the stand, admitting that you broke the law yourself or whatnot. Not only that, the statements of what I did and didn't do, he didn't address that, he didn't address certain evidence that was put on. For example, the expert, TBI expert witness said like, contradicting that he was trying to address, and I was telling him to address those things.

Petitioner testified that trial counsel did not call enough witnesses at his sentencing hearing. He said that he wanted the following people called: "Former employee, I mean, former employers, my mother, the person who supervised me when I used to do teens, young ...

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