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Williams v. State

Court of Criminal Appeals of Tennessee, Nashville

November 5, 2014


Assigned on Briefs October 29, 2014

Appeal from the Criminal Court for Davidson County No. 2010-B-1227 Cheryl A. Blackburn, Judge

Leah Wilson, Nashville, Tennessee, for the appellant, Doris Williams.

Herbert H. Slatery III, Attorney General and Reporter; Clarence E. Lutz, Senior Counsel; Victor S. Johnson III, District Attorney General; and Bret Thomas Gunn, Assistant District Attorney, for the appellee, State of Tennessee.

Roger A. Page, J., delivered the opinion of the court, in which John Everett Williams and Robert H. Montgomery, Jr., JJ., joined.


Roger A. Page, Judge

I. Facts

Petitioner and two co-defendants were indicted for first degree premeditated murder in May 2010. Sometime thereafter, petitioner was evaluated for competency. As a result of her evaluation, she was committed for a time to the Middle Tennessee Mental Health Institute ("MTMHI"). In May 2011, petitioner pleaded guilty to second degree murder. She agreed to an out-of-range sentence of thirty-five years in exchange for the State allowing her to plead to a lesser-included offense. At her plea acceptance hearing, the State offered the following factual basis for her plea:

If it had gone to trial, the State's proof would be that on October the 14th of 2009[, ] [petitioner] was living with a Mr. David Hurst, a boyfriend-girlfriend situation, at a trailer . . . in Davidson County. In the early morning hours[, ] two people that the police later learned were LeSergio Wilson and Alicia Williams came into the trailer and shot and killed Mr. Hurst. [Petitioner] went to the neighbors. When the police arrived, [petitioner] gave an account of the incident. The police quickly found problems with the account that she was giving. They had a cell phone that they recovered from the trailer, and there was a phone call missing from that cell phone when . . . compared . . . to the phone records. And that call was to the phone of Alicia Williams. Shortly after that, the police stated looking at LeSergio Wilson and Alicia Williams as possibly being involved with this. They learned that [petitioner] knew that Mr. Hurst had . . . an affair with [petitioner's] grown daughter. She was aware of that. At some point later[, ] Mr. LeSergio Wilson was arrested with a firearm in his possession. It came back to be the murder weapon in that case. The police discovered that even after this incident[, ] [petitioner] had been [making] phone calls back and forth between her and Alicia Williams and that [petitioner] had been taking items to the pawnshop and pawning them around the time of those phone calls.
Ultimately[, ] the police got a wiretap in this case, and there's one critical phone call between [petitioner] and Alicia Williams where they are discussing the weapon that was found on Mr. LeSergio Wilson[, and] [petitioner] was quite upset at LeSergio Wilson for keeping that weapon that was a murder weapon in that case.
Ultimately[, ] the police interviewed [petitioner] where she admitted a great deal of what she had said. In fact, LeSergio Wilson admitted he had been hired by [petitioner] to kill Mr. Hurst. And one of [petitioner's] friends said that prior to this [petitioner] had been looking for somebody to kill Mr. Hurst. And either they received proceed[s] that were there at the trailer or from these pawns that [petitioner] did, Mr. Wilson and Alicia Williams.

During the plea colloquy between the trial court and petitioner, petitioner affirmed that trial counsel had read the plea agreement to her, that she initialed each section, and that he had answered her questions about the plea agreement to her satisfaction. Petitioner told the court that at the time of the hearing, she was taking Celexa, Trazadone, and Seroquel, as well as other medications that she could not remember. Petitioner affirmed that she had been residing at MTMHI but that she had been returned to the sheriff's custody a "couple of months" prior to the hearing. Petitioner told the court that she had taken her medications the morning of the hearing but that she was not having difficulty understanding the proceedings. The court asked, "I just want to make sure because of all the medication you take and other issues[, ] do you thoroughly understand what you're doing today[?]" Petitioner responded, "Yes, ma'am." She also told the court that she was satisfied with her attorney.

On April 12, 2012, petitioner filed a pro se petition for post-conviction relief. The post-conviction court found that she had presented a colorable claim and appointed counsel to represent her. An amended petition was subsequently filed, and the post-conviction court held an evidentiary hearing on April 22, 2013.

Petitioner and trial counsel testified at the evidentiary hearing. Petitioner testified that she had been heavily medicated during the time she was incarcerated pending trial and that trial counsel did not give her enough time to make a decision about the State's plea offer. Prior to her guilty plea, petitioner was treated for "post[-]traumatic antidepression and bipolar disorder." She took Seroquel and Trazodone, which made her "[v]ery groggy." Petitioner testified that she was not "well enough" to make the decision that she did and that she did not understand what trial counsel told her. Petitioner explained that trial counsel met with her three times over thirteen months and that when he presented the State's plea offer to her, he told her that she had until the following day to decide whether to accept. Petitioner said that of the three times that trial counsel visited, two times were at her request and the third was on trial ...

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