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Chapman v. State

Court of Criminal Appeals of Tennessee, Jackson

November 18, 2014


Assigned on Briefs October 7, 2014

Appeal from the Circuit Court for Madison County No. C-13-116 Roy B. Morgan, Jr., Judge

G.W. Sherrod III, Henderson, Tennessee, for the petitioner, Travis F. Chapman.

Robert E. Cooper, Jr., Attorney General and Reporter; Caitlin Smith, Assistant Attorney General; Jerry Woodall, District Attorney General; Jody S. Pickens, Assistant District Attorney General, for the respondent, State of Tennessee.

Timothy L. Easter, J., delivered the opinion of the court, in which Norma McGee Ogle and Camille R. McMullen, JJ., joined.



Factual Background

Petitioner pled guilty to attempted second degree murder on May 16, 2012, for an incident that occurred during a bar fight. In exchange, he received a twelve-year sentence to be served in incarceration as a Range I, Standard Offender.[1] On April 30, 2013, Petitioner filed a timely petition for post-conviction relief. In the petition, he alleged that he received ineffective assistance of counsel and that his guilty plea was unknowing and involuntary.

The post-conviction court held a hearing on the petition. During the hearing, trial counsel testified that she was retained to represent Petitioner. Petitioner's case was her first Class A felony case. Trial counsel recalled meeting with Petitioner's mother several times before the indictment, speaking with multiple witnesses in preparation for trial, and researching the charges against Petitioner. Trial counsel explained that the victim and at least one other witness were able to identify Petitioner as the perpetrator.

Trial counsel testified she met with Petitioner on several occasions at the jail and made a formal offer to the District Attorney to get the charges reduced. Trial counsel assisted the State in attempting to locate the co-defendant. Trial counsel did so with the hope that the State would be willing to offer a plea agreement to her client. Trial counsel explained that the initial plea offer was much more than twelve years but that she eventually negotiated the twelve-year sentence with the State.

Trial counsel reviewed the plea agreement with Petitioner prior to the entry of the plea. Trial counsel testified that she not only explained the charges to Petitioner but explained the range of sentences for the indicted offenses as well as all lesser included offenses. Counsel for the State filled out the plea petition. Trial counsel explained to Petitioner that, even though the plea petition indicated the range of punishment was eight to thirty years, a thirty-year sentence would be reserved for a career offender. Trial counsel explained to Petitioner that he would ordinarily be classified as a Range II offender because he had at least two prior felonies, but the plea agreement allowed him to be sentenced as a Range I offender. Her notes reflected that she informed Petitioner that his range of punishment was eight to twelve years.

Trial counsel did not find that a request for psychological evaluation was necessary as Petitioner seemed intelligent and was helpful in preparing his defense. Trial counsel even recalled that Petitioner performed some of his own legal research in preparation for trial. On one occasion, however, Petitioner complained that he did not "get it" so trial counsel spent an extended amount of time with him in order to ensure his understanding of the issue. Petitioner did not understand why the co-defendant could not be located prior to trial.

Petitioner testified that he met with trial counsel in early 2012 and visited with her two or three times at the jail for a few hours each time. Petitioner provided trial counsel with information about the case but "threw in the towel" because trial counsel could not remember the names of all the potential State witnesses. At that point, Petitioner decided to pursue a plea agreement.

Despite expressing the desire for a plea agreement, Petitioner explained that he felt pushed into pleading guilty because the State announced that it intended to charge Petitioner with being a felon in possession of a firearm in addition to the attempted first degree murder and aggravated assault charges that were already pending. Petitioner admitted that trial counsel showed him a "scale" of potential punishment but maintained that the only information he recalled was the eight to thirty years that the ...

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