Assigned on Briefs October 7, 2014
Appeal from the Circuit Court for Tipton County No. 7167 Honorable Joseph H. Walker, III, Judge
Lyle A. Jones, Covington, Tennessee, for the Petitioner, Demond Hughlett.
Robert E. Cooper, Jr., Attorney General and Reporter; Clarence E. Lutz, Senior Counsel; D. Michael Dunavant, District Attorney General; and Jason R. Poyner, Assistant District Attorney General, for the Appellee, State of Tennessee.
Camille R. McMullen, J., delivered the opinion of the court, in which Norma McGee Ogle and Timothy L. Easter, JJ., joined.
CAMILLE R. McMULLEN, JUDGE
Plea Submission Hearing.
At the May 10, 2012 guilty plea hearing, the State asserted that on June 3, 2011, the Petitioner knowingly delivered .28 grams of cocaine within a thousand feet of a daycare in Covington, Tennessee. The Petitioner stipulated to the State's recitation of the factual basis supporting his plea.
The Petitioner stated that he was twenty-six years old and had a tenth grade education. He said he had discussed the plea agreement with counsel and understood the terms of the plea. He also said he wanted to enter a plea of guilty and was waiving his right to a trial by jury and his right to an appeal. The trial court informed the Petitioner that he was charged with a Class B felony, which had a sentence range of twelve to twenty years, and was requesting that he be allowed to enter a guilty plea to a Class C felony, which carried a range of six to ten years, although the State had recommended a ten-year sentence in his plea agreement. See T.C.A. § 40-35-112. The trial court further informed the Petitioner that his conviction in this case, along with his prior convictions, could be used to enhance his punishment for future offenses. The Petitioner asserted that no one had forced him to enter his guilty plea and that he was voluntarily entering his plea after discussing his case with counsel because he was guilty of the offense. He said he was satisfied with counsel's performance. The Petitioner then entered his guilty plea to the offense of delivery of less than .5 grams of cocaine. When the trial court asked the Petitioner if he had any questions, the Petitioner asked about whether he could receive a sentence of probation, and counsel explained on the record that a hearing regarding his request for probation would occur at a later date. Although the Petitioner was charged with delivery of less than .5 grams of cocaine in a school zone, a Class B felony, the court accepted his guilty plea to delivery of less than .5 grams of cocaine, a Class C felony, in exchange for a sentence of ten years as a Range II, multiple offender, with the manner of service of the sentence to be determinated at a later hearing. See T.C.A. §§ 39-17-417, -432, 40-35-112. Because the Petitioner was on parole in another case at the time he committed the offense in this case, his ten-year sentence was required to be served consecutively to his prior sentence. See Tenn. R. Crim. P. 32(c)(3)(A) (requiring consecutive sentencing for a felony committed while on parole for a felony). The trial court later ordered that he was to serve his ten-year sentence in confinement.
At the August 16, 2013 post-conviction hearing, the State entered Dr. John Hutson's letter to counsel, the guilty plea transcript, and the presentence investigation report as exhibits. Counsel testified that she was an assistant public defender and began representing the Petitioner after he was indicted. She obtained discovery and reviewed the lab report detailing the amount of cocaine involved in this case as well as the videotape of the drug transaction. Based on the information she received from the Petitioner's family, counsel investigated the Petitioner's competency to stand trial. She also investigated the credibility of the criminal informant involved in the drug transaction. Counsel said that although the video recording of the incident was of a poor quality and did not show "a hand to hand transaction, " two police officers had witnessed the exchange of drugs.
When counsel investigated the Petitioner's competency to stand trial, the Petitioner informed her that he had been recently hospitalized at Lakeside for mental health issues. She filed a motion to obtain funds for an expert and contacted Dr. John Hutson, a clinical psychologist, to conduct an evaluation of the Petitioner. She said Dr. Hutson met with her and the Petitioner for approximately two hours at the Hardeman County Correctional Facility. While there, she had the Petitioner sign a medical release for all of the facilities where he had been treated, and Dr. Hutson obtained these medical records. She said she never viewed the Petitioner's medical records because they were sent directly to Dr. Hutson. Counsel never scheduled any hearings to consider the Petitioner's competency at the time of the offense or his competency to stand trial because Dr. Hutson did not believe that the Petitioner had any issues regarding competency. Counsel stated that Dr. Hutson's letter "put the burden [of determining competency to stand trial] on me more so than on himself." She said Dr. Hutson "felt so long as I felt that [the Petitioner] was capable of working with me that he could recommend that he [was] competent if we [were] working together." She acknowledged that she had never received any training in psychiatry or mental health. Counsel stated that one of the reasons that Dr. Hutson did not believe that the Petitioner had any competency issues was that competency had already been addressed in a prior criminal case:
I spoke with Dr. Hutson in depth on this issue, and one of the reasons he cited that he did not think there was a competency issue was that the issue had already been looked at in previous cases. I think that [the Petitioner] had already been sent either to Pathways or Western State, possibly both, and that those records indicated that he was found competent at the time.
When she received Dr. Hutson's letter regarding the Petitioner's competency, she discussed the contents of this letter with the Petitioner and ...