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Chalmers v. State

Court of Criminal Appeals of Tennessee, Jackson

February 26, 2015

ALPHONZO CHALMERS
v.
STATE OF TENNESSEE

Assigned on Briefs October 7, 2014

Direct Appeal from the Criminal Court for Shelby County No. 98-09236 Chris Craft, Judge

James E. Thomas, Memphis, Tennessee, for the appellant, Alphonzo Chalmers.

Robert E. Cooper, Jr., Attorney General and Reporter; Jeffrey D. Zentner, Assistant Attorney General; and Amy P. Weirich, District Attorney General, for the appellee, State of Tennessee.

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

OPINION

NORMA MCGEE OGLE, JUDGE

I. Factual Background

The record before us reflects that the petitioner was convicted of first degree murder in 1999. The petitioner appealed his conviction and sentence, and this court affirmed the judgment of the trial court in April 2001. State v. Alfonzo Chalmers, No. W2000-00440-CCA-R3-CD, 2001 Tenn. Crim. App. LEXIS 245 (Jackson, Apr. 4, 2001). The petitioner timely filed a petition for post-conviction relief, which the trial court dismissed. This court affirmed the dismissal in June 2013. Alphonzo Chalmers v. State, No. W2002-02270-CCA-R3-PC, 2003 Tenn. Crim. App. LEXIS 533 (Jackson, June 13, 2003).

On July 31, 2013, the petitioner filed the instant petition for writ of error coram nobis, alleging that he had obtained newly discovered evidence that was not discoverable at the time of his trial. The petitioner stated that his mother had recently obtained his mental health records from the Memphis Mental Health Institute (MMHI) after the petitioner signed a release of records form. The petitioner contended that the records refute the testimony of Dr. Rokeye S. Farooque and Dr. Samuel Craddock, who testified at his trial. The petitioner maintained that the records reflect that he had hallucinations and was paranoid and that if the jury had known of these problems, the outcome at trial would have been different. The petitioner further alleged that the records were withheld by the State in violation of Brady v. Maryland, 373 U.S. 83 (1963).

The coram nobis court found that the petition was not timely and should be dismissed. Additionally, the court stated that even if the petition were timely, the petitioner's claim had no merit. The court cited this court's opinion in the petitioner's direct appeal, wherein this court summarized the testimony of Dr. Craddock and Dr. Farooque, which included the records from the MMHI. The coram nobis court noted that both doctors had concluded that the petitioner was malingering. Dr. Farooque also concluded that the petitioner's problems resulted from his abuse of cocaine and alcohol. The court held that the records were not newly discovered evidence and "did not make any difference at the petitioner's trial." The court observed that the records could have been easily obtained by the petitioner prior to trial. Additionally, the court found that the State had not violated Brady.

On appeal, the petitioner challenges this ruling.

II. Analysis

The writ of error coram nobis, which originated in common law five centuries ago, "'allowed a trial court to reopen and correct its judgment upon discovery of a substantial factual error not appearing in the record which, if known at the time of judgment, would have prevented the judgment from being pronounced.'" State v. Wlodarz, 361 S.W.3d 490, 496-97 (Tenn. 2012) (quoting State v. Mixon, 983 S.W.2d 661, 666-67 (Tenn. 1999)). The writ, as first codified in Tennessee in 1858, was applicable to civil cases. Id. at 498. In 1955, a statutory version of the writ of error coram nobis was enacted, making the writ also applicable to criminal ...


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