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Johnson v. State

Court of Criminal Appeals of Tennessee, Nashville

March 31, 2015

LAQUAN NAPOLEON JOHNSON
v.
STATE OF TENNESSEE

Assigned on Briefs February 11, 2015

Appeal from the Circuit Court for Putnam County No. 11-0153 David A. Patterson, Judge

Laquan Napoleon Johnson ("the Petitioner") appeals from the denial of his Petition for Writ of Error Coram Nobis ("the petition"). The coram nobis court interpreted the petition to allege an error coram nobis claim as well as a post-conviction claim. It summarily denied the error coram nobis claim and dismissed the post-conviction claim as time-barred.[1] After a review of the record and applicable law, we affirm the judgment of the coram nobis court.

Laquan Napoleon Johnson, pro se, Nashville, Tennessee, as the appellant.

Herbert H. Slatery, III, Attorney General and Reporter; Ahmed A. Safeeullah, Assistant Attorney General; Randall A. York, District Attorney General; and Beth Willis, Assistant District Attorney General, for the appellee, State of Tennessee.

Robert L. Holloway, Jr., J., delivered the opinion of the Court, in which Thomas T. Woodall, P.J., and Timothy L. Easter, J., joined.

OPINION

ROBERT L. HOLLOWAY, JR., JUDGE

I. Factual and Procedural Background

On November 17, 2011, the Petitioner entered guilty pleas to one count of sale of cocaine over .5 grams and one count of sale of cocaine in violation of the drug-free school zone law. On March 27, 2012, the Petitioner was sentenced to an effective 12 years in the Tennessee Department of Correction. Judgments of conviction were entered on April 3, 2012. There is no indication in the record that the Petitioner filed any post-trial motions or an appeal.

On January 4, 2013, the District Attorney General sent a letter to the Petitioner in response to the Petitioner's Freedom of Information Request and Public Records Request. Attached to the letter was a CD containing the State's case file for the Petitioner's convictions. Based on the information contained in that case file, the Petitioner filed a pro se Petition for Writ of Error Coram Nobis on January 6, 2014, alleging newly discovered evidence in the context of Brady v. Maryland, 373 U.S. 83 (1963). In his rambling, 37-page petition, the Petitioner argued that the case file sent from the District Attorney General's office contained "newly discovered information and evidence" and that, had the Petitioner received this evidence prior to his guilty plea, he "may have" insisted on going to trial. Additionally, the Petitioner claimed that the State's failure to disclose the evidence in the file deprived him of effective assistance of counsel and rendered his guilty plea involuntary.[2]However, the Petitioner failed to specifically identify the newly discovered evidence. Instead, he simply made general references to the State's case file and attached what appears to be the entire case file to the petition.

In addition to the error coram nobis claim, the petition included arguments that trial counsel was ineffective. First, the Petitioner asserted that trial counsel was ineffective for failing to "properly investigate the facts, circumstances and the constitutional law that applies to Petitioner's case." Second, the Petitioner contended that trial counsel was ineffective for failing to file a motion to suppress "unconstitutional evidence derived from the ba[d] faith acts of the undercover officers of the State. . . ."[3]

In its Amended Response to Petition for Writ of Error Coram Nobis, the State argued that the petition should be dismissed because the Petitioner did not specifically identify the newly discovered evidence that formed the basis of his coram nobis claim. Additionally, the State contended that the Petitioner should have filed his claim of ineffective assistance of counsel in a post-conviction petition and, because the post-conviction claim was filed more than one year from the date his sentence became final, it was time-barred.

The coram nobis court summarily denied the petition "based on the record as a whole and the fact that [the Petitioner's] petition lacked specificity about any newly discovered evidence." As to the Petitioner's claim of ineffective assistance of counsel, the coram nobis court interpreted the argument to raise a ...


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