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Moore v. State

Court of Criminal Appeals of Tennessee, Jackson

April 9, 2015

FREDERICK MOORE
v.
STATE OF TENNESSEE

Appeal from the Circuit Court for Madison County No. C14174 Roy B. Morgan, Jr., Judge

Frederick Moore, Tiptonville, Tennessee, pro se.

Herbert H. Slatery III, Attorney General and Reporter; and Benjamin A. Ball, Senior Counsel, for the appellee, State of Tennessee.

Roger A. Page, J., delivered the opinion of the Court, in which John Everett Williams and Alan E. Glenn, JJ., joined.

MEMORANDUM OPINION

ROGER A. PAGE, JUDGE

Appellant was convicted of premeditated first degree murder, felony murder, aggravated kidnapping and two counts of tampering with evidence. Appellant's convictions resulted from the murder of Latonya Cole, his ex-girlfriend, on the day before they were scheduled to appear in court regarding child support payments. The evidence presented at trial included the testimony of Brad and Dennis Smartt, who lived near the victim. See State v. Frederick Lamont Moore, No. W2009-01266-CCA-R3-CD, 2011 WL 856379, at *2 (Tenn. Crim. App. Mar. 9, 2011). They both saw a vehicle matching the description of appellant's car parked in their driveway between 12:00 and 12:30 a.m. Id. At approximately 1:00 a.m., Brad Smartt saw a man and a woman walk into his yard from the direction of the victim's home. Id. The man was helping the woman as though she was injured, and the woman appeared "[j]ell-o-like." Id. The man helped the woman into the car, picking up her feet to get her inside. Id. Based upon this testimony and other evidence, appellant was convicted as charged.

The trial court merged appellant's murder convictions and imposed an effective sentence of life plus twenty years. This court affirmed appellant's convictions on direct appeal. See id. at *1.

Appellant then filed a petition for post-conviction relief alleging that he received ineffective assistance of counsel at trial. The post-conviction court denied relief, and this court affirmed the post-conviction court's judgment on appeal. See Frederick Moore v. State, No. W2012-02189-CCA-R3-PC, 2013 WL 6001928, at *1 (Tenn. Crim. App. Nov. 6, 2013).

On July 15, 2014, appellant filed a petition for writ of error coram nobis in which he alleged newly discovered evidence. It consisted of photographs of the outside of the victim's residence, photographs of the outside of the Smartts' residence, and measurements of the area. Appellant maintained that the evidence discredited the testimony of the Smartts. On July 23, 2014, the State filed a response maintaining that appellant's petition was time-barred and without merit. On August 14, 2014, the trial court entered an order dismissing the petition. The trial court found that the petition was time-barred and that the evidence relied upon by appellant was easily obtainable at the time of the trial. This appeal followed.

A writ of error coram nobis is an "extraordinary procedural remedy, " filling only a "slight gap into which few cases fall." State v. Mixon, 983 S.W.2d 661, 672 (Tenn. 1999) (citation omitted). Tennessee Code Annotated section 40-26-105(b) provides that coram nobis relief is available in criminal cases as follows:

The relief obtainable by this proceeding shall be confined to errors dehors the record and to matters that were not or could not have been litigated on the trial of the case, on a motion for a new trial, on appeal in the nature of a writ of error, on writ of error, or in a habeas corpus proceeding. Upon a showing by the defendant that the defendant was without fault in failing to present certain evidence at the proper time, a writ of error coram nobis will lie for subsequently or newly discovered evidence relating to matters which were litigated at the trial if the judge determines that such evidence may have resulted in a different judgment, had it been presented at the trial.

Our supreme court has stated the standard of review as "whether a reasonable basis exists for concluding that had the evidence been presented at trial, the result of the proceedings might have been different." State v. Vasques, 221 S.W.3d 514, 525-28 (Tenn. 2007) (citation omitted).

Coram nobis claims may be based upon any "newly discovered evidence relating to matters litigated at the trial" so long as the petitioner establishes that he or she was "without fault" in failing to present the evidence at the proper time. Harris v. State, 102 S.W.3d 587, 592 (Tenn. 2003). Coram nobis claims are "singularly fact-intensive, " are not easily resolved on the face of the petition, and often require a hearing. Id. at 592-93. The decision to grant or deny coram nobis relief rests within the sound discretion of the trial court. Vasques, 221 S.W.3d at 527-28.

A petition for the writ of error coram nobis must relate: (1) the grounds and the nature of the newly discovered evidence; (2) why the admissibility of the newly discovered evidence may have resulted in a different judgment had the evidence been admitted at the previous trial; (3) that the petitioner was without fault in failing to present the newly discovered evidence at the appropriate time; and (4) the relief sought by the petitioner. Freshwater v. State, 160 S.W.3d 548, 553 (Tenn. Crim. App. 2004). Newly discovered evidence is evidence that was unknown to the defendant at the time of the proceedings which are the subject of the coram nobis claim. Wlodarz v. State, 361 S.W.3d 490, 506 (Tenn. 2012). It has been repeatedly held that a coram nobis court is not required to ...


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