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Crocker v. State

Court of Criminal Appeals of Tennessee, Jackson

May 6, 2015


Assigned on Briefs Date: March 3, 2015

Appeal from the Circuit Court for Carroll County No. 05CR98PC Donald E. Parish, Judge

J. Neil Thompson, Huntingdon, Tennessee, for the petitioner, Bobby Glen Crocker.

Herbert H. Slatery III, Attorney General and Reporter; Jeffrey D. Zentner, Assistant Attorney General; Hansel Jay McCadams, District Attorney General; and R. Adam Jowers, Assistant District Attorney General, for the respondent, State of Tennessee.

Timothy L. Easter, J., delivered the opinion of the Court, in which Robert W. Wedemeyer and Robert H. Montgomery, Jr., JJ., joined.



Factual and Procedural Background

Over ten and one-half years ago, the Petitioner murdered his wife. He pled guilty in the Circuit Court of Carroll County in 2006 and filed his first petition for postconviction relief in 2011. The post-conviction court's dismissal of that petition was affirmed by this Court in 2013. Bobby Glen Crocker v. State, No. W2012-00960-CCA-R3-PC, 2013 WL 2327092 (Tenn. Crim. App. May 28, 2013), perm. app. granted (Tenn. Oct. 23, 2013). The Tennessee Supreme Court vacated this Court's decision and remanded the case to the post-conviction court for an additional hearing. It is from that hearing and subsequent judgment of dismissal that the Petitioner now appeals.

The following excerpt comes from this Court's original opinion affirming the dismissal of Petitioner's first petition for post-conviction relief:

The Carroll County Grand Jury indicted the Petitioner for first degree premeditated murder for the October 2004 killing of his estranged wife. In November 2004, Pathways Behavioral Health conducted a competency evaluation and concluded that, based on the Petitioner's mental retardation, he was incapable of defending himself at trial. In February 2005, Western Mental Health Institute assessed the Petitioner and found him to be "functioning within the [m]oderate range of mental retardation." The State filed a motion requesting that, based on the "mixed messages" of the two evaluations, a mental retardation specialist re-evaluate the Petitioner. In April 2005, a mental retardation specialist from the Department of Mental Health evaluated the Petitioner and concluded that he was capable of defending himself at trial. On March 20, 2006, the Petitioner pled guilty to second degree murder and received a thirty-year sentence to be served at one hundred percent.
On February 1, 2011, the Petitioner filed a pro se petition for postconviction relief, raising several issues, including that he was actually innocent of the crime and received the ineffective assistance of trial counsel. The State filed a motion to dismiss the petition on the basis that it was time-barred. The post-conviction court concluded that it should conduct an evidentiary hearing to determine whether due process required tolling the one-year statute of limitations and appointed counsel to represent the Petitioner. Counsel filed an amended petition, arguing that the statute of limitations should be tolled due to the Petitioner's mental incompetence. In support of the amended petition, counsel attached the Petitioner's medical records since the entry of his guilty plea. In October 2011, the post-conviction court ordered that Pathways evaluate the Petitioner to determine whether he was competent to participate in the post-conviction process, and the evaluator concluded that the Petitioner was competent.
In April 2012, the post-conviction court conducted the evidentiary hearing to determine whether the Petitioner's alleged mental incompetence tolled the statute of limitations. At the hearing, Anne McSpadden, a psychologist at West Tennessee State Penitentiary, testified as an expert in psychology that she met with the Petitioner one time in April 2006. The Petitioner had been referred to her in order for her to determine whether he was eligible to participate in a program for low-functioning inmates and whether he would benefit from "some type of therapy." Dr. McSpadden met with the Petitioner for twenty to thirty minutes and determined that he was not eligible for the program due to the length of his sentence and the severity of his crime. At the time of their meeting, the Petitioner had just entered the Department of Correction and was receiving treatment for major depression. Dr. McSpadden said the Petitioner seemed to have trouble remembering things and "had issues surrounding his case and . . . was confused." She explained that people with major depression typically "experience significant impairment in their day to day ability to work, manage their affairs, and to just deal with the day to day stressors." The Petitioner also had been diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), which could cause flashbacks and nightmares, and was taking several antipsychotic and antidepressant medications. He reported to Dr. McSpadden that he had very little education and could not read or write. Dr. McSpadden stated, "I would think that it would be very difficult for anybody in this day and time to not be able to read and write to deal with what we have to do from day to day."
Dr. McSpadden testified that the Petitioner could not remember much about what had happened in the past. She said that in 2004, Pathways had determined that his IQ was 60, which "falls in the mildly mentally retarded branch." She explained that people diagnosed as mildly mentally retarded had impaired judgment in most areas of their lives and usually required supervision and monitoring. If they worked, they usually had to have a job coach help them, and they often lived in supervised care homes or with their families. Dr. McSpadden stated that in her experience, people with an IQ of 60 usually functioned on a reading and writing level of third grade or less and would have to have assistance managing their personal affairs. Dr. McSpadden said that in her opinion, it would be very difficult for the Petitioner to manage his personal affairs or understand legal options available to him. She said that some of her opinions about the Petitioner were based on events that occurred after she interviewed him in April 2006.
On cross-examination, Dr. McSpadden testified that there were "significant differences" in people diagnosed as mildly mentally retarded. With support and help, some of them could maintain a fairly normal life without constant supervision. The State showed Dr. McSpadden a report from an evaluation conducted on the Petitioner by the Department of Mental Retardation Services in April 2005. She acknowledged that the report indicated the Petitioner could read, check his own blood sugar levels, and perform a difficult task such as changing the clutch in his truck. She also acknowledged that the report indicated the Petitioner worked in a factory for twenty-three years, owned a furniture shop for three years, and worked as a sharecropper for about thirteen years. However, she was not sure the information in the report was accurate. Dr. McSpadden acknowledged that the Petitioner's 2005 evaluation assessed whether he was malingering and that the evaluator concluded the Petitioner was malingering. The Petitioner's April 2005 evaluation was conducted over a two-day period and was more detailed than the twenty- to thirty-minute interview Dr. McSpadden conducted in April 2006. Dr. McSpadden did not diagnose the Petitioner with any conditions as a result of their interview, and she did not see him again.
On redirect examination, Dr. McSpadden testified that in April 2005, the Petitioner's Global Assessment of Function (GAF) test score was 60. She said that GAF measured "how well a person is doing relative to the general population" and that a score of 60 meant "he has impairment. He either has moderate impairment in one area or mild impairment in all three areas of his life. And those areas being work, relationships, and the other use of available time." She acknowledged that according to the Petitioner's November 2004 evaluation, Pathways concluded that he was incompetent to stand trial due to his mental retardation.
The Petitioner testified that people at the prison prepared his paperwork for him, told him how to do his job, and told him when to take a shower. He said inmates "[do] my business" and "[g]et my clothes." Sometime before the Petitioner entered prison, his brother obtained power of attorney over his affairs because he could not make decisions. He said he could sign his name but could not read or write. The State asked if he was able to understand his legal responsibilities and obligations, and the Petitioner answered, "I guess I do. Yeah." He said that he "didn't have nothing to do" with the filing of his pro se petition for post-conviction relief and that he did not understand the information in the petition. He also said that he did not understand that by filing the petition, the post-conviction court could order that his guilty plea be withdrawn and that he go to trial. The guards and nurses assisted the Petitioner in prison. He said that he went to the prison hospital twice per day for blood sugar monitoring, that he ate too much food, that he did not know what foods he could eat, and that "they have to take it away from me."
On cross-examination, the Petitioner acknowledged that he signed his petitions for post-conviction relief but said that he did not know why the petitions were filed. He acknowledged that an individual named Peter Jenkins prepared his pro se petition and said that Jenkins "writes my letters and [tells] me what to do." The Petitioner stated that he signed whatever Jenkins told him to sign and that he did not know anything about the law. He acknowledged that he had a prison job but said, "They pay me, but I don't do nothing. . . . Well, the other guy does the job. He tells me what to do." He acknowledged that he used to work in a factory and said that he worked there more than twenty-three years. He also worked as a sharecropper but never owned a furniture shop. He stated that he "told people stuff to make me look good . . . because [they] was calling me retarded" and that "I ain't normal." He said that when he visited the prison doctor, other inmates told him what to tell the doctor because the inmates did not want him "[put] in the crazy house." The State asked the Petitioner if he had ever resided in a supervised home facility, and he answered, "I don't understand a word you [are] saying."
On redirect examination, the Petitioner testified that he could not learn in school. He said that when he was ten years old, he was told that he was "retarded" and that his going to school was "useless."
Samantha Phillips testified that she was the Health Administrator at Northwest Correctional Complex, where the Petitioner was an inmate. She identified the Petitioner's medical records, and the State introduced the records into evidence. Phillips stated that she was familiar with the policies and procedures for appointing conservators for inmates and that nothing in the records indicated a conservator had been appointed for the Petitioner.
In a written order, the post-conviction court concluded that the Petitioner failed to show by clear and convincing evidence that within one year of his judgment of conviction becoming final, he "lacked the mental capacity to manage his personal affairs and to understand his legal rights." Thus, the post-conviction court concluded that the statute of limitations should not be tolled and dismissed the petition for post-conviction relief as time barred.

Bobby Glen Crocker, 2013 WL 2327092, at *1-4 (footnote omitted).

This Court affirmed the dismissal of the petition, concluding that the post-conviction court had not erred in finding that Petitioner had failed to prove by clear and convincing evidence that he suffered from mental incompetence necessitating the tolling of the statute of limitations. Id. at *5. On October 23, 2013, the Supreme Court of Tennessee granted Petitioner's Rule 11 application for permission to appeal, vacated the decision of this Court, and remanded to the post-conviction court for an additional hearing so that Petitioner was "afforded the opportunity to present additional evidence concerning his alleged incompetency in light of the standard . . . adopted in Reid [ex rel. Martiniano v. State, 396 S.W.3d 478 (Tenn. 2013)]." Bobby Glen Crocker v. State, No. W2012-00960-SC-R11-PC, at 3 (Tenn. Oct. 23, 2013) (Order). Reid announced a new standard by which courts should determine whether the post-conviction statute of limitations should be tolled for a petitioner with an alleged mental incompetency. See id. at 1-2. That decision was released while Petitioner's post-conviction appeal was pending.

Upon remand, the post-conviction court held another evidentiary hearing on May 6, 2014, during which the following evidence was adduced.

Ms. Fannie T. Shelton testified that she was a nationally certified psychiatric nurse practitioner, family nurse practitioner, and gerontological nurse practitioner. She received her undergraduate education from the University of Tennessee and the University of Memphis. She received a Master's degree in nursing, "specifically in diagnosing and treatment, " from the University of Tennessee in December 1981. She practiced at Veterans Medical Center in Memphis from 1981 through 2006.

Ms. Shelton saw Petitioner on June 30, 2006, and in September 2006 at Northwest Correctional while she was employed by Mental Health Management, Inc. Petitioner's diagnosis on both occasions was "major depressive disorder recurrent with psychosis and [post-traumatic stress disorder ("PTSD")]." After evaluating Petitioner, Ms. Shelton "continued [Petitioner] on his current medical regimen . . . because he was doing so well." At the hearing, Ms. Shelton could not recall what medications Petitioner was taking at the time, but she was "sure" that he was "on an anti-depressant for his depressive disorder." Petitioner may have been taking psychotropic medications for the "psychotic features" that sometimes accompany depression.

Each of Petitioner's diagnoses of major depressive disorder and PTSD is a mental disease or defect and an "Axis 1" psychiatric diagnosis. Ms. Shelton explained that, "according to DSM-IV and V [the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual, fourth and fifth editions], there's a spectrum in Axis 1 [that] relates to the psychiatric component of the . . . disorders. There's . . . Axis 2, 3, 4, and 5, but this specifically is related to a psychiatric diagnosis." She testified that an Axis 1 diagnosis would not affect a person being able to understand his or her legal rights and would not "have any effect on their mental capabilities as they process information [or] things of that nature." When Ms. Shelton observed Petitioner in June and September of 2006, "he was having no symptoms, no hallucinations, no problem with sleep or appetite, no side effects from medications, and he did not voice any complaints . . . of his mental status exam, but he was stable at that time." Ms. Shelton stated that nothing in her observation notes suggested that Petitioner was untruthful or deceptive during their meetings.

Ms. Shelton could not remember the particular meetings that she had with Petitioner; she could only testify based on her notes. Ms. Shelton's notes reflected that there were not any noteworthy differences between Petitioner's condition in June and in September. Ms. Shelton never made any inquiry into Petitioner's educational background or IQ, although Petitioner reported to Ms. Shelton that he was attending "AC" school. Ms. Shelton could not recall what that abbreviation meant. She did not discuss Petitioner's legal situation with him. Ms. Shelton stated that neither of Petitioner's diagnoses would "in any way affect [Petitioner] from being able to make a rational choice between options that are presented to him."

Ms. Shelton explained that patients received an initial treatment plan, which was reviewed every six months by a team to discuss whether any changes needed to be made. Each time Ms. Shelton observed Petitioner, there was a treatment plan in place for him. Petitioner received outpatient treatment for his diagnoses, and Ms. ...

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