Court of Criminal Appeals of Tennessee, Nashville
KENNETH L. WILLIAMS
STATE OF TENNESSEE
Assigned on Briefs April 28, 2015 at Knoxville.
Appeal from the Circuit Court for Montgomery County No. 41200673 Michael R. Jones, Judge
Wayne Clemons, Clarksville, Tennessee, for the Defendant-Appellant, Kenneth L. Williams.
Herbert H. Slatery III, Attorney General and Reporter; Ahmed A. Safeeullah, Assistant Attorney General; John W. Carney Jr., District Attorney General; and C. Daniel Brollier, Assistant District Attorney General, for the Appellee, State of Tennessee.
Robert W. Wedemeyer, J., delivered the opinion of the Court, in which D. Kelly Thomas Jr. and Timothy L. Easter, JJ., joined.
ROBERT W. WEDEMEYER, JUDGE.
The Petitioner was charged with two counts of rape of a child. Pursuant to a negotiated plea agreement with the State, the Petitioner pleaded guilty to one count of aggravated sexual battery on July 12, 2013. At the guilty plea submission hearing, the State presented the following facts as a basis for the trial court's acceptance of the Petitioner's guilty plea:
The State would introduce at sometime around Thanksgiving of 2011, [the Petitioner] was in [Department of Children's Services] custody. He went home at some point to stay with his family. [The victim], who was twelve years old at the time, was home and there was some sexual contact on the couch or in the bedroom. [The Petitioner] was interviewed, I believe, a couple months later by Detective Slaven (phonetic). The major issue would be apparently he acknowledges some contact did occur on the couch of the house with [the victim], when she was - - on that Thanksgiving.
[H]e was in State's custody for four years before this, [for] having similar contact with the same victim. He was removed from the home and he went back home on this Thanksgiving and the contact occurred again.
Following this recitation of the facts, the trial court defined the elements of aggravated sexual battery, and the Petitioner confirmed his understanding of the charge against him. The trial court then reviewed the range of sentence for aggravated sexual battery and the specific statutory provisions required for sex crime convictions. The Petitioner again stated his understanding. The trial court reviewed the Petitioner's rights, and the Petitioner confirmed his waiver of those rights upon entry of a guilty plea. The Petitioner stated that he did not have any questions regarding the sentence or his decision to enter a guilty plea. The Petitioner stated that he understood everything and that he wanted to enter a guilty plea. The Petitioner affirmed that he was guilty of aggravated sexual battery, and the trial court found him guilty, ordering him to serve twelve years in the Tennessee Department of Correction.
On August 6, 2013, the Petitioner filed a pro se motion to withdraw his guilty plea and, on November 1, 2013, a petition seeking post-conviction relief. The post-conviction court held a hearing on the motion and the petition on June 19, 2014, and the parties presented the following evidence: The Petitioner testified that he was seventeen years old when this offense occurred and that his case was transferred from juvenile court to criminal court. As to his education, he stated that he had completed "all the way into the 12th grade" and that he believed he had performed well on any IQ or achievement tests administered. The Petitioner acknowledged that, before this offense, he had been charged in juvenile court with robbery and drug-related offenses. The Petitioner stated that, "to the best of [his] understanding, " if he had not pleaded guilty, the charges would have been dropped, and he would have gone "home." He acknowledged that he would have had to go to trial on the charges but explained that there was "no physical evidence."
The Petitioner testified that he told his attorney ("Counsel") about there being no physical evidence, but she responded that it was "too late for them to go back and try to find evidence." She told the Petitioner that the State would try to have him sentenced to twenty-five years if he proceeded to trial. The Petitioner said that he told Counsel about his foster family being potential witnesses who would testify that he "didn't do it." Counsel met with the witnesses, but the Petitioner never learned the outcome of those meetings.
The Petitioner testified that he met with Counsel approximately four times and that he felt that Counsel coerced him into accepting the State's offer. He explained that while in a visitation booth, he expressed to Counsel that he wanted to proceed to trial, and Counsel "hung up the phone in [his] face and kinda got an attitude about it, like she wanted [him] to ple[a]d guilty." The Petitioner said that, because of this interaction, the Petitioner pleaded guilty. He said that he did "not necessarily" understand the implications of his guilty plea, such as the amount of time he would be away from his family and ...