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Mendenhall v. State

Court of Criminal Appeals of Tennessee, Nashville

November 28, 2016

BRUCE MENDENHALL
v.
STATE OF TENNESSEE

          Assigned on Briefs at Knoxville August 16, 2016

         Appeal from the Criminal Court for Davidson County No. 2008-C-2541 Steve R. Dozier, Judge

         The Petitioner, Bruce Mendenhall, appeals the Davidson County Criminal Court's denial of his petition for post-conviction relief from his convictions of three counts of solicitation to commit first degree premeditated murder and resulting effective thirty-year sentence. On appeal, the Petitioner contends that he received the ineffective assistance of trial counsel. Based upon the record and the parties' briefs, we affirm the judgment of the post-conviction court.

         Tenn. R. App. P. 3 Appeal as of Right; Judgment of the Criminal Court is Affirmed.

          Jesse Lords, Nashville, Tennessee, for the appellant, Bruce Mendenhall.

          Herbert H. Slatery III, Attorney General and Reporter; M. Todd Ridley, Assistant Attorney General; Glenn R. Funk, District Attorney General; and Pamela Anderson, Assistant District Attorney General, for the appellee, State of Tennessee.

          Norma McGee Ogle, J., delivered the opinion of the court, in which James Curwood Witt, Jr., and D. Kelly Thomas, Jr., JJ., joined.

          OPINION

          NORMA MCGEE OGLE, JUDGE

         I. Factual Background

         According to this court's opinion from the Petitioner's direct appeal of his convictions,

[i]n 2007, the Defendant was arrested and charged with the murder of Sara Hulbert. Sergeant Pat Postiglione and Detective Lee Freeman of the Metropolitan Nashville Police Department (MNPD) led the murder investigation. Shortly after his arrest, the Defendant gave a statement alleging that he had nothing to do with Ms. Hulbert's murder and that three other individuals were responsible for killing Ms. Hulbert: Lori Young, Ritchie Kiem, and David Powell. However, the police were unable to find any evidence connecting these individuals to Ms. Hulbert's murder. While awaiting trial for the murder of Ms. Hulbert, the Defendant was housed at the Davidson County Sheriff's Department's (DCSD) Criminal Justice Center (CJC) in Nashville, Tennessee. On August 15, 2008, the Defendant was indicted for soliciting a fellow inmate, Roy Lukas McLaughlin, to commit the premeditated first degree murders of Ms. Young, Mr. Kiem, and Mr. Powell. The Defendant was also indicted for soliciting another fellow inmate, Michael Jenkins, to commit the premeditated first degree murders of Sgt. Postiglione and Det. Freeman. A jury trial on the charges was held from January 11 to January 15, 2010.

State v. Bruce D. Mendenhall No. M2010-01381-CCA-R3-CD, 2013 WL 360525, at *1 (Tenn. Crim. App. at Nashville, Jan. 30, 2013), perm. to appeal denied, (Tenn. June 11, 2013). The jury convicted the Petitioner of soliciting Mr. McLaughlin to commit the first degree premeditated murders of Ms. Young, Mr. Kiem, and Mr. Powell, Class B felonies, but acquitted him of soliciting Mr. Jenkins to murder Sergeant Postiglione and Detective Freeman. Id at *33. After a sentencing hearing, the Petitioner received three consecutive ten-year sentences. Id at *1.

         On appeal of his convictions to this court, the Petitioner raised various issues, including that the evidence was insufficient to support the convictions. See id at *1. This court found the evidence sufficient, noting that Mr. McLaughlin testified that the Petitioner hired him to kill Ms. Young, Mr. Kiem, and Mr. Powell and that "wire recordings reveal[ed] that [the Petitioner] was actively planning the victims' murders with Mr. McLaughlin." Id at *64, 66. After our supreme court denied the Petitioner's application for permission to appeal, he filed a timely pro se petition for post-conviction relief, claiming that he received the ineffective assistance of counsel.[1] Appointed counsel filed an amended petition. Relevant to this appeal, the Petitioner alleged that he received the ineffective assistance of counsel because trial counsel refused to present an entrapment defense and refused to present witnesses to testify against Mr. McLaughlin.

         At the evidentiary hearing, the Petitioner testified that two attorneys represented him at trial but that he met with co-counsel more often than lead counsel. He acknowledged that counsel met with him regularly in jail and said that they discussed "different things that was going on with the court." The Petitioner said that Sergeant Postiglione had claimed the police "handed solicitation charges to my attorney." However, "[t]hat was a lie" because trial counsel was in Chicago when the indictment was filed and did not receive the indictment for one week. The Petitioner told co-counsel that he wanted to use an entrapment defense, but co-counsel refused. The Petitioner also gave lead counsel the names of eleven witnesses so she could have them "refute McLaughlin" at trial, but she "didn't use nary a one of them." The Petitioner said that two of the witnesses would have testified that they overheard Mr. McLaughlin tell fellow inmates that Mr. McLaughlin had "made a deal with the State." Regarding discovery, the Petitioner said, "A lot of it I didn't get." He said that he asked counsel for discovery but that they said his jail cell was too small for all of the documents. At the ...


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