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Hunt v. State

Court of Criminal Appeals of Tennessee, Jackson

December 15, 2016

LARRY HUNT
v.
STATE OF TENNESSEE

          Assigned on Briefs at Knoxville July 26, 2016

         Appeal from the Criminal Court for Shelby County No. 00-12639, 00-12640, 0012641 Glenn Wright, Judge

         The Petitioner, Larry Hunt, appeals the Shelby County Criminal Court's denial of his petition for post-conviction relief from his aggravated robbery, aggravated kidnapping, and aggravated rape convictions, for which he is serving an effective thirty-two-year sentence. He contends that he received the ineffective assistance of counsel. We affirm the judgment of the post-conviction court.

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

          Juni S. Ganguli, Memphis, Tennessee, for the appellant, Larry Hunt.

          Herbert H. Slatery III, Attorney General and Reporter; Jonathan H. Wardle, Assistant Attorney General; Amy P. Weirich, District Attorney General; Carla Taylor, Assistant District Attorney General, for the appellee, State of Tennessee.

          Robert H. Montgomery, Jr., J., delivered the opinion of the court, in which Thomas T. Woodall, P.J., and Camille R. McMullen, J., joined.

          OPINION

          ROBERT H. MONTGOMERY, JR., JUDGE

         The Petitioner's convictions relate to a robbery of a hotel and the sexual assault and kidnapping of the victim, a hotel employee. The Petitioner was a former hotel employee and had worked with the victim. At his first trial, the Petitioner was convicted of aggravated robbery and aggravated kidnapping, but the jury was unable to reach a verdict on the aggravated rape count. At a second trial, the Petitioner was convicted of aggravated rape. The trial court imposed sentences of twenty-five years for aggravated rape and twelve years each for aggravated robbery and aggravated kidnapping, and it imposed partially consecutive sentences which yielded an effective thirty-seven year sentence. On appeal, this court affirmed the Petitioner's aggravated robbery, aggravated kidnapping, and aggravated rape convictions, vacated a conviction for a count that had been dismissed by the State but for which a judgment of conviction had nevertheless been entered, and modified the length of the sentences to twenty-two years for aggravated rape and ten years each for aggravated robbery and aggravated kidnapping, for an effective thirty-two-year sentence. See State v. Larry Hunt, No. W2003-01738-CCA-R3-CD, 2004 WL 2050284 (Tenn. Crim. App. Sept. 14, 2004), perm. app. denied (Tenn. May 23, 2005) (designated not for citation).

         The Petitioner filed a petition for post-conviction relief, in which he alleged he received the ineffective assistance of counsel in the conviction proceedings. The post-conviction court denied relief without making findings of fact or conclusions of law, and this court reversed the judgment based upon the post-conviction court's failure to specify the basis for its decision. Because the post-conviction judge was deceased by the time this court adjudicated the appeal, this court remanded the case for a new hearing rather than for the post-conviction court to make findings of facts and conclusions of law based upon the previous hearing. Larry Hunt v. State, No. W2012-01682-CCA-R3-PC, 2013 WL 3991819 (Tenn. Crim. App. Aug. 2, 2013).

         At the hearing on remand, trial counsel testified that the allegations at the trial involved the Petitioner's having gone to a hotel where he had been employed previously. Counsel said the Petitioner told counsel that his intent had been to steal money and that he had been surprised when he encountered the victim, who was returning from the restroom. Counsel said that the Petitioner took the money and that the Petitioner and the victim went to another part of the hotel, where the Petitioner digitally penetrated the victim until noticing her tampon. Counsel said the Petitioner asked the victim where the keys to a hotel van were and told the victim "they needed to take a ride." After the victim and the Petitioner struggled, the Petitioner forced the victim into the van and drove around for thirty minutes to one hour before abandoning the van, which the victim drove back to the hotel.

         Trial counsel testified that in his twenty-six years of law practice, he had filed motions to suppress when he thought they had merit. He agreed that the better practice was to file and litigate motions to suppress before a trial. He said, however, that the Petitioner did not inform him until after the first trial of any police conduct to support a motion to suppress. Counsel said that the trial judge agreed to hear a motion to suppress at this late juncture, that the judge denied the motion, and that the judge stated his ruling would have been the same had the motion been filed six months earlier.

         When asked about his decision not to have a defense investigator attempt to speak to the victim, trial counsel testified that rape victims tended not to be forthcoming with defense investigators. He said that he had a transcript of the preliminary hearing and that he considered "sworn testimony under cross examination at a preliminary hearing by a trained attorney" to be sufficient investigation of the victim's account. He said that witnesses sometimes told a defense investigator what the investigator "wanted to hear" ...


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