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Thomas v. Perry

Court of Criminal Appeals of Tennessee, Jackson

January 27, 2017

E. LOUIS THOMAS
v.
GRADY PERRY, WARDEN

          Assigned on Briefs at Knoxville January 18, 2017

          Appeal from the Circuit Court for Hardeman County No. 2016-CR-108 Joe H. Walker III, Judge

          The Petitioner, E. Louis Thomas, appeals the Hardeman County Circuit Court's summary dismissal of his petition for a writ of habeas corpus from his 2008 conviction for first degree premeditated murder and his life sentence. He contends that (1) he received the ineffective assistance of counsel, (2) the trial court violated his right to a fair trial by admitting the Petitioner's confession, and (3) the habeas corpus court violated his due process rights by summarily dismissing his petition. We affirm the judgment of the habeas corpus court.

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

          E. Louis Thomas, Whiteville, Tennessee, Pro Se.

          Herbert H. Slatery III, Attorney General and Reporter; M. Todd Ridley, Assistant Attorney General, and D. Mike Dunavant, District Attorney General, for the appellee, State of Tennessee.

          Robert H. Montgomery, Jr., J., delivered the opinion of the court, in which James Curwood Witt, Jr., and D. Kelly Thomas, Jr. JJ., joined.

          OPINION

          ROBERT H. MONTGOMERY, JR., JUDGE

         On September 27, 2007, the Petitioner was convicted of first degree premeditated murder and felony murder. The judgments were entered on May 13, 2008. The murder convictions were merged, and the Petitioner received a life sentence. The Petitioner's convictions were affirmed on appeal. See State v. E. Louis Thomas, No. W2008-01360-CCA-R3-CD, 2010 WL 2977874 (Tenn. Crim. App. Jul. 29, 2010), perm. app. denied (Tenn. Jan. 18, 2011). He filed a petition for post-conviction relief, which was dismissed as untimely, and this court affirmed the dismissal. See E. Louis Thomas v. State, No. W2012-00999-CCA-MR3-PC, 2013 WL 6001938 (Tenn. Crim. App. Nov. 8, 2013). On June 16, 2016, he filed a pro se petition for a writ of habeas corpus, alleging that he received the ineffective assistance of counsel and that the trial court violated his right to a fair trial by admitting a coerced statement. The habeas corpus court summarily denied relief, concluding that the Petitioner had not alleged a cognizable claim, that the Petitioner's sentence had not expired, and that the trial court had jurisdiction to sentence him. This appeal followed.

         Habeas corpus relief is generally available to "[a]ny person imprisoned or restrained of liberty" whose judgment is void or whose sentence has expired. T.C.A. § 29-21-101 (2012); see Tucker v. Morrow, 335 S.W.3d 116, 119-20 (Tenn. Crim. App. 2009). A petitioner has the burden of proving by a preponderance of the evidence that a judgment is void or that a sentence has expired. State v. Davenport, 980 S.W.2d 407, 409 (Tenn. Crim. App. 1998). A void judgment exists if it appears from the face of the judgment or the record that the convicting court lacked jurisdiction or authority to sentence the defendant or that the defendant's sentence has expired. Archer v. State, 851 S.W.2d 157, 161 (Tenn. 1993); see Moody v. State, 160 S.W.3d 512, 515 (Tenn. 2005). In contrast, "[a] voidable judgment is one that is facially valid and requires proof beyond the face of the record or judgment to establish its invalidity." Summers v. State, 212 S.W.3d 251, 256 (Tenn. 2007); see State v. Ritchie, 20 S.W.3d 624, 630 (Tenn. 2000).

         Post-conviction relief, not habeas corpus relief, is the appropriate avenue of relief for certain voidable judgments. T.C.A. § 40-30-103 (2012); see Vaughn v. State, 202 S.W.3d 106, 115 (Tenn. 2006). A habeas corpus court may dismiss a petition for relief without an evidentiary hearing or the appointment of counsel when the petition fails to state a cognizable claim. Yates v. Parker, 371 S.W.3d 152, 155 (Tenn. Crim. App. 2012); see T.C.A. § 29-21-109 (2012). The question of whether habeas corpus relief should be granted is a question of law, and this court will review the matter de novo without a presumption of correctness. Hogan v. Mills, 168 S.W.3d 753, 755 (Tenn. 2005).

         I

         Ineffective Assistance of Counsel

         The Petitioner contends that he received the ineffective assistance of counsel because counsel did not include the suppression hearing transcript in the appellate record. The State responds that this issue does not constitute a ...


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