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State v. Wallace

Court of Criminal Appeals of Tennessee, Jackson

January 31, 2017

STATE OF TENNESSEE
v.
ERIC D. WALLACE

          Assigned on Briefs December 6, 2016

         Appeal from the Criminal Court for Shelby County Nos. 95-03053, 95-03054, 95-03055 J. Robert Carter, Jr., Judge

         Eric D. Wallace ("the Defendant") filed a Motion to Correct Illegal Sentence under Rule 36.1 of the Tennessee Rules of Criminal Procedure, alleging that his sentences for first degree felony murder and attempted first degree murder were illegal because the trial court constructively amended the corresponding indictments by instructing the jury on "alternative theories for felony murder." The trial court summarily denied relief, and this appeal followed. Upon review, we affirm the judgment of the trial court.

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

          Eric D. Wallace, Tiptonville, Tennessee, Pro Se.

          Herbert H. Slatery III, Attorney General and Reporter; Sophia S. Lee, Senior Counsel; Amy P. Weirich, District Attorney General; and Carrie Shelton-Bush, Assistant District Attorney General, for the appellee, State of Tennessee.

          Robert L. Holloway, Jr., J., delivered the opinion of the court, in which Norma McGee Ogle and Robert H. Montgomery, Jr., JJ., joined.

          OPINION

          ROBERT L. HOLLOWAY, JR., JUDGE

         In 1995, a Shelby County jury convicted the Defendant of first degree felony murder and attempted first degree murder, for which the Defendant received a sentence of life plus fifteen years in the Department of Correction. The Defendant appealed, and this court affirmed the Defendant's convictions and sentence. See State v. Eric D. Wallace, No. 02-C-01-9604-CR-00125, 1997 WL 421011, at * 1 (Tenn. Crim. App. July 28, 1997), perm. app. denied (Tenn. Apr. 6, 1998). Thereafter, the Defendant filed a pro se petition for post-conviction relief, which was denied by the post-conviction court and affirmed by this court on appeal. See Eric Wallace v. State, No. W2000-02854-CCA-R3-CD, 2002 WL 1483204, at *7 (Tenn. Crim. App. Feb. 19, 2002), perm. app. denied (Tenn. Sept. 9, 2002); see also Eric Dewayne Wallace v. State, No. W2008-00867-CCA-R3-PC, 2009 WL 321294, at *2 (Tenn. Crim. App. Feb. 6, 2009) (affirming the denial of the Defendant's motion to re-open post-conviction proceedings).

         The Defendant subsequently filed four separate petitions for writ of habeas corpus, all of which were summarily dismissed by the respective habeas corpus courts, and the dismissals were affirmed on appeal. See Eric D. Wallace v. James M. Dukes, Warden, No. W2002-00882-CCA-R3-CO, 2002 WL 31895727, at *2 (Tenn. Crim. App. Dec. 31, 2002), perm. app. denied (Tenn. Mar. 10, 2003); Eric D. Wallace v. Stephen Dotson, Warden, No. W2006-00908-CCA-R3-HC, 2007 WL 852173, at *2 (Tenn. Crim. App. Mar. 22, 2007), perm. app. denied (Tenn. Aug. 13, 2007); Eric D. Wallace v. Stephen Dotson, Warden, No. W2010-01784-CCA-R3-HC, 2011 WL 2120103, at *11 (Tenn. Crim. App. May 17, 2011); Eric D. Wallace v. Arvil Chapman, Warden, No. M2012-00749-CCA-R3-HC, 2012 WL 5543055, at *1 (Tenn. Crim. App. Nov. 9, 2012), perm. app. denied (Tenn. Mar. 5, 2013); see also Eric DeWayne Wallace v. State, No. W2013-02761-CCA-R3-PC, 2014 WL 6634436, at *1 (Tenn. Crim. App. Nov. 24, 2014) (affirming, pursuant to Rule 20 of the Rules of the Court of Criminal Appeals, the trial court's denial of the Defendant's second petition for post-conviction relief).

         On April 5, 2016, the Defendant filed a pro se Motion to Correct Illegal Sentence and/or Illegal Conviction pursuant to Rule 36.1 of the Tennessee Rules of Criminal Procedure. In the motion, the Defendant alleged that his sentences and convictions were void and illegal because the trial court constructively amended the indictments for first degree felony murder and attempted first degree murder based on its instructions to the jury. Specifically, he asserted that he was indicted for "recklessly killing . . . Venita Swift during an attempt to perpetrate murder first degree" and for the attempted first degree murder of Jimmy Weddle. He alleged, however, that at trial the court instructed the jury that the State must have proven "[t]hat the [D]efendant unlawfully killed [Ms. Swift]; and . . . [t]hat the killing was committed in the perpetration or the attempt to perpetrate the alleged murder first degree[.]" The Defendant contended that the trial court's instruction was based on "alternative theories for felony murder, " thereby allowing the jury "to convict the [Defendant] on . . . elements not charged in the indictments." He further argued that the jury instruction for first degree felony murder "provided insufficient evidence to enable the [Defendant] to know the accusation to which he had to answer[.]" The trial court summarily denied the Defendant's motion, and this timely appeal followed.

         Analysis

         On appeal, the Defendant asserts that his sentences are illegal based on the trial court's constructive amendment of the indictments at trial. He contends that the trial court erroneously instructed the jury on the charge of first degree felony murder, thereby allowing the jury to convict the Defendant on "elements not found by the grand jury" and resulting in a void sentence and conviction. The State responds that the trial court ...


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