Court of Criminal Appeals of Tennessee, Nashville
from the Circuit Court for Wayne County No. 15849 Robert L.
Appellant, Montez Adams, appeals the trial court's
summary dismissal of his petition seeking habeas corpus
relief. The State has filed a motion asking this Court to
affirm pursuant to Court of Criminal Appeals Rule 20. Said
motion is hereby granted.
R. App. P. 3 Appeal as of Right; Judgment of the Trial Court
Affirmed Pursuant to Rule 20, Rules of the Court of Criminal
D. Sipes, Jackson, Tennessee, for the Appellant, Montez
Herbert H. Slatery III, Attorney General & Reporter;
Brent C. Cherry, Senior Counsel, for the appellee, State of
T. Woodall, P.J., delivered the opinion of the court, in
which Robert W. Wedemeyer and Robert L. Holloway, Jr., JJ.
T. Woodall, Presiding Judge
Appellant and several co-defendants were charged in a
four-count indictment on September 30, 1996, with first
degree murder committed during the perpetration of especially
aggravated burglary (felony murder), especially aggravated
burglary, conspiracy to commit especially aggravated
burglary, and theft of property. He was convicted on all four
counts. State v. Montez Antuan Adams et al.,
No.02C01-9709-CC-00352, 1998 WL 556174 (Tenn. Crim. App. Sep.
1, 1998). This Court affirmed the judgments of conviction, as
modified. Id. The Appellant was ultimately
unsuccessful in his pursuit of post-conviction relief.
Montez Antuan Adams v. State, No.
W2004-01013-CCA-R3-PC, 2005 WL 1105185 (Tenn. Crim. App. May
6, 2005). The Appellant then pursued the instant habeas
issue in this appeal is whether the trial court properly
dismissed his challenge to the sufficiency of the first count
of the indictment charging him with felony murder. Count One
of the indictment charged, in relevant part:
[The Appellant] on or about June 3, 1996, in Madison County,
and before the finding of this indictment, did unlawfully and
recklessly kill [the victim] during the perpetration of
Especially Aggravated Burglary, in violation of T.C.A.
§39-13-202, all of which is against the peace and
dignity of the State of Tennessee.
to his argument, that count of the indictment listed an
incorrect mens rea for the offense of felony murder.
The trial court dismissed the habeas corpus petition without
a hearing. The Appellant appealed, and the State has filed a
motion to affirm pursuant to Court of Criminal Appeals Rule
20. For the reasons stated below, said motion is hereby
I, Section 15 of the Tennessee Constitution guarantees the
right to seek habeas corpus relief, and Tennessee Code
Annotated Sections 29-21-101 et seq. codify the
applicable procedures for seeking such a writ. The grounds
upon which our law provides relief are very narrow, however.
McLaney v. Bell, 59 S.W.3d 90, 92 (Tenn. 2001).
Habeas corpus relief is available in this state only when it
appears on the face of the judgment or the record of the
proceedings that the trial court was without jurisdiction to
convict or sentence the defendant or that the sentence of
imprisonment has otherwise expired. Archer v. State,
851 S.W.2d 157, 164 (Tenn. 1993). In other words, habeas
corpus relief may only be sought when the judgment is void,
not merely voidable. Taylor v. State, 995 S.W.2d 78,
83 (Tenn. 1999). "[W]here the allegations in a petition
for writ of habeas corpus do not demonstrate that the
judgment is void, a trial court may correctly dismiss the
petition without a hearing." McLaney, 59 S.W.3d
validity of an indictment and the efficacy of the resulting
conviction may be addressed in a petition for habeas corpus
when the indictment is so defective as to deprive the court
of jurisdiction." Dykes v. Compton, 978 S.W.2d
528, 529 (Tenn.1998). However, so long as the indictment
performs its essential constitutional and statutory purposes,
habeas corpus relief is not warranted. Id. An
indictment passes constitutional muster if it provides: (1)
notice of the charge against which the accused must defend
himself; (2) an adequate basis for the entry of a proper
judgment; and (3) protection of the accused from double
jeopardy. State v. Hill, 954 S.W.2d 725, 727 (Tenn.
1997). In addition, an indictment must "state the facts
constituting the offense in ordinary and concise language,
without prolixity or repetition, in such a manner as to
enable a person of common understanding to know what is
intended, and with that degree of certainty which will enable
the court, on conviction, to pronounce the proper
judgment." Tenn. Code Ann. § 40-13-202.
time of the offenses in this case, the first degree murder
statute provided that felony murder was the "killing of
another committed in the perpetration of or attempt to
perpetrate any first degree murder, arson, rape, robbery,
burglary, theft, kidnapping, aggravated child abuse or
aircraft piracy." Tenn. Code Ann. § 39-13-202(a)(2)
(1997). That statute provides that "[n]o culpable mental
state is required" for felony murder "except the
intent to commit" the underlying felony." §
39-13-202(b). As noted above, however, the indictment in this
case recited the language of the first degree murder statute
before it was amended in 1995 when felony murder was defined
as the "reckless killing of another committed"
during the underlying felony. See Tenn. Code Ann.
§ 39-13-202(a)(2) (1991). Contrary to the State's
assertion, the effective date of the 1995 amendment was July
1, 1995, not July 1, 1996. 1995 Tenn. Pub. Ch. 460 (S.B.
1749). Thus, the Appellant faced prosecution under the
statute as ...