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Dominquez v. State

Court of Criminal Appeals of Tennessee, Nashville

February 17, 2017

JOSE LUIZ DOMINQUEZ
v.
STATE OF TENNESSEE

          Assigned on Briefs October 4, 2016

          Appeal from the Criminal Court for Davidson County No. 2007-D-3022 Monte Watkins, Judge

         The Petitioner, Jose Luiz Dominguez, appeals the dismissal of his petition for writ of habeas corpus by the Davidson County Criminal Court. On appeal, the Petitioner argues that the indictment was defective and that he received ineffective assistance of counsel, which rendered his guilty plea involuntary. Upon review, we affirm the judgment of the habeas corpus court.

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

          Manuel B. Russ, Nashville, Tennessee, for the Petitioner, Jose Luiz Dominguez.

          Herbert H. Slatery III, Attorney General and Reporter; Clark B. Thornton, Senior Counsel; Glenn R. Funk, District Attorney General; and Roger D. Moore, Assistant District Attorney General, for the Appellee, State of Tennessee.

          Camille R. McMullen, J., delivered the opinion of the court, in which Alan E. Glenn and Timothy L. Easter, JJ., joined.

          OPINION

          CAMILLE R. McMULLEN, JUDGE

         On November 2, 2007, the Petitioner was indicted by a Davidson County Grand Jury on one count of premeditated first degree murder. On March 18, 2008, the Petitioner pled guilty to second degree murder and received a total effective sentence of twenty years' incarceration. The Petitioner filed his first petition for habeas corpus relief in the Wayne County Circuit Court, alleging that the indictment failed to include the statutory element of "intent, " his sentence was outside the appropriate sentencing range, and he received ineffective assistance of counsel. The Wayne County Circuit Court dismissed the petition on both "procedural and substantive grounds."[1] On August 21, 2015, the Petitioner filed a second petition for writ of habeas corpus in the Davidson County Criminal Court alleging the same grounds. The State filed a "Motion to Dismiss Petition for Writ of Habeas Corpus" stating that the petition was "improperly filed" in the Davidson County Criminal Court and failed to "demonstrate that the indictment [was] void or that his sentence [had] expired." The Petitioner filed a response to the State's motion to dismiss, and on January 20, 2016, the habeas corpus court held a hearing on both motions and the petition.

         At the hearing, the Petitioner's counsel asked the habeas corpus court if the Petitioner could testify and elaborate on the claims raised in his petition. The State objected stating that any testimony the Petitioner provided would be irrelevant. Noting the State's objection, the habeas corpus court allowed brief testimony from the Petitioner. The Petitioner testified, through a Spanish interpreter, that when he pled guilty in 2008, he did not realize that he was pleading guilty to twenty years at one hundred percent. He claimed that his attorney told him that his sentence would be ten years at one hundred percent. The Petitioner also testified that his attorney failed to explain the possible sentencing range for second degree murder and failed to explain the elements of the offense to the Petitioner before he pled guilty. Furthermore, because the Spanish interpreter provided at the guilty plea hearing did not "speak Spanish very well, " the Petitioner could not understand what was happening during the guilty plea hearing. Finally, the habeas corpus court asked the Petitioner if he remembered signing both the English and Spanish versions of the plea petition. The Petitioner denied signing any document in Spanish and denied that his signature was on the plea petition.

         The habeas corpus court took the matter under advisement, and on January 27, 2016, it dismissed the petition. The habeas corpus court reasoned that this was the Petitioner's second petition for writ of habeas corpus, and he did not show "sufficient reasons for filing the petition in the court of conviction." Despite this procedural defect, the habeas corpus court found that the "indictment was sufficient to charge the offense and to vest jurisdiction in the trial court, and the sentence imposed was not illegal." The court also found that the Petitioner's claims of "ineffective assistance of counsel and an involuntary guilty plea are not cognizable claims in habeas corpus." It is from this order that the Petitioner now timely appeals.

          ANALYSIS

         On appeal, the Petitioner argues that the "indictment was facially insufficient" and that he received ineffective assistance of counsel, which rendered his guilty plea involuntary. Because the Petitioner fails to provide support in his brief for his claim that the indictment was facially insufficient, the State argues that the Petitioner has waived this issue. The State also argues that the Petitioner's claim of ineffective assistance of counsel, which led to an involuntary guilty plea, is not a cognizable claim for habeas corpus relief. Upon review, we agree with the State.

         "The determination of whether habeas corpus relief should be granted is a question of law." Faulkner v. State, 226 S.W.3d 358, 361 (Tenn. 2007) (citing Hart v. State, 21 S.W.3d 901, 903 (Tenn. 2000)). Accordingly, our review is de novo without a presumption of correctness. Summers v. State, 212 S.W.3d 251, 255 ...


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