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Morton v. State

Court of Criminal Appeals of Tennessee, Jackson

February 22, 2017

JANELL MORTON
v.
STATE OF TENNESSEE

          Assigned on Briefs January 5, 2017

         Appeal from the Criminal Court for Shelby County No. 13-02408 Lee V. Coffee, Judge

         The Petitioner, Janell Morton, appeals the denial of her petition for post-conviction relief in which she challenged her guilty pleas to attempted first degree murder and especially aggravated kidnapping and her effective sentence of thirteen and one-half years. On appeal, the Petitioner contends that she was denied her right to the effective assistance of counsel and that as a result, her pleas were unknowing and involuntary. We affirm the post-conviction court's denial of relief.

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

          Ernest J. Beasley, Memphis, Tennessee, for the appellant, Janell Morton.

          Herbert H. Slatery III, Attorney General and Reporter; Benjamin A. Ball, Assistant Attorney General; Amy P. Weirich, District Attorney General; and Jose Leon, Assistant District Attorney General, for the appellee, State of Tennessee.

          John Everett Williams, J., delivered the opinion of the court, in which Alan E. Glenn and Camille R. McMullen, JJ., joined.

          OPINION

          JOHN EVERETT WILLIAMS, JUDGE

         FACTUAL AND PROCEDURAL HISTORY

         The Petitioner was indicted on attempted first degree murder, especially aggravated kidnapping, and aggravated assault. She entered pleas pursuant to Alford v. North Carolina, 400 U.S. 25 (1970), to attempted first degree murder and especially aggravated kidnapping. Pursuant to the plea agreement, the trial court sentenced the Petitioner to thirteen years and six months at twenty percent for the attempted first degree murder conviction and thirteen years and six months at one hundred percent for the especially aggravated kidnapping conviction, both to be served concurrently with the other.

         Plea Submission Hearing

         The Petitioner stipulated to the following facts underlying her pleas at the plea submission hearing. Police officers responded to the crime scene where they found the victim who informed them that the Petitioner "held [him] at gunpoint for over an hour." The victim explained that while he was sleeping, the Petitioner approached him with a gun, "pointed it at him, and threatened to kill him." During the course of these events, the Petitioner called the victim's mother who was able to hear the Petitioner's threats over the phone. The victim informed the police officers "that he was able to grab the gun and get away."

         At the plea hearing, the Petitioner affirmed to the trial court that she did, in fact, sign and understand the waiver of rights and plea agreement; that trial counsel met with the Petitioner "at least two or three days" during the week before the trial date and "[f]or very long periods of time"; that she wanted to plead pursuant to the agreement, noting that it was in her "best interest and for [her] family"; that she had the right to proceed to trial, present a defense, ...


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