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Calhoun v. State

Court of Criminal Appeals of Tennessee, Knoxville

February 28, 2017


          Assigned on Briefs December 20, 2016

         Appeal from the Criminal Court for Sullivan County No. C64920 R. Jerry Beck, Judge

         The Petitioner, Rachel L. Calhoun, appeals the denial of her petition for post-conviction relief in which she challenged her guilty pleas to two counts of first degree murder, one count of especially aggravated robbery, one count of identity theft, and one count of fraudulent use of a credit card and her effective life sentence. On appeal, the Petitioner contends that she was denied her right to the effective assistance of counsel, arguing that trial counsel should have independently tested palm print evidence used against her. She also argues that 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

          David S. Barnette Jr., Kingsport, Tennessee, for the appellant, Rachel L. Calhoun.

          Herbert H. Slatery III, Attorney General and Reporter; Courtney N. Orr, Assistant Attorney General; Barry P. Staubus, District Attorney General; and Joshua D. Parsons, Assistant District Attorney General, for the appellee, State of Tennessee.

          John Everett Williams, J., delivered the opinion of the court, in which Thomas T. Woodall, P.J., and James Curwood Witt, Jr., J., joined.




         The Petitioner pled guilty to first degree premeditated murder, felony murder during the perpetration of a robbery, especially aggravated robbery, identity theft, and fraudulent use of a credit card. Pursuant to the guilty plea agreement, the trial court sentenced the Petitioner to life in prison for each murder conviction, twenty-five years for the especially aggravated robbery conviction, two years for the identity theft conviction, and eleven months and twenty-nine days for the fraudulent use of a credit card conviction. The trial court merged the murder convictions and ordered all the sentences to be served concurrently for an effective sentence of life imprisonment.

         Guilty Plea Submission Hearing

         The relevant facts underlying the Petitioner's guilty plea were stipulated to at the guilty plea submission hearing as follows:

On February the 6th, 2011, Sullivan County Sheriff's Department responded to the address of 1092 Reedy Creek Road, Bristol, Sullivan County, Tennessee. A 9-1-1 call had come in that a gentleman later to be identified as Johnny Shankel was in his residence and was possibly dead.
Once law enforcement were able to get into the home, they were able to confirm that there was a deceased individual in the home.
The body was sent to the Quillen College of Medicine, Forensic Center, to have an autopsy completed. The result of that autopsy listed manner of death as homicide, and the cause of death to be ligature strangulation, marks around the neck, and multiple impacts of blunt force trauma.
During the course of the investigation law enforcement began to develop Rachel Lynn Calhoun as a possible suspect, as she and her co-defendant, Willie Mack Coleman, were neighbors.
Multiple statements were taken from Ms. Calhoun and Mr. Coleman over the course of essentially a two-day period from February the 6th, 2011, to the early morning hours of February the 8th, 2011. During the course of that investigation they were able to determine by way of statement that Ms. Calhoun had gone to the residence of Mr. Shankel; that she had hit him with a stick or wooden object of some kind multiple times; and had also strangled him with a piece of -- of cord or wiring that would be used as a dog lead, which was confirmed in the report from the Quillen College of Medicine that we have.
Also how Ms. Calhoun was developed as a suspect was that the credit card or a credit card belonging to Mr. Shankel was attempted to be used at Bristol Regional Medical Center, which is also in a location here in Sullivan County, Tennessee, to attempt to get money out of the ATM through his account.
In speaking with representatives from the BB&T Bank where the account was located, Ms. Calhoun was not a registered user on that account, and that she would have done so at the time without the permission of Mr. Shankel, without his permission to use his specific identifying information.
I've passed up as an exhibit to these facts, as collective Exhibit 1, the various statements in order, as well as the Miranda waivers that Ms. Calhoun gave over the course of a two-day period or two-and-a-half day period of this investigation, which were also the subject of a suppression hearing which we held before Your Honor earlier this year. I included only those statements that were not suppressed at the conclusion of that statement. And as Your Honor will note and as the record will note, Ms. Calhoun did admit to striking Mr. Calhoun multiple -- or Mr. Shankel multiple times.
I want to refer specifically to the last statement in order, in which Ms. Calhoun stated to Detective Bright,
I hit Johnny … with a big stick. I pushed Johnny. I hit him with a stick. I meant to hit him. I used the dog ...

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