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Nevils v. State

Court of Criminal Appeals of Tennessee, Nashville

March 1, 2017

GENE E. NEVILS a/k/a GENE E. EDWARDS
v.
STATE OF TENNESSEE

          Assigned on Briefs February 15, 2017

         Direct Appeal from the Circuit Court for Williamson County No. CR-068918 James G. Martin, III, Judge.

         In 2014, the Petitioner, Gene E. Nevils a/k/a Gene E. Edwards, pleaded guilty to sale of 0.5 or more grams of cocaine and was sentenced to twelve years of incarceration. In 2015, the Petitioner filed a pro se petition for post-conviction relief, alleging that he had not entered his guilty plea knowingly and voluntarily and that he had received the ineffective assistance of counsel. The post-conviction court held a hearing on the petition and denied relief. We affirm the post-conviction court's judgment.

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

          Jonathan W. Turner, Thompson's Station, Tennessee, for the appellant, Gene E. Nevils.

          Herbert H. Slatery III, Attorney General and Reporter; Robert W. Wilson, Assistant Attorney General; Kim R. Helper, District Attorney General; and Sean B. Duddy, Assistant District Attorney General, for the appellee, State of Tennessee.

          Robert W. Wedemeyer, J., delivered the opinion of the court, in which Thomas T. Woodall, P.J., and Timothy L. Easter, J., joined.

          OPINION

          ROBERT W. WEDEMEYER, JUDGE.

         I. Facts and Procedural History

         This case arises from the Petitioner's sale of cocaine to a confidential informant ("CI"). For this offense, a Williamson County grand jury indicted the Petitioner for sale of a Schedule II substance and sale of a Schedule II substance within 1, 000 feet of school.

         A. Guilty Plea

         The Petitioner initially pleaded not guilty and elected to proceed to trial. After the first day of trial, during which the State had presented several witnesses, the Petitioner negotiated a plea agreement with the State and pleaded guilty to sale of 0.5 grams or more of cocaine.[1] At the guilty plea hearing, the trial court questioned the Petitioner about whether he wanted to give up his right to a trial, his right to appeal, his right to testify, and if he was deciding to plead guilty knowingly and voluntarily. The Petitioner informed the trial court that he understood his rights and that it was strictly his decision to plead guilty. The trial court informed him that he would be sentenced as a Range II, multiple offender, with an applicable sentencing range of twelve to twenty years. The trial court informed him that his release eligibility would be 35%. The Petitioner testified that he understood his sentencing possibilities and that he was entering his guilty plea under his own free will after discussions with his lawyer and the State. The Petitioner stated that he was satisfied with his lawyer's representation.

         The State then recited the following facts as a basis for the trial court's acceptance of the Defendant's guilty plea:

[T]he State would show that . . . narcotics detectives with the Franklin Police Department did utilize a confidential informant to arrange a purchase of crack cocaine with the [Petitioner]. That the confidential informant was provided with recorded Franklin Police Department drug fund money. That he was wired with a transmitter so that detectives could monitor the deal in realtime. . . . [T]he confidential informant did make contact with the [Petitioner]. During that contact there was a delivery of the $100 of recorded money to the [Petitioner] by the confidential informant. The [Petitioner] did, in turn, deliver back to the confidential informant an amount of a white substance. That white substance was then surrendered to the detectives and was submitted to the T.B.I. for forensic analysis and did come back positive for cocaine in an amount greater than point five grams.

         The trial court sentenced the Petitioner to twelve years to be served at 35% in the Tennessee Department of Correction.

         B. Post-Conviction Proceedings

         The Petitioner filed a petition for post-conviction relief, pro se. The post-conviction court appointed an attorney, and the attorney filed an amended petition, alleging that the Petitioner had received the ineffective assistance of counsel and that he had entered his guilty plea unknowingly and involuntarily. He alleged that his plea was not knowingly entered because his trial counsel ("Counsel") did not explain to him: his right to appeal; the result of the investigation; the results of a discovery request; and his defenses. The Petitioner additionally alleged that his plea was coerced because he was pressured by the State to plead guilty. The Petitioner argued that Counsel's representation throughout the plea process amounted to the ineffective assistance of counsel. The post-conviction court subsequently held a hearing, during which the following evidence was presented: the Petitioner testified that his jury trial was underway when he elected to plead guilty. The Petitioner recalled that, before he pleaded guilty, the CI in his case and a police officer testified before the jury on the first day of trial. The Petitioner entered a guilty plea the following day pursuant to a plea agreement wherein the State ...


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