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Howard v. State

Court of Criminal Appeals of Tennessee, Knoxville

March 24, 2017

RYAN JAMES HOWARD
v.
STATE OF TENNESSEE

          Assigned on Briefs July 26, 2016

         Appeal from the Criminal Court for Washington County No. 39410 Stacy L. Street, Judge

         Petitioner, Ryan James Howard, appeals from the post-conviction court's dismissal of Petitioner's post-conviction petition following an evidentiary hearing. Petitioner asserts that he is entitled to relief because he received ineffective assistance of counsel in the proceedings leading to his convictions for one count of second degree murder and one count of voluntary manslaughter. After a thorough review, we affirm the judgment of the post-conviction court.

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

          Patrick Denton, Johnson City, Tennessee, for the appellant, Ryan James Howard.

          Herbert H. Slatery III, Attorney General and Reporter; Lacy Wilber, Senior Counsel; Anthony Wade Clark, District Attorney General; and Dennis Brooks, Assistant District Attorney General, for the appellee, State of Tennessee.

          Thomas T. Woodall, P.J., delivered the opinion of the court, in which CAMILLE R. McMullen and Robert H. Montgomery, Jr., JJ., joined.

          OPINION

          THOMAS T. WOODALL, PRESIDING JUDGE

         Background

         Following a jury trial in the Washington County Criminal Court, Petitioner was found guilty of the second degree murder of Ted Gregg and the voluntary manslaughter of Robert Brown. Both victims were stabbed to death. There was evidence presented at trial that Petitioner had committed premeditated murder of one victim and felony murder of the other victim, and there was also evidence that Petitioner acted in self-defense. On direct appeal Petitioner's convictions were affirmed. State v. Ryan James Howard, No. E2011-01571-CCA-R3-CD, 2013 WL 132665 at *8 (Tenn. Crim. App. Jan. 10, 2013). Petitioner filed a petition for post-conviction relief, and after appointment of counsel, the filing of an amended petition, and an answer filed by the State, an evidentiary hearing was held, following which the post-conviction court filed an order denying relief. Petitioner has timely appealed to this court.

         Evidentiary Hearing

         Testimony from Petitioner, his two trial attorneys (hereinafter "lead trial counsel" and "co-counsel"), the landlord of the duplex where Petitioner resided, and Petitioner's sister was presented by Petitioner. Several alleged grounds of ineffective assistance of counsel were asserted by Petitioner in the post-conviction court. However, on appeal Petitioner has argued only one specific ground of ineffective assistance of counsel. Grounds not presented in Petitioner's brief are waived. See Tenn. R. App. P. 27(a); Tenn. R. Crim. App. 10(b). Accordingly, we will review and summarize only the relevant testimony and exhibits from the evidentiary hearing and excerpts from the trial transcript pertaining to the sole issue raised on appeal.

         Petitioner's statement of the issue presented for review, taken verbatim from his brief, is as follows:

Trial counsel's failure to object to a flagrantly improper portion of the prosecutor's closing argument - - specifically that "self defense is a get out of jail free card" - - and failure to object to a verbatim reiteration of this improper ...

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