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Hughes v. State

Court of Criminal Appeals of Tennessee, Jackson

April 6, 2017


          Assigned on Briefs January 18, 2017 at Knoxville.

         Appeal from the Criminal Court for Shelby County No. 11-01751 Chris Craft, Judge.

         The Petitioner, Demond Hughes, appeals the Shelby County Criminal Court's denial of his petition for post-conviction relief from his 2012 convictions for especially aggravated robbery, aggravated robbery, and aggravated rape and his effective twenty-five-year sentence. T he Petitioner contends that he received the ineffective assistance of counsel. We affirm the judgment of the post-conviction court.

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

          Randal G. Rhea, Memphis, Tennessee, for the appellant, Demond Hughes.

          Herbert H. Slatery III, Attorney General and Reporter; Zachary T. Hinkle, Assistant Attorney General; Amy P. Weirich, District Attorney General; and Melanie Cox, Assistant District Attorney General, for the appellee, State of Tennessee.

          Robert H. Montgomery, Jr., J., delivered the opinion of the court, in which James Curwood Witt, Jr., and D. Kelly Thomas, Jr., JJ., joined.



         The Petitioner's convictions arise from his pleading guilty to the charged offenses in exchange for concurrent sentences of twenty-five years for especially aggravated robbery, twelve years for aggravated robbery, and twenty-five years for aggravated rape. On May 30, 2013, the Petitioner sought post-conviction relief on multiple grounds. He filed a pro se petition, and after the appointment of counsel, two amended petitions were filed by post-conviction counsel. The Petitioner raised multiple grounds for relief, but the sole issue raised on appeal focuses on whether counsel provided ineffective assistance by failing to provide the Petitioner with transcripts of his recorded jail telephone calls before he rejected the State's initial twenty-year plea offer. Our recitation of the evidence from the post-conviction hearing is limited to that which is relevant to this issue.

         At the post-conviction hearing, the Petitioner[1] testified that his case was originally scheduled for trial, that counsel presented a plea offer from the State for twenty years, and that the Petitioner rejected the offer. The Petitioner said he rejected the offer because he wanted a trial, although counsel believed he would have been convicted if the case went to trial. The Petitioner said he also rejected the offer because counsel believed counsel could negotiate a fifteen-year sentence. The Petitioner said that at the time of the twenty-year plea offer, he did not know the State had recordings of his jail telephone calls. T he Petitioner said that he learned of the recordings the day before the scheduled trial date, that counsel provided him with transcripts of the recordings, and that counsel instructed him to review the transcripts and "make up" his mind. The Petitioner said that he listened to the recordings on the morning of the scheduled trial date and that counsel and the prosecutor were present when they were played.

         The Petitioner testified that none of the State's witnesses identified him as the perpetrator at the preliminary hearing and that counsel did not discuss a trial strategy. The Petitioner said that he decided to plead guilty after listening to the recordings of the jail telephone calls. H e said that learning of the recordings at the last minute made it impossible to weigh the benefits and consequences of pleading guilty or going to trial. He said he was overwhelmed and did not believe counsel was ready for trial. The Petitioner said that because of his criminal history, counsel discussed a possible sixty-year sentence if he were convicted at a trial and that the State's offer was based upon a Range I offender classification.

         On cross-examination, the Petitioner testified that he never told counsel what occurred at the time of the offenses, that he and counsel met at the courthouse about five times, and that counsel came to the jail once, which was the night before the scheduled trial date, to provide him with a transcript of the jail telephone call recordings. The Petitioner said that counsel told him the best plea offer he could negotiate was fifteen years, although the paperwork counsel provided stated twenty years. T he Petitioner said he declined the twenty-year offer because counsel stated the offer was fifteen years.

         The Petitioner testified that the jail telephone call recordings reflected his and a female friend's discussing the charges against him. H e said that although the State attempted to say the recordings reflected his telling the friend what he had done to the victims, he was merely explaining to the friend what the police had accused him of doing. He said that after listening to the recordings, counsel advised him to plead guilty because of the incriminating nature of the Petitioner's statements. The Petitioner said he pleaded guilty because he took counsel's "word" and did what counsel said was best. The Petitioner recalled that counsel advised him the possible maximum sentence was more than sixty years.

         Counsel testified that he had been a licensed attorney for thirty-four years and that he represented the Petitioner in the present case. He said that he learned of the jail telephone call recordings between March 27, 2012, and the day the Petitioner entered his guilty pleas. He said that as he prepared for a trial, he reviewed the discovery materials and noticed that recordings of the Petitioner's jail calls existed. Counsel said that he contacted the prosecutor about the recordings and that two weeks before the Monday, November 5, 2012 trial, the prosecutor said she had copies of the recordings and would prepare transcripts. ...

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