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Stovall v. State

Court of Criminal Appeals of Tennessee, Jackson

May 16, 2017

JALEEL JOVAN STOVALL
v.
STATE OF TENNESSEE

         Appeal from the Circuit Court for Hardeman County No. 2011-CR-101 J. Weber McCraw, Judge

         The Petitioner, Jaleel Jovan Stovall, was convicted by a Hardeman County jury of rape of a child and received a sentence of twenty-five years at 100% service. The Petitioner filed a petition for post-conviction relief, which asserted that he was denied effective assistance of counsel. The post-conviction court denied relief. On appeal, the Petitioner argues that trial counsel's performance was deficient for failing to object to hearsay introduced by the State and for failing to argue that a letter allegedly authored by the Petitioner was not properly authenticated. After a thorough review of the record and applicable case law, we affirm.

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

          Matthew C. Edwards, Bolivar, Tennessee, for the appellant, Jaleel Jovan Stovall.

          Herbert H. Slatery III, Attorney General and Reporter; Katherine C. Redding, Assistant Attorney General; D. Mike Dunavant, District Attorney General; and Joe Van Dyke, Assistant District Attorney General, for the appellee, State of Tennessee.

          Robert L. Holloway, Jr., J., delivered the opinion of the court, in which Alan E. Glenn, J., joined. J. Ross Dyer, J., not participating.

          OPINION

          ROBERT L. HOLLOWAY, JR., JUDGE

         I. Factual and Procedural Background

         In 2011, the Petitioner was indicted for rape of a child. State v. Jaleel Jovan Stovall, No. W2013-02553-CCA-R3-CD, 2014 WL 6482827, at *1 (Tenn. Crim. App. Nov. 18, 2014), no perm. app. filed. The record on appeal reveals that the Petitioner initially pled guilty to rape of a child and received a fifteen-year sentence at 100%. The Petitioner then filed a petition for post-conviction relief and argued that previous trial counsel provided ineffective assistance of counsel. The State agreed to allow the Petitioner to withdraw his guilty plea and to reinstate the indictment.

         In our opinion affirming the Petitioner's conviction on direct appeal, this court summarized the evidence presented at the Petitioner's trial as the following:

At trial, Kevin Crawford, City of Galloway Chief of Police, testified that he received a call on June 17, 2010, from the Hardeman County Community Health Center that a female juvenile had a positive pregnancy test. He arrived at the center and spoke with S.F., who was eleven years old at that time, and her mother, V.F.[1] After talking with them, Chief Crawford "determined that [the victim] had had sexual contact with an individual that was staying temporarily at [the] house and visiting back in April, around the-April 8th, April 9th." The victim identified the then eighteen-year-old [Petitioner] as the man who came into her room during the night and forced her to have sexual intercourse. Chief Crawford set up a forensic interview for the victim.

         Chief Crawford then proceeded to locate the [Petitioner] and interviewed him. The [Petitioner] denied any sexual contact with the victim, but he provided Chief Crawford with the following explanation:

He did admit that he had stayed at the house during the time that [the victim] became pregnant, advised that he d[id] not recall having any sexual contact with her, that he had came (sic) home, had been under the influence of alcohol and marijuana, and that-stated that if she was pregnant by him, that undoubtedly after he passed out that she had taken a turkey baster and got herself pregnant trying to frame him.

         The victim testified that the [Petitioner] occasionally spent the night at her house during the early months of 2010. The victim said that her family was having a barbecue at the house one day, that the [Petitioner] was walking around the neighborhood alone, so her mother's boyfriend invited him over, and that the [Petitioner] then began "hanging" around their house. According to S.F., approximately one month later, the [Petitioner] came into her room at night, hit her in the ear, and told her that, if she said anything, then he would hurt her. The [Petitioner] forced her to have sex with him. According to the victim, the [Petitioner] did not appear intoxicated on this evening. The victim acknowledged that she did not tell anyone about the incident until her positive pregnancy test.

         The victim stated that the [Petitioner] knew she was only eleven years old, describing, "I got off the bus one day, doing my homework. He saw the grade on my book, . . . and he asked me how old was I and I told him [eleven]." Moreover, the victim said that she did not have any type of relationship with the [Petitioner] and confirmed that her baby was born on December 14, 2010.

         According to the victim, the [Petitioner] called her house after his arrest and wrote her letters. One letter, admitted into evidence, read as follows:

I know that we haven't talked in a while but I just want to let you know that you and my daughter stay in my thoughts. I just want to tell you that we can be a family if you let us be. I want to be there for you and my daughter. So please when my trial date comes around don't even show up. And if they come to your house to try to serve you a subpoena don't even answer the door. I know that you know my whole name so please send me some pictures of my daughter please. I am back at the county jail so you should have the address. Well, hopefully you'll do all these things for me so that we can be a family once again. J
The victim's mother's testimony provided many of the same details. Importantly, her mother, V.F., stated that she "let it be known when [the Petitioner] first started coming around how old [the victim] was [and] what grade [the victim] was in . . . ." V.F. testified further that the [Petitioner] was with her at times when the victim got off of the school bus and that the [Petitioner] helped the victim with her homework a couple of times. V.F. confirmed that the [Petitioner] occasionally stayed at her house as an overnight guest, although he lied to her that he had been locked out of the house where he was staying in order to secure an invitation. On the occasions when the [Petitioner] slept on her couch, the [Petitioner] did not appear under the influence of drugs or alcohol according to V.F.

         In the spring and summer of 2010, V.F. noticed the victim's behavior start to change. V.F. described this change as follows:

She went crazy, to be, you know-I mean, she started cutting on herself. She would wake up through the night hollering and screaming. She'd take baths five or six times a day, like, you know, something that she was just nasty. She would take baths constant[ly] from the time she'd get-if she got up in the morn-that night to take a bath for school, she'd get up in the morning and take a bath. When she got out of school, she was constantly just washing herself. She started cutting her wrists. She was jumping up out of her sleep, speaking in tongue[s] . . . . When she woke up, her eyes were wobbling in the back of her head and she'd be hollering and screaming and crying.

         V.F. opined that this behavior change happened after the alleged rape. V.F. further described incidents where someone would knock on the door, and the victim would say to her that if it was the [Petitioner], then do not let him in. V.F. sought assistance for the victim's mental health issues.

         The victim was fifteen weeks pregnant by the time she received a physical examination. Paternity testing [showed that] . . . the probability that the [Petitioner] was the father of the victim's child was 99.999998%.

         The [Petitioner], whose date of birth was March 10, 1992, testified on his behalf. He stated that, after being released from juvenile detention in Madison, Wisconsin, he came to stay with his uncle in Hardeman County in the spring of 2010. According to the [Petitioner], he met the victim approximately two to three weeks after his arrival. He claimed that, in the month or so that followed, he and the victim developed a romantic relationship, that the victim told him she was seventeen years old, and that the victim's mother confirmed her age. The [Petitioner] was shown a photograph of the victim taken around the time of the alleged rape, which had previously been admitted into evidence, and the [Petitioner] opined that she did in fact look seventeen in the photograph. The [Petitioner] denied that he ever helped the victim with her homework.

         The [Petitioner] admitted that he had sexual intercourse with the victim but denied that he ever hit the victim or forced himself on her, and he stated that he continued to visit the family regularly after the alleged rape. As for his untrue statements to Chief Crawford, the [Petitioner] explained that he felt intimidated and was "highly confused" at that time. The [Petitioner] also admitted that he phoned the victim from jail on several occasions and that he had spoken with the victim. As for the letter previously admitted into evidence, the [Petitioner] acknowledged that the letter did express his actual feelings, but he denied authoring the letter.

Id. at *1-3. The jury found the Petitioner guilty, and the trial court sentenced the Petitioner to a twenty-five-year sentence at 100%. Id. at *3. On appeal, this court affirmed the Petitioner's conviction for rape of a child. Id. at *4. The Petitioner did not seek further review of his conviction from our supreme court.

         Post-Conviction Proceedings

         The Petitioner filed a timely pro se petition for post-conviction relief, [2] contending that he received ineffective assistance of counsel. At the post-conviction hearing, trial counsel testified that he was appointed to represent the Petitioner in his initial post-conviction petition, which asserted claims of ineffective assistance of counsel against previous trial counsel. He met with the Petitioner, "reviewed all of the previous documents that were in the court file, reviewed the statutes with [the Petitioner], reviewed what his reason was [for seeking post-conviction relief], . . . and explained [his] opinion of what [the Petitioner's] plea was and what [the Petitioner] was possibly looking at and how the process worked." Trial counsel filed an amended petition for post-conviction relief but informed the Petitioner that, if he proceeded to trial, he could receive a twenty-five year sentence at 100% instead of the fifteen-year sentence that he received under the plea agreement. After the State reinstated the indictment against the Petitioner, trial counsel met with the Petitioner on "multiple occasions" in the county jail "to discuss trial preparation, to discuss the facts of the case, to discuss the indicted charge and what that actually carried."

         Trial counsel stated that the Petitioner asked him to investigate issues related to his case, which trial counsel did. Trial counsel noted that the Petitioner wanted a witness, Eric Cheairs, to testify on his behalf at trial; trial counsel investigated Mr. Cheairs and learned that "he was actually a convicted felon and had an active warrant out for his arrest[.]" Trial counsel advised the Petitioner against calling Mr. Cheairs. Trial counsel testified that he spoke with the Petitioner's mother. Trial counsel stated that, although she agreed to give information to trial counsel and to attend the Petitioner's trial, trial counsel did not receive any information from the Petitioner's mother, and she did not attend the Petitioner's trial. Additionally, trial counsel noted that "[t]here was another individual that [the Petitioner] had mentioned that actually showed up on the day of trial who [trial counsel] had never even talked to before ...


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