Court of Criminal Appeals of Tennessee, Nashville
Session December 13, 2016
from the Circuit Court for Montgomery County No. 037842
William R. Goodman, III, Judge.
Petitioner, Jeffery Lee Miller, appeals the Montgomery County
Circuit Court's dismissal of his petition for writ of
error coram nobis. The Petitioner seeks relief from his
premeditated first degree murder conviction. The Petitioner
argues that (1) the coram nobis court erred by determining
that due process considerations did not toll the statute of
limitations; (2) the coram nobis court abused its discretion
by applying an incorrect legal standard regarding reasonable
diligence in its order and final judgment; (3) the coram
nobis court's grounds for dismissal were erroneous; and
(4) the coram nobis court's assessment of the State's
open file policy was erroneous. Upon review, we affirm the
judgment of the coram nobis court.
R. App. P. 3 Appeal as of Right; Judgment of the Circuit
Smith, Nashville, Tennessee, (at trial), and Karen McDonald,
Nashville, Tennessee, (on appeal), for the Petitioner,
Jeffery Lee Miller.
Herbert H. Slatery III, Attorney General and Reporter; David
H. Findley, Senior Counsel; John W. Carney, District Attorney
General; and Helen O. Young, Assistant District Attorney
General, for the Appellee, State of Tennessee.
Camille R. McMullen, J., delivered the opinion of the court,
in which D. Kelly Thomas, Jr. and J. Ross Dyer, JJ., joined.
CAMILLE R. McMULLEN, JUDGE.
April 28, 1997, the Petitioner was charged with one count of
premeditated first degree murder in the shooting death of
Josh Kelly. At the conclusion of his first trial, the jury
was unable to reach a verdict, and a mistrial was declared.
On August 25, 1997, a second trial was held, and the
Petitioner was convicted of the charged offense. The facts
underlying the Petitioner's conviction are as follows:
The evidence at trial established that on September 1, 1996,
the [Petitioner] shot and killed the victim, Josh Kelley. The
evidence indicated that earlier that evening, three young
ladies, Tennille, Cassie, and Heather, were driving "up
and down" Riverside Drive in Clarksville, Tennessee.
They visited a motel where Mike Powers, Cassie's
boyfriend, was throwing a party. While in the motel room,
Tennille saw the [Petitioner] preparing to leave the room, at
which point someone handed a gun to him. The [Petitioner]
then left the party. Shortly thereafter, the three young
ladies decided to go cruising on Riverside Drive again. They
pulled in the parking lot of Page and Taylor's Sporting
Goods Store to change drivers. As they were changing seats, a
young man in the parking lot told them to "suck [his]
dick or leave." The three young ladies left the area and
returned to the party at the motel.
When they arrived at the motel, the ladies told Mr. Powers
about the young man's comment. At this point, Mr. Powers
and the [Petitioner], who had returned to the motel, went to
the [Petitioner's] car, and the [Petitioner] followed the
ladies to the parking lot of Page and Taylor's Sporting
Goods Store. According to the [Petitioner's] second
statement to the police, upon arrival at the parking lot, the
[Petitioner] told Mr. Powers to "get the gun from under
the passenger seat." According to at least one witness,
when Mr. Powers exited the vehicle, he had a gun in his
waistband. The [Petitioner] and Mr. Powers then approached a
group of teenagers standing in the parking lot. The evidence
at trial indicated that Mr. Powers asked which of them had
told his girlfriend to "suck [his] d**k." In
response, the victim stepped forward and said, "We
don't know you. We don't know your girlfriend. We
didn't say anything to anybody." Mr. Powers then
pulled the gun from his waistband and pointed it at the
victim. According to one witness, the [Petitioner] told Mr.
Powers to "cap [the victim]." Mr. Powers lowered
the gun to his side, at which point the [Petitioner] took the
gun out of Mr. Powers' hand. The [Petitioner] cocked the
gun, pulled the slide back, pointed the gun at the ground in
front of the victim's feet, and fired. The [Petitioner]
then raised the gun, pointed it at the victim's chest,
and fired. After the shooting, the [Petitioner] and Mr.
Powers left the scene.
Petitioner received a sentence of life with the possibility
of parole. In his direct appeal, the Petitioner
challenged the sufficiency of the evidence arguing that the
shooting was an accident and that he was high on cocaine and
unable to form the necessary intent. This court affirmed the
conviction on direct appeal, and the Tennessee Supreme Court
denied permission to appeal. State v. Jeffery
Miller, No. 01C01-9801-CC-00029, 1999 WL 398188, at *1
(Tenn. Crim. App. June 18, 1999). Thereafter, the Petitioner
filed a petition for post-conviction relief, alleging that
his trial counsel was ineffective because he failed to call
his co-defendant, Michael Powers, as a witness. He also
challenged the failure to charge the lesser included offenses
of premeditated first degree murder. Jeffery Lee Miller
v. State, M2003-02841-CCA-R3-PC, 2005 WL 901130 at *1
(Tenn. Crim. App. Apr. 19, 2005). The Petitioner also filed a
petition for writ of habeas corpus. Jeffery Miller v.
Jewell Steele, Warden, M2012-01628-CCA-R3-HC, 2013 WL
3872835, at *1 (Tenn. Crim. App. July 24, 2013). This court
affirmed the denial and dismissal of his petition for
post-conviction relief and writ of habeas corpus.
21, 2015, nearly eighteen years following his conviction, the
Petitioner, through counsel, filed a petition for writ of
error coram nobis alleging that he had "newly discovered
evidence which may have resulted in a different judgment or a
different punishment had the evidence been presented at his
trial." After requesting his investigative file from the
Clarksville District Attorney's Office, the Petitioner
discovered additional statements from two key witnesses,
Jeremy Gibbs and Matthew Bryant. Jeremy Gibbs testified on
behalf of the State in the Petitioner's trial, and
Matthew Bryant testified as a State witness in the trial of
Michael Powers, the Petitioner's co-defendant. Prior to
the Petitioner requesting his investigative file, the only
statement he had was Detective Cheryl Anderson's
handwritten version of Gibbs' statement.
Petitioner claims that Gibbs' handwritten statement was
"significant" because it contained additional
information that was not "conveyed in the
question-and-answer statement written by Detective Cheryl
Anderson." Gibbs' handwritten statement included a
description of the Petitioner that varied from
"Gibbs's trial statement and his statement at the
preliminary hearing." Finally, Gibbs' handwritten
statement included "his admission that he entered the
crime scene and picked up one of the shell casings." The
Petitioner claims that Gibbs' statement could have been
used to "damage the integrity of the . . .
investigation and the credibility of the prosecution's
law enforcement witnesses" and show that "the crime
scene was not secure, that no log of persons at the scene was
disclosed, and that the prosecution witnesses did not report
. . . Gibbs's tampering with the evidence."
Petitioner also asserts that Bryant's statement was
important because this statement "[was] consistent with
[the Petitioner's] testimony and [was] inconsistent with
the version of events related by the prosecution
witnesses." Bryant's statement was handwritten by
Bryant and then typed by the Clarksville Police Department.
In Bryant's statement, he claimed that the Petitioner
fired two shots at the ground and then left the scene. The
Petitioner argues that this statement corroborates his
"defense that the shots were not fired at the victim and
that the shooting was not premeditated." The Petitioner
asserts that he was not at fault in failing to present the
alleged newly discovered evidence because he did not discover
the two witness statements until he received the
investigative file in August 2014.
to the petition were affidavits signed by the Petitioner, the
Petitioner's counsel, whom we will refer to as appellate
counsel, and Chris M. Jones, a former Shelby County Sheriff
and alleged expert in the field of police practices. In the
Petitioner's affidavit, he explained that he requested
his investigative file from the Clarksville District
Attorney's Office, which he received in late August 2014.
He claimed that there were two witness statements he had
never seen and that he "had no knowledge of the contents
of these statements." The Petitioner also claimed that
trial counsel never discussed the contents of these two
statements with the Petitioner, and he believed that trial
counsel was not aware of these witness statements. The
affidavit from appellate counsel stated that both the
Petitioner and appellate counsel sent letters to trial
counsel asking him if he received the two witness statements
at issue. Trial counsel did not respond to the
Petitioner's or appellate counsel's letters. In the
third affidavit, Jones stated that the Clarksville Police