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State v. Hughes

Court of Criminal Appeals of Tennessee, Knoxville

June 5, 2017


          Assigned on Briefs March 21, 2017

         Appeal from the Criminal Court for Hamblen County No. 15CR284 Alex E. Pearson, Presiding Judge

         The Petitioner, Martin E. Hughes, pled guilty to two counts of aggravated assault; introducing contraband into a penal institution; facilitation of possession of a schedule II controlled substance; possession of marijuana with the intent to sell or deliver; possession of drug paraphernalia; a second offense of driving under the influence of an intoxicant; possession of a firearm while intoxicated; and vandalism of property valued under $500. The Petitioner received an aggregate five-year sentence, with credit for time he had served in prison and the remainder of the sentence to be served through the community corrections program. The Petitioner violated the terms of his alternative sentence, and he was sentenced to serve the remainder of the five years in prison. The Petitioner then filed a petition for post-conviction relief. At the hearing on the petition, the Petitioner sought to establish that he had received the ineffective assistance of counsel and that he was entitled to withdraw his guilty pleas as not knowingly and voluntarily entered based on newly discovered evidence in the form of a victim recanting an earlier statement. The post-conviction court found that the Petitioner was not entitled to relief because he received the effective assistance of counsel and because the victim's testimony at the hearing established that the material elements of her statement to police were accurate. On appeal, the Petitioner argues that a delay in the post-conviction proceedings attributable to the State resulted in the loss of a witness's testimony and that his due process right to present his post-conviction claims was violated. After a thorough review of the record, we conclude there is no basis to disturb the Petitioner's guilty pleas, and we affirm the judgment of the post-conviction court.

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

          Jonathan Sevier Cave, Greeneville, Tennessee, for the appellant, Martin Ellison Hughes.

          Herbert H. Slatery III, Attorney General and Reporter; Sophia S. Lee, Senior Counsel; Dan E. Armstrong, District Attorney General; and Connie G. Trobaugh, Assistant District Attorney General, for the appellee, State of Tennessee.

          John Everett Williams, J., delivered the opinion of the court, in which Timothy L. Easter and J. Ross Dyer, JJ., joined.




         The Petitioner entered his guilty pleas on January 21, 2014, in Hamblen County. As relevant to this appeal, the Petitioner's aggravated assault convictions were based on an incident in which he pointed a rifle at his ex-girlfriend and her daughter. According to a letter from the supervisor of the community corrections program, a violation warrant was signed on March 12, 2014, after the Petitioner was arrested for multiple aggravated assaults committed in Hawkins County. The Petitioner waived a revocation hearing.[1]His community corrections sentence was revoked on October 14, 2014, and his sentence of five years in confinement was reinstated. He was ultimately convicted of the charges which were the basis of the revocation. See State v. Marty E. Hughes, No. E2015-01907-CCA-R3-CD, 2016 WL 7428733, at *1 (Tenn. Crim. App. Dec. 23, 2016) no perm. app. filed (vacating sentences based on violation of the right to counsel at sentencing and remanding for the opportunity to file a new motion for a new trial).

         On March 20, 2015, the Petitioner filed a petition for post-conviction relief, seeking to overturn his guilty pleas based on the ineffective assistance of counsel and on newly discovered evidence. He alleged that the statements of the two victims of the Hamblen County aggravated assaults had been changed by law enforcement and that his attorney improperly advised him to plead guilty. He also raised errors with the revocation procedures and with the conditions of his confinement.

         The post-conviction court appointed counsel to represent the Petitioner.[2] On October 7, 2015, the State moved to dismiss the petition based on the statute of limitations. The record contains the post-conviction court's order documenting the Petitioner's complaint that his first post-conviction attorney refused to have contact with him and mandating that the attorney receive a copy of the Petitioner's complaint. On February 1, 2016, the post-conviction court dismissed the petition based on the limitations period because the Petitioner had failed to assert any basis for finding that the petition was timely filed. The Petitioner objected to the dismissal of his post-conviction petition, asserting that his mail was being thrown away at the jail, that his first two attempts to file handwritten post-conviction petitions were "lost, destroyed, or thrown away, " and that his outgoing legal mail was recovered on two occasions from a trashcan. On February 19, 2016, the post-conviction court entered an order allowing the post-conviction action to proceed and appointing new counsel for the Petitioner.

         The Petitioner's new counsel amended the post-conviction petition, asserting that due process should toll the statute of limitations, that the pleas were not knowingly and voluntarily entered because the Petitioner's decision was based on law enforcement's malfeasance in changing witness statements, and that he received the ineffective assistance of counsel when his attorney advised him to plead guilty.

         The Petitioner's post-conviction hearing was held on June 24, 2016, and the court first addressed the issue of timeliness. The Petitioner testified that he first attempted to file a post-conviction petition on October 22, 2014. He introduced into evidence an envelope with a handwritten date and testified that the handwritten date was his only means of tracking his mail in the local jail. The hearing transcript reflects that, although missing from the record on appeal, the contents of the envelope were also introduced. The ...

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