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Matthews v. State

Court of Criminal Appeals of Tennessee, Nashville

June 8, 2017

GEORGE WASHINGTON MATTHEWS
v.
STATE OF TENNESSEE

         Appeal from the Criminal Court for Trousdale County No. 16-CV-4525

         The Appellant, George Washington Matthews, appeals the trial court's summary dismissal of his petition for habeas corpus relief. The State has filed a motion asking this Court to affirm pursuant to Court of Criminal Appeals Rule 20. Said motion is hereby granted.

         Tenn. R. App. P. 3 Appeal as of Right; Judgment of the Trial Court Affirmed Pursuant to Rule 20, Rules of the Court of Criminal Appeals

          George Washington Matthews, Pro se.

          Herbert H. Slatery III, Attorney General and Reporter; Brent C. Cherry, Senior Counsel, for the appellee, State of Tennessee.

          Robert W. Wedemeyer, J., delivered the opinion of the court, in which Thomas T. Woodall, P.J., and Timothy L. Easter, J. joined.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION

          Robert W. Wedemeyer, Judge

         The Appellant was charged in a three-count indictment with possession with intent to deliver a controlled substance and attempt to introduce a controlled substance and other contraband (cell phone) into a penal institution. He was convicted on all three counts. At issue in this appeal is whether the trial court properly dismissed his habeas corpus challenge to the sufficiency of two counts of the indictment charging attempt to introduce the prohibited items into prison. Count Two of the indictment charged, in relevant part:

[The Appellant] unlawfully and knowingly, with unlawful intent, did attempt to take a controlled substance, to-wit: Marijuana, a Schedule VI drug, into the Northwest Correctional Complex where prisoners are quartered, in violation of [T.C.A.] § 39-16-201.

         Count Three charged, in relevant part:

[The Appellant] unlawfully and knowingly, with unlawful intent, did attempt to take contraband, to-wit: cell phones, into the Northwest Correctional Complex where prisoners are quartered, in violation of [T.C.A.] § 39-16-201.

         According to his argument, these two counts are insufficient because they do not allege some overt act committed toward the commission of the offense. The trial court dismissed the petition without a hearing. The Appellant appealed, and the State has filed a motion to affirm pursuant to Court of Criminal Appeals Rule 20. For the reasons stated below, said motion is hereby granted.

         Article I, Section 15 of the Tennessee Constitution guarantees the right to seek habeas corpus relief, and Tennessee Code Annotated sections 29-21-101 et seq. codify the applicable procedures for seeking such a writ. The grounds upon which our law provides relief are very narrow, however. McLaney v. Bell, 59 S.W.3d 90, 92 (Tenn. 2001). Habeas corpus relief is available in this state only when it appears on the face of the judgment or the record of the proceedings that the trial court was without jurisdiction to convict or sentence the defendant or that the sentence of imprisonment has otherwise expired. Archer v. State, 851 S.W.2d 157, 164 (Tenn. 1993). In other words, habeas corpus relief may only be sought when the judgment is void, not merely voidable. Taylor v. State, 995 S.W.2d 78, 83 (Tenn. 1999). "[W]here the allegations in a petition for writ of habeas corpus do not demonstrate that the judgment is void, a trial court may correctly dismiss the petition without a hearing." McLaney, 59 S.W.3d at 93.

         "[T]he validity of an indictment and the efficacy of the resulting conviction may be addressed in a petition for habeas corpus when the indictment is so defective as to deprive the court of jurisdiction." Dykes v. Compton, 978 S.W.2d 528, 529 (Tenn. 1998). However, so long as the indictment performs its essential constitutional and statutory purposes, habeas corpus relief is not warranted. Id. An indictment passes constitutional muster if it provides: (1) notice of the charge against which the accused must defend himself; (2) an adequate basis for the entry of a proper judgment; and (3) protection of the accused from double jeopardy. State v. Hill, 954 S.W.2d 725, 727 (Tenn. 1997). In addition, an indictment must "state the facts constituting the offense in ordinary and concise language, without prolixity or repetition, in such a manner as to ...


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