Court of Criminal Appeals of Tennessee, Nashville
Assigned on Briefs February 23, 2017 at Knoxville
from the Circuit Court for Marshall County No. 15-CR-129 F.
Lee Russell, Judge
Petitioner, Shaun Rondale Cross, appeals as of right from the
Marshall County Circuit Court's denial of his petition
for post-conviction relief. The Petitioner contends that his
guilty plea was not voluntary because one of his trial
attorneys "terrorized" him by threatening that he
would receive "an all[-]white jury" that would
"hang" him if he went to trial. Discerning no
error, we affirm the judgment of the post-conviction court.
R. App. P. 3 Appeal as of Right; Judgment of the Circuit
Wesley Hall IV, Unionville, Tennessee, for the appellant,
Shaun Rondale Cross.
Herbert H. Slatery III, Attorney General and Reporter; Brent
C. Cherry, Senior Counsel; Robert J. Carter, District
Attorney General; and Weakley E. Barnard, Assistant District
Attorney General, for the appellee, State of Tennessee.
Kelly Thomas, Jr., J., delivered the opinion of the court, in
which James Curwood Witt, Jr., and Robert H. Montgomery, Jr.,
KELLY THOMAS, JR., JUDGE.
October 2, 2014, the Petitioner pled guilty to one count of
possession with intent to sell 26 grams or more of cocaine
and received a sentence of twenty-five years as a Range III,
persistent offender. The Petitioner filed a timely pro se
petition for post-conviction relief. The gravamen of the
petition was that the Petitioner had been
"terrorized" into pleading guilty when one of his
trial attorneys threatened him by stating that he would face
"an all[-]white jury" that would "hang"
him if he did not accept the State's plea
offer. Counsel was appointed to represent the
Petitioner, and a post-conviction hearing was held on this
counsel testified that she was appointed to represent the
Petitioner. Original counsel recalled discussing the facts of
the case with the Petitioner, reviewing the discovery
materials with him, and discussing with him the fact that he
had enough prior convictions to qualify as a career offender.
Original counsel advised the Petitioner that he faced a
minimum sentence of thirty years to be served at sixty
percent if convicted at trial. Original counsel testified
that the Petitioner understood and wanted to go forward with
a jury trial.
counsel admitted that during these initial discussions, she
spoke to the Petitioner about the possible composition of the
jury, the demographics of Marshall County, and that, in her
opinion, Marshall County was "a particularly
conservative jurisdiction." Original counsel denied that
she told the Petitioner that "he was going to get an
all-white jury." She also denied that she told the
Petitioner that the jury would "hang" him, stating
that she did not "think [she] would use a term like that
. . . [e]ven figuratively." Original counsel testified
that after her discussion with the Petitioner about the
possible composition of the jury, "he still chose to go
forward with a jury trial."
trial date neared, the Petitioner's family hired a
different attorney to represent him. Due to the closeness of
the scheduled trial date, the trial court ordered original
counsel to continue to represent the Petitioner and to assist
successor counsel in preparing for trial. Original and
successor counsel then received supplemental discovery from
the State. The supplemental discovery included recordings of
phone calls the Petitioner had made from jail. Both original
and successor counsel reviewed the recordings and discussed
them with the Petitioner.
counsel believed that the recordings were "very
incriminating." Original counsel recalled that the
recordings contained "an admission" by the
Petitioner that was "pretty close to a confession."
After reviewing the recordings, the Petitioner wanted to
reopen plea negotiations. Original counsel testified that
"it was not until [they] received [the] supplemental
discovery that [the Petitioner] chose to enter the
plea." Given the nature of the supplemental discovery,
the trial court broke with its ...