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Cross v. State

Court of Criminal Appeals of Tennessee, Nashville

June 27, 2017

SHAUN RONDALE CROSS
v.
STATE OF TENNESSEE

          Assigned on Briefs February 23, 2017 at Knoxville

         Appeal from the Circuit Court for Marshall County No. 15-CR-129 F. Lee Russell, Judge

         The 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.

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

          M. 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.

          D. Kelly Thomas, Jr., J., delivered the opinion of the court, in which James Curwood Witt, Jr., and Robert H. Montgomery, Jr., JJ., joined.

          OPINION

          D. KELLY THOMAS, JR., JUDGE.

         FACTUAL BACKGROUND

         On 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.[1] Counsel was appointed to represent the Petitioner, and a post-conviction hearing was held on this matter.

         Original 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.

         Original 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."

         As the 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.

         Original 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 ...


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