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Sample v. State

Court of Criminal Appeals of Tennessee, Jackson

August 11, 2017

MICHAEL EUGENE SAMPLE
v.
STATE OF TENNESSEE

         Appeal from the Criminal Court for Shelby County No. P-14252 Paula Skahan, Judge

         The Petitioner, Michael Eugene Sample, was convicted in 1982 of two counts of felony murder and was sentenced to death. Following his unsuccessful direct appeal, he began filing, over the next twenty years, a series of various types of post-conviction petitions, all of which were unsuccessful. This appeal followed his claim, filed pursuant to Tennessee Rule of Criminal Procedure 36.1, that he is intellectually disabled and not eligible to be executed. Thus, in his view, his sentence is illegal and void; and he is entitled to a hearing on his claim. Further, he argues that he is entitled to a writ of error audita querela and a writ of error coram nobis. The coram nobis court denied relief as to each of these claims and we affirm the judgment of that court.

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

          Paul R. Bottei and Alexis Soler, Assistant Federal Public Defenders, Nashville, Tennessee, for the appellant, Michael Eugene Sample.

          Herbert H. Slatery III, Attorney General and Reporter; Andrew C. Coulam, Assistant Attorney General; Amy P. Weirich, District Attorney General; and Pamela Stark, Assistant District Attorney General, for the appellee, State of Tennessee.

          Alan E. Glenn, J., delivered the opinion of the court, in which Robert L. Holloway, Jr., and Timothy L. Easter, JJ., joined.

          ALAN E. GLENN, JUDGE

         FACTS

         Since his convictions thirty-five years ago, the Petitioner has initiated a number of post-conviction proceedings, all of which have been unsuccessful. On August 25, 2016, he filed a petition for writ of error coram nobis and for writ of audita querela, based upon the same arguments he has continued on appeal. For reasons which we will explain, we affirm the determination by the coram nobis court denying relief.

         ANALYSIS

         We will review the issues argued on appeal by the Petitioner.

         I. Intellectual Disability and Tenn. R. Crim. P. 36.1

         On appeal, the Petitioner argues that he is entitled to relief, pursuant to Tennessee Rule of Criminal Procedure 36.1, because he is intellectually disabled and, thus, not eligible to be executed.

         Rule 36.1 of the Tennessee Rules of Criminal Procedure permits a defendant to seek correction of an unexpired illegal sentence at any time. See State v. Brown, 479 S.W.3d 200, 211 (Tenn. 2015). "[A]n illegal sentence is one that is not authorized by the applicable statutes or that ...


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