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Washington v. Lee

Court of Criminal Appeals of Tennessee, Knoxville

September 12, 2017


          Assigned on Briefs June 27, 2017

         Appeal from the Criminal Court for Johnson County No. CC-16-CR-143 Lisa Rice, Judge

         Pro se petitioner, Anthony D. Washington, appeals the summary dismissal of his petition for writ of habeas corpus by the Johnson County Criminal Court. In this appeal, the Petitioner makes several claims, all of which are rooted in the duplicitous nature of his indictment. The State asserts that the Petitioner failed to show that his judgment was void. Upon review, we affirm the judgment of the habeas corpus court.

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

          Anthony D. Washington, Mountain City, Tennessee, pro se.

          Herbert H. Slatery III, Attorney General and Reporter; Katherine C. Redding, Assistant Attorney General; and Tony Clark, District Attorney General, for the Appellee, State of Tennessee.

          Camille R. McMullen, J., delivered the opinion of the court, in which D. Kelly Thomas, Jr., and Robert L. Holloway, Jr., JJ., joined.



         The Petitioner was originally indicted by the Davidson County Grand Jury for one count of possession with the intent to sell or deliver 0.5 grams or more of a substance containing cocaine in a drug-free zone, one count of possession of marijuana, and one count of possession of drug paraphernalia. Following a trial, he was convicted of possession with the intent to sell 0.5 grams or more of a substance containing cocaine in a drug-free zone, and the trial court sentenced the Petitioner, as a Range III, persistent offender, to thirty years' incarceration, with the first twenty years to be served at 100%. Id. He appealed his conviction and sentence, both of which were affirmed by this court. State v. Anthony Dewight Washington, No. M2011-02678-CCA-R3-CD, 2012 WL 6115589, at *1 (Tenn. Crim. App. July 17, 2012), perm app. denied (Tenn. Mar. 5, 2013). The Petitioner subsequently sought post-conviction relief on the grounds of ineffective assistance of counsel, the denial of which was also affirmed by this court. Anthony Dewight Washington v. State, No. M2015-02309-CCA-R3-PC, 2016 WL 5266620, at *1 (Tenn. Crim. App. Sept. 22, 2016), perm. app. denied (Oct. 15, 2016). On October 18, 2016, the Petitioner filed a petition for writ of habeas corpus, and the State filed a response on November 16, 2016. By order on February 3, 2017, the habeas court denied relief. On March 1, 2017, the Petitioner filed a timely notice of appeal.


         On appeal, the Petitioner challenges his indictment as duplicitous. Specifically, he contends that it "fail[ed] to separate the [three] charges into three different counts" and that he was convicted of two offenses: possession with intent to sell .5 grams or more of a substance containing cocaine and possession with intent to deliver .5 grams or more of a substance containing cocaine. Consequently, the Petitioner claims that he was not informed of the charges he had to defend against at trial and that the lack of jury unanimity violated principles of double jeopardy. In response, the State contends that there is no infirmity in the indictment because the Petitioner was charged with the separate crime of possession, rather than the two crimes of delivery and sale of cocaine. Moreover, they insist that the Petitioner's claims, even if true, only render his judgments voidable, and not void. For the following reasons, we affirm the summary dismissal by the habeas court.

         We address the Petitioner's issues with the following well established legal framework in regard to habeas corpus relief. "The determination of whether habeas corpus relief should be granted is a question of law." Faulkner v. State, 226 S.W.3d 358, 361 (Tenn. 2007) (citing Hart v. State, 21 S.W.3d 901, 903 (Tenn. 2000)). Accordingly, our review is de novo without a presumption of correctness. Summers v. State, 212 S.W.3d 251, 255 (Tenn. 2007) (citing State v. Livingston, 197 S.W.3d 710, 712 (Tenn. 2006)).

         A prisoner is guaranteed the right to habeas corpus relief under Article I, section 15 of the Tennessee Constitution. Tenn. Const. art. I, § 15; see also T.C.A. §§ 29-21- 101 to -130. The grounds upon which a writ of habeas corpus may be issued, however, are very narrow. Taylor v. State, 995 S.W.2d 78, 83 (Tenn.1999). "Habeas corpus relief is available in Tennessee only when 'it appears upon the face of the judgment or the record of the proceedings upon which the judgment is rendered' that a convicting court was without jurisdiction or authority to sentence a defendant, or that a defendant's sentence of imprisonment or other restraint has expired." Archer v. State, 851 S.W.2d 157, 164 (Tenn.1993) (quoting State v. Galloway, 45 Tenn. (5 Cold.) 326, 337 (1868)). "[T]he purpose of a habeas corpus petition is to contest void and not merely voidable judgments." Potts v. State, 833 S.W.2d 60, 62 (Tenn.1992) (citing State ex rel. Newsom v. Henderson, 424 S.W.2d 186, 189 (Tenn. 1968)). "A void judgment is one in which the judgment is facially invalid because the court lacked jurisdiction or authority to render the judgment or because the defendant's sentence has expired." Taylor, 995 S.W.2d at 83 (citing Dykes v. Compton, 978 S.W.2d 528, 529 (Tenn.1998); Archer, 851 S.W.2d at 161-64). However, "a voidable judgment is one that is facially valid and requires proof beyond the face of the record or judgment to establish its invalidity." Summers, 212 S.W.3d at 256 (citing Dykes, 978 S.W.2d at 529). Thus, "[i]n all cases where a [P]etitioner must introduce proof beyond the record to establish the invalidity of his conviction, then that conviction by definition is merely voidable, and a Tennessee court cannot issue the writ of habeas corpus under such circumstances." State v. Ritchie, 20 S.W.3d 624, 633 (Tenn. 2000). Moreover, it is the Petitioner's burden to demonstrate, by a preponderance of the evidence, that the judgment is void or that the confinement is illegal. Wyatt v. State, 24 S.W.3d 319, 322 (Tenn. 2000). If this burden is met, the Petitioner is entitled to immediate release. State v. Warren, 740 S.W.2d 427, 428 (Tenn. Crim. App. 1986) (citing Ussery v. Avery, 432 S.W.2d 656, 658 (Tenn. 1968)).

         The Tennessee Supreme Court has held that "the validity of an indictment . . . 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). Generally, an indictment is valid if it contains sufficient information "(1) to enable the accused to know the accusation to which answer is required, (2) to furnish the court adequate basis for the entry of a proper judgment, and (3) to protect the accused from double jeopardy." State v. Hill, 954 S.W.2d 725, 727 (Tenn. 1997). The Tennessee Supreme Court has held that an indictment that specifically references the statute under which the defendant is indicted is sufficient to satisfy the ...

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