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Hayes v. State

Court of Criminal Appeals of Tennessee, Nashville

September 27, 2017

RONALD CHRISTOPHER HAYES
v.
STATE OF TENNESSEE

          Session Date: March 14, 2017

         Appeal from the Criminal Court for Jackson County No. 09-CR-20 Brody N. Kane, Judge

         In 2010, the Petitioner entered a "best interest" plea to second degree murder and was sentenced to a term of twenty-five years. On April 5, 2016, the Petitioner filed a petition for a writ of error coram nobis, alleging that newly discovered evidence exists. On May 5, 2016, the trial court issued an order denying the petition as time-barred. The Petitioner appeals, arguing that the trial court erred by failing to toll the statute of limitations. We affirm the trial court's judgment.

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

          Douglas A Trant, Knoxville, Tennessee, for the appellant, Ronald Christopher Hayes.

          Herbert H. Slatery III, Attorney General and Reporter; Brent C. Cherry, Assistant Attorney General; Tom P. Thompson, Jr., District Attorney General; and Ian D. Bratton, Assistant District Attorney General, for the appellee, State of Tennessee.

          Robert W. Wedemeyer, J., delivered the opinion of the court, in which Timothy L. Easter, J. joined. Camille R. McMullen, J., concurs in result only.

          OPINION

          ROBERT W. WEDEMEYER, JUDGE

         I. Facts

         In 2009, a Jackson County grand jury indicted the Petitioner for felony murder, second degree murder, and especially aggravated child abuse for his role in the death of his live-in girlfriend's infant child, the victim. On April 13, 2010, by agreement of the parties, the Petitioner entered a "best interest" plea of guilty to second degree murder and an agreed sentence of twenty-five years was imposed. The remaining charges were dismissed.

          In April 2016, the Petitioner filed a petition for a writ of error coram nobis, alleging newly discovered evidence in the form of an affidavit containing "substantial and credible information" that the victim's mother, Brandi Castle, had inflicted injuries on another child, M.R.C., [1] born on May 15, 2012. The affidavit was signed by Nicole Crockett. In the affidavit, Ms. Crockett explains that, shortly after her marriage to "Pletz, " she received a phone call from Ms. Castle demanding child support for M.R.C., who Ms. Castle claimed was "Pletz's" biological child. After DNA testing confirmed the allegation, the Crocketts began visiting with M.R.C. when allowed and paying child support. The affidavit details numerous alleged lies Ms. Castle told, Ms. Castle's evasive behavior, odd bruising on M.R.C., and neglect of the children the Crocketts witnessed while in Ms. Castle's home. The affidavit concludes with the following observations:

After having a chance to reflect and review the information as well as the new information and pictures from the past, my husband and I are convinced there is a pattern of a child abuse, lack of supervision, poor parental judgement [sic], and we truly have doubts of [the Petitioner]'s involvement in the case of [the victim]. With that being said, our doubts of [the Petitioner] involvement resides on facts of the past pictures before [the Petitioner] knew [Ms. Castle] showing bruising and marks on [the victim] that are extremely similar to [M.R.C.]'s marks. Sadly there are the pictures of [the victim]'s autopsy pictures that were able to be viewed and compared that measure the same size and patterns of [M.R.C.]'s bruises/marks. It truly seems as though [Ms. Castle] has slipped through another situation to where the children are the victims.

         On May 25, 2016, the trial court issued an ordered denying the petition as untimely. It is from this judgment that the Petitioner now appeals.

         II. ...


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