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Armstrong v. State

Court of Criminal Appeals of Tennessee, Nashville

September 27, 2017

CLAUDALE RENALDO ARMSTRONG
v.
STATE OF TENNESSEE

          Assigned on Briefs September 13, 2017

         Appeal from the Circuit Court for Marshall County No. 16-CR-130-PCR, 16-CR-132-PCR, 16-CR-133-PCR Franklin L. Russell, Judge

         The Petitioner, Claudale Renaldo Armstrong, appeals the post-conviction court's denial of his petition for post-conviction relief in which he challenged his conviction for the sale of 0.5 grams or more of a Schedule II Controlled Substance, his conviction for the sale of less than 0.5 grams of a Schedule II Controlled Substance, and his effective sentence of twenty-six years in the Department of Correction. On appeal, the Petitioner contends that trial counsel rendered ineffective assistance by failing to file a motion seeking recusal of the trial judge after the Petitioner filed a federal lawsuit and complaints with the Board of Professional Responsibility and the Board of Judicial Conduct against the judge. Upon reviewing the record and the applicable law, we affirm the judgment of the post-conviction court.

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

          Taylor E. Brandon, Lewisburg, Tennessee, for the appellant, Claudale Renaldo Armstrong.

          Herbert H. Slatery III, Attorney General and Reporter; Zachary T. Hinkle, Assistant Attorney General; Robert J. Carter, District Attorney General; and Weakley Edward Barnard, Assistant District Attorney General, for the appellee, State of Tennessee.

          John Everett Williams, J., delivered the opinion of the court, in which Robert L. Holloway, Jr., and Robert H. Montgomery, Jr., JJ., joined.

          OPINION

          JOHN EVERETT WILLIAMS, JUDGE

         FACTUAL AND PROCEDURAL HISTORY .

          This appeal arises from two separate drug transactions between the Petitioner and a confidential informant. In case numbers 12-CR-170 and 12-CR-172, the Petitioner was indicted for the sale of 0.5 grams or more of cocaine base; delivery of 0.5 grams or more of cocaine base; sale of less than 0.5 grams of cocaine; and delivery of less than 0.5 grams of cocaine. These cases were consolidated for a jury trial, in which the jury found the Petitioner guilty of all four counts as charged. A summary of the evidence presented at trial is included in this court's opinion on direct appeal. See State v. Claudale Renaldo Armstrong, No. M2014-01041-CCA-R3-CD, 2015 WL 1947024, at *1-4 (Tenn. Crim. App. Apr. 30, 2015), perm. app. denied (Aug. 14, 2015).

         At a subsequent sentencing hearing, the trial court merged the alternative counts into two convictions and sentenced the Petitioner as a Range II, multiple offender to eighteen years and eight years for each respective transaction. The sentences were aligned consecutively for an effective term of twenty-six years' imprisonment. The convictions and sentences were affirmed on appeal in this court, and permission to appeal was denied by the Tennessee Supreme Court on August 14, 2015. See id.

         The Petitioner also entered a guilty plea in a separate case, case number 12-CR-173. Although the indictment is not included in the record on post-conviction appeal, the Presentence Report in the record on direct appeal of the jury trial stated that Petitioner was charged in case 12-CR-173 with the sale of over 0.5 grams of cocaine and the delivery of over 0.5 grams of cocaine. According to the State's Response to the Petition for Post-Conviction Relief and the post-conviction court's order, the Petitioner's guilty plea was entered on June 3, 2014. No judgment form is included in the record.

         The Petitioner filed a pro se petition for post-conviction relief in which he alleged that his trial counsel was ineffective at trial. The post-conviction court held a hearing on the petition and entered an order denying relief. Because this appeal involves only the claim of ineffective assistance of counsel based on trial counsel's failure to file a motion to recuse, we summarize the evidence presented during the hearing relevant only to this issue.

         At the post-conviction evidentiary hearing, the Petitioner testified that he filed a federal lawsuit against the trial judge while his case was still pending. The Petitioner stated that after the Petitioner's trial, the federal court dismissed his suit because judges are immune from monetary damages and instructed him to contact the Court of Criminal Appeals. The Petitioner also testified that he submitted complaints against the trial judge with the Board of Professional Responsibility and the Board of Judicial Conduct. Both boards dismissed the complaints and recommended the Petitioner ...


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