Court of Criminal Appeals of Tennessee, Knoxville
Assigned on Briefs September 19, 2017
from the Circuit Court for Sevier County No. 19209II Walter C
Phillip Alexander McWilliams, appeals the denial of his
petition for post-conviction relief from his convictions for
aggravated domestic assault and reckless endangerment with a
deadly weapon. Petitioner argues that he received ineffective
assistance of counsel. After a review of the record and the
briefs of the parties, we determine Petitioner has failed to
establish that he received ineffective assistance of counsel.
Accordingly, the judgment of the post-conviction court is
R. App. P. 3 Appeal as of Right; Judgment of the Circuit
William L. Wheatley, Sevierville, Tennessee, for the
appellant, Phillip Alexander McWilliams.
Herbert H. Slatery III, Attorney General and Reporter;
Caitlin Smith, Assistant Attorney General; James B. Dunn,
District Attorney General; and Rolfe Straussfogel, Assistant
District Attorney General, for the appellee, State of
Timothy L. Easter, J., delivered the opinion of the court, in
which Robert W. Wedemeyer, J., joined. Norma McGee Ogle, J.,
TIMOTHY L. EASTER, JUDGE
and Procedural Background
was indicted by a Sevier County grand jury for aggravated
domestic assault, reckless endangerment with a deadly weapon,
and possession of drug paraphernalia. The State alleged that
Petitioner pointed a firearm at the victim and discharged the
firearm in another direction while Petitioner, the victim,
and a child were inside the house. On April 28, 2014,
Petitioner entered a guilty plea to aggravated domestic
assault and reckless endangerment with a deadly weapon and
received an effective sentence of ten years to be suspended
after serving one year in incarceration. In exchange for the
plea, the possession of drug paraphernalia charge was
April 27, 2015, Petitioner filed a timely pro se petition for
post-conviction relief. Counsel was appointed, and on
September 12, 2016, petitioner amended his petition for
post-conviction relief, alleging that he received ineffective
assistance of trial counsel. An evidentiary hearing was held
on January 10, 2017.
to Petitioner, trial counsel met with him multiple times
prior to the entry of the plea. First, Petitioner and trial
counsel met in a parking lot and discussed Petitioner's
case for approximately thirty minutes. Later, Petitioner and
trial counsel met for a second time in a parking lot, and
Petitioner retained trial counsel during that meeting.
Petitioner claims that, other than one phone call from trial
counsel seeking payment of a retainer fee, Petitioner had no
contact with trial counsel between the date of the second
meeting and the scheduled date for a preliminary hearing.
Trial counsel claimed that he "probably" talked to
Petitioner on the phone. However, Petitioner maintains that
he attempted to contact trial counsel "dozens" of
times, but to no avail.
counsel testified that he told the general sessions court at
a bond revocation hearing that Petitioner's
actions-pointing the firearm at the victim and firing a shot
in another direction-were a result of Petitioner's
emotional reaction to walking into his house and finding his
wife with another man. According to trial counsel, he did
this to illustrate to the court that Petitioner was in a
situation that caused him to experience intense distress.
While speaking about the bond revocation hearing, trial
counsel said, "There wasn't a question of guilt or
innocence. He had discharged a firearm, a shotgun, inside the
house. The only issue was what his punishment was going to
be, and I was trying to get him probation." Despite
trial counsel's efforts, the general sessions court
revoked Petitioner's bond and held him without bond.
According to Petitioner's assertions, trial counsel
advised the Petitioner to waive his preliminary hearing
because he would not get as good of a deal if he burdened the
court with a preliminary hearing. On January 31, 2014,
Petitioner waived his preliminary hearing.
claims that he spoke with trial counsel at his arraignment in
circuit court. During that conversation, Petitioner told
trial counsel about his need to see a doctor, false
information provided by Petitioner's wife, and coaching
provided to Petitioner's wife by the police. Petitioner
said that ...