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Crawford v. State

Court of Criminal Appeals of Tennessee, Knoxville

January 22, 2018


          Assigned on Briefs December 20, 2017

         Appeal from the Criminal Court for Bradley County No. 16-CR-538 Andrew Mark Freiberg, Judge

         The petitioner, Earl D. Crawford, appeals pro se from the summary dismissal of his 2016 petition for post-conviction relief, which challenged his 1986 convictions of aggravated rape, aggravated kidnapping, and armed robbery. Because the petition was filed nearly three decades beyond the applicable statute of limitations, because this is the petitioner's second petition for post-conviction relief, because the petitioner failed to either allege or prove a statutory exception to the timely filing or a due process tolling of the statute of limitations for filing a petition for post-conviction relief, and because there is no merit to the petitioner's claim of sentence illegality, we affirm the judgment of the post-conviction court.

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

          Earl D. Crawford, Mountain City, Tennessee, pro se.

          Herbert H. Slatery III, Attorney General and Reporter; and Renee W. Turner, Assistant Attorney General, for the appellee, State of Tennessee.

          James Curwood Witt, Jr., J., delivered the opinion of the court, in which D. Kelly Thomas, Jr., and Robert H. Montgomery, Jr., JJ., joined.



         In 1986, a Bradley County Criminal Court jury convicted the petitioner of aggravated rape, aggravated kidnapping, and armed robbery, and the trial court imposed two consecutive life sentence plus 35 years in prison. This court affirmed the judgments on direct appeal. State v. Earl David Crawford, No. 258 (Tenn. Crim. App., Nov. 10, 1987), perm. app. denied (Tenn. Mar. 14, 1988). On June 28, 1989, the petitioner filed a "Petition For Post-Conviction Relief Filing To Be Held in Abeyance, " and, during the pendency of that petition, the petitioner sought habeas corpus relief, which the trial court apparently treated as a petition for post-conviction relief and which the court dismissed as time-barred in July 1991. The court then, in June 1996, dismissed the petitioner's original petition for post-conviction relief for failure to prosecute, and this court affirmed the dismissal. Earl Crawford, Jr. v. State, No.03C01-9610-CR-00385 (Tenn. Crim. App., Knoxville, July 29, 1997), perm. app. denied (Tenn. Apr. 17, 1998).

         The petitioner filed a petition for post-conviction deoxyribonucleic acid ("DNA") testing, the denial of which was affirmed by this court. Earl David Crawford v. State, No. E2002-02334-CCA-R3-PC (Tenn. Crim. App., Knoxville, Aug. 4, 2003), perm. app. denied (Tenn. Dec. 22, 2003). The petitioner next sought habeas corpus relief, which was denied by the habeas corpus court, and this court affirmed the denial by memorandum opinion pursuant to Rule 20 of the Rules of the Court of Criminal Appeals. Earl David Crawford v. Ricky Bell, Warden, No. M2004-02440-CCA-R3-HC (Tenn. Crim. App., Nashville, Feb. 15, 2005), perm. app. denied (Tenn. June 27, 2005). The petitioner then filed a second petition for writ of habeas corpus, in which he alleged that his convictions were void due to the trial court's erroneous consideration of the petitioner's status as a parolee to enhance his sentence. The petition was summarily dismissed by the habeas corpus court, and this court again affirmed the dismissal, stating that it was "unable to ascertain any illegality in the sentencing procedure of the trial court" and that, in any event, "a challege to the misapplication of an enhancement factor is not a proper subject for habeas corpus relief." Earl David Crawford v. James Holloway, Warden, No. W2014-02500-CCA-R3-HC, slip op. at 4 (Tenn. Crim. App., Jackson, June 26, 2015).

         On December 15, 2016, the petitioner filed a "Petition for Relief from Sentence." The post-conviction court summarily dismissed the petition, deeming it time barred, duplicative, and without a legal basis for reopening the prior post-conviction petition. In dismissing the petition, the post-conviction court stated as follows:

Having taken judicial notice of [the p]etitioner's prodigious history over the past thirty years, it strikes the [c]ourt that the [p]etitioner has availed himself of every conceivable legal avenue to avoid serving the balance of his sentence for his crimes. It is also true that [the p]etitioner's arguments in the present [p]etition have been repackaged and are stale. [The p]etitioner's issues at bar have been considered and reconsidered more than once, and considerable judicial resources have been expended in these matters. The [p]etitioner's personal beliefs notwithstanding, the law does not entitle him to post-conviction relief.

         On appeal, the petitioner challenges the summary dismissal of his 2016 petition, asserting the illegality of his sentence and the post-conviction court's failure to appoint counsel. The State responds that the petition was untimely filed and that the legality of the petitioner's sentence has been fully addressed and determined in prior proceedings.

         "[A] person in custody . . . must petition for post-conviction relief . . . within one (1) year of the date of the final action of the highest state appellate court to which an appeal is taken." T.C.A. § 40-30-102(a). "If it plainly appears from the face of the petition, . . . that the petition was not filed . . . within the time set forth in the statute of limitations, . . . the judge shall enter an order dismissing the petition. The order shall state the reason for the dismissal and the facts requiring dismissal." Id. § 40-30-106(b). The statute of limitations for filing a post-conviction petition is jurisdictional. See id. § 40-30-102(b) ("No court shall have jurisdiction to consider a petition filed after the expiration of the limitations period unless [certain statutory prerequisites are met]."). Our supreme court has held that "the one-year statutory period is an element of the right to file a post-conviction petition and that it is not an affirmative defense that must be asserted by the State." State v. Nix, 40 S.W.3d 459, 464 (Tenn. 2001). Thus, "it is incumbent upon a petitioner to include allegations of fact in the ...

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