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Griggs v. State

Court of Criminal Appeals of Tennessee, Jackson

January 23, 2018

GREGORY GRIGGS
v.
STATE OF TENNESSEE

          Assigned on Briefs March 7, 2017

         Appeal from the Circuit Court for Madison County No. C-16-8 Roy B. Morgan, Jr., Judge

         Petitioner, Gregory Griggs, appeals the denial of his petition for post-conviction relief. On June 18, 2015, Petitioner pleaded guilty to multiple offenses: attempted first degree murder; employing a firearm during the commission of a dangerous felony; attempted aggravated robbery; possession of a firearm during the commission of a dangerous felony; and evading arrest. Petitioner received an effective sentence of 24 years' incarceration. Following an evidentiary hearing, the post-conviction court denied post-conviction relief, finding that Petitioner failed to establish that his trial counsel's performance was deficient or that he was prejudiced by any alleged deficiency. After a review of the record and the briefs of the parties, we affirm the judgment of the post-conviction court.

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

          Joseph T. Howell, Jackson, Tennessee, for the appellant, Gregory Griggs.

          Herbert H. Slatery III, Attorney General and Reporter; Lacy Wilber, Senior Counsel; James G. (Jerry) Woodall, District Attorney General; and Al Earls, Assistant District Attorney General, for the appellee, State of Tennessee.

          Thomas T. Woodall, P.J., delivered the opinion of the court, in which James Curwood Witt, Jr., and Robert L. Holloway, Jr., JJ., joined.

          OPINION

          THOMAS T. WOODALL, PRESIDING JUDGE

         Post-conviction hearing

         Petitioner testified that he received a total effective sentence of 24 years for his guilty pleas. He acknowledged that he testified at the guilty plea hearing that his pleas were entered knowingly and voluntarily and that he was satisfied with his trial counsel's performance. He testified that since that time, he "was studying up on law, " and he read that "it's not first degree attempted murder unless it cause[d] serious bodily injuries." Petitioner also testified that the victim's statements were inconsistent. Petitioner testified that he did not understand the nature and consequences of his guilty pleas. He testified, "I was dumfounded to the law . . . ." He testified that he asked trial counsel to obtain a criminal background check on the victim, and he "failed to get that." Petitioner testified that he "had a mental history since [he] was little." He testified that he should have been found not competent to stand trial.

         On cross-examination, Petitioner acknowledged that he had a mental evaluation prior to entering his guilty pleas. Petitioner also acknowledged that he had prior convictions, including five misdemeanors, and that he pleaded guilty in Hardeman County to a Class D felony and received a two-year sentence. Petitioner testified that he did not read the guilty plea form. He testified, "They just told me to sign it." He testified that he recalled the trial judge's asking him if he understood his right to a jury trial. Petitioner testified, "I didn't know what a jury trial was." Petitioner acknowledged that he testified at the guilty plea hearing that he understood that he would receive a sentence of 18 years' incarceration for his attempted first degree murder conviction. Petitioner testified that he should not have been convicted of attempted first degree murder because he did not cause serious bodily injury. He testified, "my bullet didn't even penetrate" anyone. Petitioner admitted that he was seeking post-conviction relief to get "a better deal."

         Petitioner's trial counsel testified that he had been an Assistant Public Defender for twelve years. Trial counsel testified that he received discovery from the State and was prepared to go to trial in Petitioner's case. In preparation for trial, trial counsel conducted a "full background check" on both of the alleged victims and one witness. Trial counsel testified that Petitioner made a statement to police in which he admitted to being at the scene of the robbery and firing a shot during the robbery. The victims also identified Petitioner as the shooter.

         Trial counsel negotiated a plea agreement with the State and communicated the details of the plea agreement to Petitioner. Trial counsel testified that he requested a psychological evaluation because Petitioner had a "history of some mental issues." Petitioner was deemed competent to stand trial, and the report found that he was able to appreciate the wrongfulness of his actions at the time of the commission of the offenses. Trial counsel advised Petitioner of his rights, and trial counsel believed that Petitioner was capable of understanding his rights and the waiver of those rights by entry of his guilty pleas. Trial counsel testified that the trial court advised Petitioner of his rights during the guilty plea hearing as well. The competency report and the transcript of the guilty plea hearing were made exhibits at the post-conviction hearing.

         At the conclusion of the post-conviction hearing, the post-conviction court found trial counsel to be a credible witness. The court noted that Petitioner testified that he "want[ed] a better deal now based on . . . his research of the law." The court found that it was "very clear from the record" that trial counsel requested a mental evaluation, which showed that Petitioner was competent to stand trial. The court also noted that Petitioner had "no problem in understanding the questions" asked of him at the post-conviction hearing. The post-conviction court found that the guilty plea hearing transcript reflected "a very complete, thorough examination of the Defendant, now Petitioner, as to his complete plea agreement, his rights and the fact that he had discussed all of this with his attorney . . . ." The post-conviction court denied post-conviction relief, finding that Petitioner had failed to ...


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