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Warlick v. State

Court of Criminal Appeals of Tennessee, Jackson

January 31, 2018


          Assigned on Briefs November 7, 2017

          Appeal from the Circuit Court for Gibson County (Humboldt Law Court) No. H9508 Clayburn Peeples, Judge

         The petitioner, Eddie Charles Warlick, appeals the denial of his petition for post-conviction relief, which petition challenged his 2015 guilty-pleaded conviction of second degree murder, alleging that he was deprived of the effective assistance of counsel. Discerning no error, we affirm.

         Tenn. R. App. P. 3; Judgment of the Circuit (Humboldt Law) Court Affirmed

          Christie Hopper, Jackson, Tennessee, for the appellant, Eddie Charles Warlick.

          Herbert H. Slatery III, Attorney General and Reporter; Zachary T. Hinkle, Assistant Attorney General; Garry Brown, District Attorney General; and Jerald Campbell, Assistant District 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 L. Holloway, Jr., JJ., joined.



         Originally charged with first degree murder, the petitioner entered a best interests plea of guilty to second degree murder in exchange for a sentence of 20 years with a 100 percent release eligibility percentage. At the November 17, 2015 guilty plea submission hearing, the State summarized the facts of the case. After "an evening of watching movies, drinking alcohol and potentially using illicit drugs, " the petitioner's long-time girlfriend Bernice Boykin sustained severe injuries that led to her death. The medical examiner concluded "that Bernice Boykin was killed by a method of strangulation . . . . that could have lasted up to minutes." At approximately 12:30 a.m., the petitioner telephoned a friend and said, "'I think I killed someone.'" At approximately 5:00 a.m., the petitioner telephoned 9-1-1 and reported that he had discovered the victim "unresponsive in his bed, at which time he admitted to attempting to revive her by beating on her chest . . . as well as grabbing her around her throat and shaking her as well as slapping her on her face." The petitioner "made multiple spontaneous" admissions to the police officers who arrived on the scene "as well as to a gentleman in the booking room."

         In the plea submission hearing, the petitioner's counsel indicated that the petitioner's version of the events was different than that provided by the State. According to counsel, the petitioner "acknowledges that there was some type of altercation that occurred" and that the petitioner and the victim "had been drinking heavily." Counsel added that the victim, who had recently been released from prison following her service of a sentence imposed for a conviction of aggravated assault, "could . . . have violent tendencies also in her life." The petitioner agreed that his attorney had presented a "fair statement" of the facts.

         Less than one month later, the petitioner filed a pro se motion "for correction or reduction of sentence or post-conviction relief, " alleging that his guilty plea was the product of the ineffective assistance of the two attorneys who represented him. In an amended petition for post-conviction relief, the petitioner alleged that his guilty plea was the result of coercion or duress "by his trial counsel and/or the trial court." He also reiterated his claim that he was deprived of the effective assistance of counsel because his counsel failed to adequately investigate the case, review the evidence, and communicate to him the facts and evidence.

         At the February 10, 2017 evidentiary hearing, the petitioner, who was represented at trial by the district public defender and an assistant district public defender, testified that the assistant district public defender "was the main one representing me." The petitioner said that he had a poor working relationship with the assistant district public defender, his primary counsel, and that this caused him to insist that the district public defender become involved in the case. The petitioner said that primary counsel provided him with the discovery materials but that primary counsel did not provide him "all of it." The petitioner testified that he wrote a letter to the trial court because he "wanted the police report, the police videos, motion for discovery results, psychiatry reports, autopsy report, phone records." He could not say with any specificity, however, what primary counsel had failed to provide him or how the lack of any particular piece of potential evidence influenced his decision to enter a guilty plea.

         The petitioner testified that counsel provided him with "one little piece of letter that had Bufford on it." "Bufford, " he said, was an inmate who had recently been moved into the same "pod" as the petitioner at the jail. The petitioner claimed that "Bufford" was "coming trying to talk to" the petitioner, "to cozy up to" him. The petitioner said, "He was telling me about things that I hadn't told nobody but my lawyer. He was telling about how I came to the police station." He said that when he saw Bufford's name in the discovery materials, he believed that primary counsel was "putting out evidence telling people things about [his] case." The petitioner testified that he wrote to primary counsel repeatedly but that primary counsel refused to visit him in the jail. The petitioner said that he wrote to "CAPS" to report primary counsel.

         The petitioner said that on the day he entered his plea, he believed he was there for trial and that he was ready to proceed. He claimed that instead of going into the courtroom, he and primary counsel went into the judge's chambers, where the judge told him, "'I'm going to give you 60 years, '" and, "'You'd better talk to your lawyer.'" After leaving the judge's chambers, the petitioner went into a "little side room" with primary counsel and the district public defender. The petitioner said that he "talked to" the district public defender "about withdraw[ing] a plea 'cause [he] was made to take a plea." The petitioner testified that he also discussed the process for withdrawing a guilty plea with an inmate at the jail, who told him, "'Well, you can write a ...

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