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Steele v. State

Court of Criminal Appeals of Tennessee, Knoxville

February 13, 2018

KENNETH ALAN STEELE
v.
STATE OF TENNESSEE

          Session Date: December 19, 2017

         Appeal from the Criminal Court for Hamilton County No. 289273 Don W. Poole, Judge

         The Petitioner, Kenneth Alan Steele, appeals from the Hamilton County Criminal Court's denial of relief for his petition pursuant to the Post-Conviction DNA Analysis Act. The post-conviction court granted his petition for analysis but denied further relief based upon the results of the analysis. The Petitioner contends that the court failed to afford him a hearing and erred in denying relief after interpreting the DNA analysis reports. We affirm the judgment of the post-conviction court.

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

          Wesley D. Stone (on appeal), Knoxville, Tennessee; and Zak Newman (at hearing), Chattanooga, Tennessee, for the appellant, Kenneth Alan Steele.

          Herbert H. Slatery III, Attorney General and Reporter; Katherine C. Redding, Assistant Attorney General; M. Neal Pinkston, District Attorney General; Cameron Williams, Assistant District Attorney General, for the appellee, State of Tennessee.

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

          OPINION

          ROBERT H. MONTGOMERY, JR., JUDGE

         The Petitioner was convicted of twenty-one counts of burglary, robbery, theft, rape, and assault offenses perpetrated against eight victims. State v. Kenneth Alan Steele, No. 03C01-9207-CR-233, 1993 WL 415836 (Tenn. Crim. App. Oct. 13, 1993) (Steele I). The State's evidence at the trial included DNA evidence identifying the Petitioner as the perpetrator relative to two of the victims. The DNA evidence had been analyzed using the Restriction Fragment Length Polymorphism (RFLP) process. Id. at *2. The Petitioner's fingerprints were found at all eight victims' homes. Id. The perpetrator's modus operandi and the crimes were similar relative to each victim. Id.

          Following this court's opinion affirming his convictions and modifying his sentence, the Petitioner attacked his convictions in several actions. He filed two petitions for the writ of habeas corpus, but the petitions proved unsuccessful. See Kenneth Steele v. State, No. 01C01-9512-CC-00409, 1997 WL 211265 (Tenn. Crim. App. Apr. 30, 1997) (Steele II) (attacking the constitutionality of the Sentencing Reform Act of 1989 as violating the separation of powers doctrine); Kenneth A. Steele v. State, No. 01C01-9708-CC-00105, 1998 WL 120308 (Tenn. Crim. App. Mar. 18, 1998) (Steele III) (attacking the sufficiency of the indictments), perm. app. denied (Tenn. Nov. 22, 1999). The Petitioner filed a petition for post-conviction relief, which was also unsuccessful. Kenneth Alan Steele v. State, No. 03C01-9701-CR-00012, 1999 WL 512053 (Tenn. Crim. App. July 21, 1999) (Steele IV), perm. app. denied (Tenn. Nov. 22, 1999). Later, he filed a petition for the writ of error coram nobis, in which he alleged the discovery of new DNA evidence. The coram nobis court denied relief, and this court affirmed its ruling. Kenneth Alan Steele v. State, No. E2009-02376-CCA-R3-PC, 2011 WL 882998 (Tenn. Crim. App. Mar. 10, 2011) (Steele V), perm. app. denied (Tenn. July 14, 2011).

         The Petitioner filed the present action pursuant to the Post-Conviction DNA Analysis Act of 2001. See T.C.A. §§ 40-30-301 to -313 (2012). He sought additional testing of evidence in the State's possession relative to four of his victims: P.M., J.P., C.M., and E.S. The post-conviction court granted the Petitioner's motion for DNA testing, and the testing was completed for three of the four requested victims. No test results appear in the record relative to C.M. The Petitioner alleged in his petition that a State's witness testified at his trial that a sample from C.M. was not stored properly and was not amenable to testing.[1] The State alleged in a pleading filed in the trial court that certain evidence, including that relative to C.M., was "available for DNA analysis" and in the custody of the court clerk. Counsel for the Petitioner argued at the hearing on the petition for DNA analysis that relief should be granted for "the evidence [that was] lost or destroyed." The Petitioner states in his appellate brief, "[I]t appears that not all samples have been tested consistent with the Trial Court's order" but does not request appellate relief on this basis.

         The DNA testing ordered by the post-conviction court showed the following:

Victim P.M.
The sperm fraction showed a partial DNA profile matching the Petitioner's sample. The partial profile did not meet the minimum ...

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