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Clanton v. State

Court of Criminal Appeals of Tennessee, Nashville

March 19, 2018

ROBERT C. CLANTON
v.
STATE OF TENNESSEE

          Assigned on Briefs December 13, 2017

         Appeal from the Circuit Court for Bedford County No. 18063 Forest A. Durard, Jr., Judge

         The Petitioner, Robert C. Clanton, appeals from the denial of his petition for post-conviction relief, arguing that he received ineffective assistance of counsel. Upon our review, we affirm the judgment of the post-conviction court.

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

          Shane W. Uselton, Shelbyville, Tennessee, for the Petitioner, Robert Carlyle Clanton.

          Herbert H. Slatery III, Attorney General and Reporter; Renee W. Turner, Senior Counsel; Robert J. Carter, District Attorney General; and Mike Randles, Assistant District Attorney General, for the appellee, State of Tennessee.

          Camille R. McMullen, J., delivered the opinion of the court, in which Norma McGee Ogle and Timothy L. Easter, JJ., joined.

          OPINION

          CAMILLE R. McMULLEN, JUDGE.

         Between July and September 2014, the Petitioner engaged in four separate controlled drug exchanges with the same confidential informant, one of which occurred within a school zone. He was later convicted by a Bedford County jury of ten drug-related offenses and received an effective sentence of twenty-three years and six months. State v. Robert C. Clanton, No. M2015-02438-CCA-R3-CD, 2016 WL 5266548, at *1 (Tenn. Crim. App. Sept. 21, 2016), perm. app. denied, (Tenn. Dec. 15, 2016). The sole issue presented in his direct appeal, which was affirmed by this court, was whether the trial court imposed an excessive sentence. Id. On January 23, 2017, the Petitioner filed a pro se petition for post-conviction relief, which was amended following the appointment of counsel.

         At the post-conviction hearing, the Petitioner testified that trial counsel did not prepare him for trial and refused to interview the confidential informant. The Petitioner was particularly aggrieved because trial counsel did not sufficiently attack the credibility of the confidential informant at trial. The Petitioner believed that had trial counsel impeached the confidential informant with a pending criminal charge, the outcome of his case would have been different. The Petitioner agreed however that the informant's existing convictions, criminal history, and motivation for acting as a confidential informant were thoroughly explored at trial. The Petitioner also testified that he did not know that the confidential informant's trailer home, the location of the drug transaction, was in a school zone and that the confidential informant purposely lured him there. Finally, the Petitioner said that he was not consulted regarding the grounds upon which to appeal.

         Trial counsel, an assistant public defender, had practiced criminal defense exclusively for the past eighteen years. He spoke with the Petitioner on "numerous occasions" for "between 30-45 minutes to an hour each time" prior to the Petitioner's trial. Trial counsel researched the Tennessee Department of Correction (TDOC) Offender Database and the clerk's office to determine the confidential informant's criminal history. His search revealed that the confidential informant had several felony convictions, some of which were beyond the ten-year limitations period. Trial counsel did not customarily conduct additional criminal history searches, unless he had additional information. He was unaware of the confidential informant's pending charge during the Petitioner's trial. Trial counsel did not believe the pending charge would have impacted the confidential informant's credibility because he was thoroughly cross-examined about his existing criminal history. Moreover, trial counsel described the State's proof against the Petitioner as "overwhelming."

         Upon hearing the above proof, the post-conviction court issued a written order denying post-conviction relief. It is from this order that the Petitioner now appeals.[1]

         ANALYSIS

         The Petitioner argues that trial counsel was ineffective in failing to discover that the confidential informant had a pending charge and raise the defense of entrapment.[2]The State contends, and we ...


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