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Cobb v. State

Court of Criminal Appeals of Tennessee, Jackson

April 12, 2018

JAMES CHRONICLES COBB
v.
STATE OF TENNESSEE

          Assigned on Briefs March 13, 2018

          Appeal from the Circuit Court for Madison County No. C-17-137 Roy B. Morgan, Jr., Judge

         Petitioner, James Chronicles Cobb, appeals the denial of his petition for post-conviction relief. Petitioner argues that he received ineffective assistance of counsel and that his guilty plea was unknowing and involuntary. After a review of the record and the briefs of the parties, we determine Petitioner has failed to establish that he received ineffective assistance of counsel and Petitioner's guilty plea was knowingly and voluntarily entered. Accordingly, the judgment of the post-conviction court is affirmed.

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

          Joseph T. Howell, Jackson, Tennessee, for the appellant, James Chronicles Cobb.

          Herbert H. Slatery III, Attorney General and Reporter; David H. Findley, Senior Counsel; Jody S. Pickens, District Attorney General; and Al Earls, Assistant District Attorney General, for the appellee, State of Tennessee.

          Timothy L. Easter, J., delivered the opinion of the court, in which James Curwood Witt, Jr. and Alan E. Glenn, JJ., joined.

          OPINION

          TIMOTHY L. EASTER, JUDGE

         Petitioner pled guilty to a laundry list of offenses, including multiple drug possession charges, multiple theft charges, multiple firearm possession charges, and a drug sale charge. The charges spanned six case numbers and twenty-seven counts.

         At the outset of the guilty plea hearing, the trial court advised Petitioner, "[I]f there's anything taking place [that] you do not understand, you have a right to interrupt me and ask your attorney, the State or the Court to explain further. You understand you have that right?" Petitioner replied, "Yes, sir." Additionally, the post-conviction court asked Petitioner if he was satisfied with plea counsel's representation, and Petitioner replied, "Yes, sir." Before accepting Petitioner's plea, the trial court went over each charge against the Petitioner and explained the sentence length and the percentage of the sentence that Petitioner would be required to serve. At the end of the review of his charges, the trial court stated, "So you understand, [Petitioner], based upon the consecutive sentence, your total effective sentence under 16-193 is a 23-year sentence, and you'd have some of it at 100 percent and some of it at 35 percent. You understand that?" Before Petitioner could respond, plea counsel interjected and asked if he could state the sentence in a way that Petitioner understood. Plea counsel said, "He has a 15-year sentence umbrella at 35 percent. Then he has a 6-year at 100 percent consecutive. Then he has 2 years at 35 percent after the 6 years at 100." The trial court asked, "And the total effective sentence then is?" Plea counsel said, "23 years." The trial repeated, "23 years. You understand that, [Petitioner]?" Petitioner responded, "Yes, sir." A few moments later, the trial court asked, "Any questions about it?" Petitioner replied, "No, sir." Before the plea agreement was accepted, the trial court asked three questions, "Do you have any questions about your plea agreement?"; "Do you still wish me to approve it?"; and "[Y]ou understand absolutely you cannot change your mind later?" Petitioner had no questions, indicated that he wanted the trial court to approve the agreement, and said he understood that he could not change his mind.

         After asking if anyone had questions, the trial court found that Petitioner entered his pleas freely, voluntarily, knowingly, and intelligently. The court accepted the plea and sentenced Petitioner accordingly. Petitioner filed a pro se petition for post-conviction relief challenging the knowing and voluntary nature of his plea and alleging ineffective assistance of plea counsel.

         At the post-conviction hearing, Petitioner testified that he retained plea counsel to represent him on all of the charges that were subject to the plea agreement. Petitioner acknowledged that he stated during the plea colloquy that he understood the terms of the plea agreement and that he was satisfied with his attorney. However, when he received the paperwork for his plea agreement, he did not recognize or understand how he was sentenced. He referenced the various sentence lengths and the percentages, and then, he stated that he thought that he would be receiving "one sentence." Petitioner stated, "I didn't think everything was [going to] run wild. I was thinking that everything was [going to] be one sentence." Additionally, Petitioner said he felt rushed on the day that he pled guilty. Petitioner's belief at the time he pled guilty was that he would receive a fifteen-year sentence at thirty-five percent.

         On cross-examination, the State inquired if the post-conviction court told Petitioner that the total effective sentence would be twenty-three years. Petitioner agreed that the trial court said twenty-three years. The State asked Petitioner, "You do understand what the word[s] 23 years mean[?]" Petitioner replied, "Yes. 23 years?" The State then asked Petitioner if he said that he understood what the trial court was doing when the trial court stated that the fifteen-year sentence, the six-year sentence, and the two-year sentence ran consecutively. Petitioner responded, "Right." Petitioner then attempted to explain how twenty-three years could be interpreted multiple ways.

         Petitioner indicated that he only completed the fifth grade. Further, he testified that he had been in court many times. Petitioner also protested ...


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