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Maxwell v. State

Court of Criminal Appeals of Tennessee, Jackson

April 30, 2018


          Assigned on Briefs January 4, 2018

          Appeal from the Circuit Court for Madison County No. C-16-279 Kyle Atkins, Judge

         The Petitioner, Montez Maxwell, appeals from the denial of post-conviction relief alleging he received ineffective assistance of counsel. Pursuant to a plea agreement, the Petitioner entered guilty pleas to attempted second degree murder and employment of a firearm during the commission of a dangerous felony, for which he received an effective sentence of sixteen years. Upon our review, we affirm the judgments of the post-conviction court.

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

          Joseph T. Howell (on post-conviction appeal) Jackson, Tennessee, for the appellant, Montez Maxwell.

          Herbert H. Slatery III, Attorney General and Reporter; Jonathan H. Wardle, Assistant Attorney General; Jody Pickens, District Attorney General; and Al Earls, Assistant District Attorney General, for the appellee, State of Tennessee.

          Camille R. McMullen, J., delivered the opinion of the court, in which John Everett Williams and Alan E. Glenn, JJ., joined.



         At the November 23, 2015 guilty plea hearing, the Petitioner stipulated to the facts contained in the indictment as the factual basis for his pleas.[1] During the guilty plea colloquy, the Petitioner said he understood the agreed-upon sentence to be a total of 16 years, with 10 years at 30% and 6 years at 100% to be served consecutively. The Petitioner acknowledged that he was waiving his constitutional rights by pleading guilty and that he was entering his pleas freely, voluntarily, and knowingly, because he was, in fact, guilty. In addition, the Petitioner stated that he was satisfied with trial counsel's representation and that he did not have any questions for the court. The trial court accepted the Petitioner's guilty pleas and sentenced him pursuant to the negotiated plea agreement.

         On November 4, 2016, the Petitioner filed a pro se petition for post-conviction relief, which was not amended following the appointment of counsel, alleging that his guilty pleas were involuntary and that he was denied effective assistance of counsel. The post-conviction hearing occurred on April 10, 2017.

         Post-Conviction Hearing.

         At the post-conviction hearing, the Petitioner testified that trial counsel failed to provide him with effective assistance and coerced him into agreeing to the plea negotiations. He said that trial counsel failed to explain the consequences of pleading guilty to both charges and asserted that trial counsel told him that his time served would be credited to both convictions. The Petitioner also testified that trial counsel failed to file a motion to reduce his bond, motions to suppress the statements of witnesses and evidence of a single photograph lineup, and a motion to require the State to elect offenses. The Petitioner further testified that trial counsel failed to interview critical witnesses, including Deandre Williamson, Javarius Long, Keshawn Sowell, and Nadia Simmons. He asserted that Deandre Williamson could have served as an alibi witness and the other witnesses could have testified that he was not guilty. He confirmed speaking with trial counsel about the potential witnesses and that, despite trial counsel's claim she could not contact them, he and his family had been able to contact them without issue.

         On cross-examination, the Petitioner agreed that the plea agreement that he signed explicitly stated that the sentences would be consecutive for an effective sentence of sixteen years. He confirmed that the trial judge asked him various questions during the plea colloquy regarding whether trial counsel fully explained and the Petitioner fully understood his plea agreement. The Petitioner also agreed that the trial judge asked whether his plea agreement was made knowingly, voluntarily, and not under threat or coercion, and the Petitioner confirmed that was true. He agreed that his request for bond reduction was unrelated to the instant case, that his request to suppress the statements of others was without legal basis, and that, despite now claiming he did not understand the consecutive nature of his sentences, he did not previously ask the court or trial counsel to clarify or explain.

         Trial counsel testified that she met with the Petitioner several times to discuss the strengths and weaknesses of the case, possible trial strategies, potential witnesses, and discovery. She explained to him that the State had a very strong case with several eyewitnesses and the victim having already identified the Petitioner, that relevant law required his sentences to be served consecutively, and that she believed a plea agreement would be more advantageous than going to trial. Trial counsel testified that there was no legal basis to assert the motions desired by the Petitioner and explained that (1) the motion to reduce bond was irrelevant to the instant case and unlikely to be granted by the court, (2) the motion to suppress witness statements was improper as they were not statements of the Petitioner himself, and (3) the motion to suppress the photograph lineup was moot as she interviewed the police officers and discovered that a full photographic lineup was performed. She testified that she did not recall discussing a motion for election of offenses with the Petitioner. She ...

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