ADAM C. BUTLER
STATE OF TENNESSEE
Assigned on Briefs March 13, 2018
from the Circuit Court for Madison County No. C-17-165 Roy B.
petitioner, Adam C. Butler, appeals the denial of his
petition for post-conviction relief, which petition
challenged his 2015 conviction of vandalism of property
valued at $1, 000 or more but less than $10, 000. Discerning
no error, we affirm.
R. App. P. 3; Judgment of the Circuit Court
T. Howell, Jackson, Tennessee, for the appellant, Adam C.
Herbert H. Slatery III, Attorney General and Reporter; Andrew
C. Coulam, Assistant Attorney General; Jerry Woodall,
District Attorney General; and Al Earls, Assistant District
Attorney General, for the appellee, State of Tennessee.
Curwood Witt, Jr., J., delivered the opinion of the court, in
which Alan E. Glenn and Timothy L. Easter, JJ., joined.
CURWOOD WITT, JR., JUDGE.
Madison County Circuit Court jury convicted the petitioner of
one count of vandalism of property valued at $1, 000 or more
but less than $10, 000 for damaging plants and shrubs
belonging to a neighbor. See State v. Adam Christopher
Butler, No. W2015-01843-CCA-R3-CD (Tenn. Crim. App.,
Jackson, June 8, 2016). At the petitioner's trial, the
victim testified that she found the defendant in her yard at
1:45 a.m. wearing a "'canister sprayer' on his
back" that he was using to spray her plants.
Id., slip op. at 1-2. The victim confronted the
petitioner, who "denied spraying her plants" and
claimed that "the next door neighbor had hired him to
spray for mosquitoes." Id., slip op. at 2.
Within a week, the plants that the victim had observed the
petitioner spraying began to show damage, and sometime
thereafter most of the vegetation had died. The petitioner
testified that he did not spray anything in the victim's
yard. See id., slip op. at 4. Instead, he claimed,
he had sprayed saltwater to kill poison oak in a hedge that
belonged to an elderly neighbor who had hired the petitioner
to do some yardwork. The petitioner also claimed that he
sprayed the plants at night so that he could "work on
the hedge the next day." Id. This court
affirmed the petitioner's conviction and the accompanying
four-year community corrections placement. Id., slip
op. at 1.
petitioner filed a timely petition for post-conviction relief
alleging, among other things, that he was deprived of the
effective assistance of counsel. Following the appointment of
counsel, the petitioner refined his claims to allege that his
counsel performed deficiently by failing to adequately
prepare the petitioner to testify at trial, by failing to
secure an expert witness to testify about the effects of
certain herbicides on vegetation, by failing to request a
forensic mental health evaluation, by failing to conduct
adequate pretrial investigation, and by "failing to
ensure that the [p]etitioner was duly and adequately informed
of the nature and causes of the accusations lodged against
September 11, 2017 evidentiary hearing, the petitioner
testified that his counsel "didn't dig into the
facts of the chemicals" in order to show the jury that
the substance that the petitioner sprayed could not have
caused the damage to the victim's vegetation. He added
that counsel should have obtained and presented expert
testimony regarding the effect of the chemical that the
petitioner had been using. The petitioner also claimed that
counsel should have objected to the victim's testimony
that he "was in her yard" and that he "sprayed
her yard" when neither was true.
petitioner testified that trial counsel should have obtained
medical and school records that indicated that the petitioner
"[h]ad trouble in middle school" as a result of the
injuries he received in an earlier car accident. Regarding
his claim that counsel failed to adequately prepare him to
testify, the petitioner said that counsel should have focused
on "the way the chemical works and what went on that
night" instead of "going over everything."
petitioner asserted that counsel should have interviewed Ms.
Smith, the elderly neighbor who had hired him to spray the
poison oak on her hedges, saying that "she would have
been able to tell [the jury] that [he] was doing [his]
job." The petitioner said that Ms. Smith was very ill at
the time of the hearing.
cross-examination, the petitioner agreed that his mental
health records would not have been relevant to any issue at
trial. The petitioner maintained that the sprayer he had used
on the night in question was still in his possession and that
it still contained saltwater so that it might be subjected to
expert testing. The petitioner said that trial counsel
"just made [him] look bad" on the ...