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Chandler v. State

Court of Criminal Appeals of Tennessee, Nashville

May 9, 2018

TARRANTS YVELT CHANDLER
v.
STATE OF TENNESSEE

          Assigned on Briefs Date: April 3, 2018 at Jackson

          Appeal from the Criminal Court for Davidson County No. 2011-A-825 Mark J. Fishburn, Judge

         The Petitioner, Tarrants Yvelt Chandler, appeals from the Davidson County Criminal Court's denial of his petition for post-conviction relief. The Petitioner contends that he is entitled to post-conviction relief due to (1) numerous instances of ineffective assistance of his trial counsel; and (2) the State's failure to disclose "exculpatory evidence prior to trial." Discerning no error, we affirm the judgment of the post-conviction court.

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

          David M. Hopkins, Murfreesboro, Tennessee, for the appellant, Tarrants Yvelt Chandler.

          Herbert H. Slatery III, Attorney General and Reporter; Jeffrey D. Zentner, Assistant Attorney General; Glenn R. Funk, District Attorney General; and Tammy Haggard Meade, Assistant District Attorney General, for the appellee, State of Tennessee.

          D. Kelly Thomas, Jr., J., delivered the opinion of the court, in which Robert L. Holloway, Jr., and J. Ross Dyer., JJ., joined.

          OPINION

          D. KELLY THOMAS, JR., JUDGE

         FACTUAL BACKGROUND

         I. Procedural History

         The Petitioner was convicted of eight counts of rape by coercion and one count of criminal exposure to HIV. State v. Tarrants Chandler, No. M2013-00279-CCA-R3-CD, 2014 WL 3055972, at *1 (Tenn. Crim. App. July 7, 2014), perm. app. denied (Tenn. Nov. 20, 2014). The trial court imposed a total effective sentence of fifty years. Id. This court affirmed the Petitioner's convictions and sentences on direct appeal. Id. Our supreme court declined to review this court's opinion on November 20, 2014. Id.

          On May 28, 2015, the Petitioner filed a timely pro se petition for post-conviction relief. An attorney was appointed to represent the Petitioner in this matter and an amended petition was filed. After an abortive evidentiary hearing, the post-conviction court granted the Petitioner's pro se motion "for appointment of substitute counsel." A new attorney was appointed to represent the Petitioner, and a second amended petition was filed on April 18, 2017.

         The second amended petition alleged that trial counsel was ineffective (1) for failing to request a bill of particulars; (2) for failing to call certain witnesses at trial; (3) "by not obtaining cell phone records and . . . presenting them at trial"; (4) for failing to advise the Petitioner of the nature of the charges and potential penalties that he faced; (5) for failing "to adequately cross-examine" the victim; and (6) for "failing to request an accomplice charge" in the jury instructions.[1] The second amended petition also alleged that the State failed to disclose "exculpatory evidence prior to trial that the [] victim had made numerous changes in her statements to law enforcement."

         The post-conviction court held a full evidentiary hearing on May 24, 2017, at which the Petitioner, the Petitioner's mother, Zula Robinson, and trial counsel testified. The post-conviction court took the matter under advisement at the conclusion of the evidentiary hearing. On July 31, 2017, the post-conviction court issued a written order denying post-conviction relief. This appeal followed.

         II. Trial Facts

         The evidence at trial established that the Petitioner had a lengthy off and on relationship with the victim's mother, D.D.[2] Chandler, 2014 WL 3055972, at *1. In November 2008, the Petitioner moved into D.D.'s Gallatin Road apartment. Id. In 2009, D.D. noticed that the Petitioner "began to spend a great deal of time alone with the victim, " D.D.'s oldest child. Id. at *2. The Petitioner moved out of the Gallatin Road apartment sometime in July 2009 after an incident when the Petitioner "grabbed D.D. by her neck and began choking her and threw her against a wall." Id.

         D.D. stayed in contact with the Petitioner "after he moved out of the Gallatin Road apartment because he still wished to see her daughters." Chandler, 2014 WL 3055972, at *3. D.D. suspected that the Petitioner "still communicated with the victim via text message." Id. On one occasion, D.D. saw the Petitioner's car in a nearby alley and suspected that he was there to pick up the victim. Id. D.D. eventually allowed the Petitioner "to see her daughters near the end of September [2009] under the conditions that the visits occur in public places and only between the hours of 12:00 p.m. and 4:00 p.m. on Sundays." Id. Nonetheless, the Petitioner "was alone with the children during these visits." Id.

         "In August 2009, D.D. and her children moved into a new residence on Sarver Avenue." Chandler, 2014 WL 3055972, at *3. The Petitioner and D.D. "rekindle[d] their relationship in October" 2009. Id. By November 2009, the Petitioner "was spending several nights a week at the Sarver Avenue house." Id. D.D. testified that she saw a text message on the victim's phone that she suspected the Petitioner had sent one night in December 2009 and that this caused her to question the Petitioner's relationship with the victim. Id. at *4. However, the Petitioner was arrested on an unrelated matter and went to jail on December 19, 2009. Id. The indictment alleged that all of the offenses against the victim occurred between May 1 and December 19, 2009.

         D.D. "continued her attempts to reconcile with" the Petitioner while he was in jail. Chandler, 2014 WL 3055972, at *4. The Petitioner "moved back into the Sarver Avenue residence in February [2010] after he was released from jail." Id. However, the Petitioner moved out after "a disagreement" with D.D. over whether the victim would be allowed to visit the Petitioner's mother's house alone with the Petitioner. Id. D.D. testified that the Petitioner again turned violent, "destroying items in the house, " pushing her "down the staircase, " and striking "her head against the ground." Id. at *4-5. D.D. "took out an order of protection for herself and her children against" the Petitioner the day after this attack. Id. at *5.

         "Several months" after this incident, D.D. "discovered that the victim was having sexual intercourse with her boyfriend." Chandler, 2014 WL 3055972, at *5. When D.D. confronted the victim about this, the victim "revealed to D.D. that she had a sexual relationship with" the Petitioner. Id. D.D. then contacted the police and began looking "for items in her house that indicated a sexual relationship between the victim and" the Petitioner. Id. "The victim showed D.D. thong underwear that the [Petitioner] had purchased for the victim and a bottle of douche that the [Petitioner] had given to the victim." Id. It was only after contacting the police that D.D. learned that the Petitioner was HIV positive. Id. "D.D. was tested for HIV, and the test was negative." Id.

         The victim testified that she started using drugs with the Petitioner in December 2008. Chandler, 2014 WL 3055972, at *6. As she spent more time alone with the Petitioner, the victim "started to view the [Petitioner] as a boyfriend and believed that he wanted her to be his girlfriend." Id. The victim testified that the Petitioner told her "that once she turned eighteen years old they would live 'a perfect life together' and that she was going to be the mother of his little boy and stepmother to his daughter." Id. The victim further testified that she began having sex with the Petitioner when she was fourteen years old. Id.

          The victim gave differing timeframes for when her first sexual encounter with the Petitioner occurred. Chandler, 2014 WL 3055972, at *6. In various pretrial statements, the victim stated that it occurred in May, June, or July 2009. Id. However, at trial, the victim testified that it occurred in January 2009, outside the timeframe listed in the indictment. Id. The victim testified about two incidents that occurred at the Gallatin Road apartment. Id. at *7. The first occurred in the kitchen when the Petitioner "had her stand on the kitchen table" and then "performed oral sex on her for about fifteen minutes." Id. The second occurred on "a pallet on the floor" when the Petitioner "performed oral sex on her and inserted his fingers into both her vagina and her rectum." Id.

         The victim testified that the Petitioner continued to see her after he moved out of the Gallatin Road apartment. Chandler, 2014 WL 3055972, at *7-8. The victim recalled "an incident where she went with the [Petitioner] to his mother's house, " and the Petitioner "performed oral sex on her" and "had sexual intercourse with her." Id. at *7. The victim also testified that there was an incident when the Petitioner "performed oral sex on her in the den" of the Sarver Avenue house. Id. at *8. The victim further testified that the Petitioner "performed oral sex on her in her bedroom at the Sarver Avenue house" on December 19, 2009. Id. at *9. This was the only incident that the victim provided a date for. Id. at *7-9.

         The victim testified that the Petitioner "referred to her vagina as 'Chicken'" and "used the term 'Becky' to describe oral sex." Chandler, 2014 WL 3055972, at *9. The victim wrote the Petitioner letters while he was in jail and received letters from the Petitioner. Id. In one letter, the Petitioner "asked the victim if she missed 'Becky, ' and he wrote that he missed 'chicken like a mutha [sic] um um I can't wait.'" Id. (alteration in original). In another letter, the Petitioner wrote that "'I wana [sic] eat some chicken bad ass hell u know dats my s--t [sic]'" and referred to the victim as "FSM." Id. ...


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