Court of Criminal Appeals of Tennessee, Nashville
Assigned on Briefs April 18, 2018
from the Criminal Court for Davidson County No. 2014-C-2449
Steve Dozier, Judge
Petitioner, Nathan Chaleunsak, appeals the denial of
post-conviction relief from his 2015 guilty-pleaded
conviction of second degree murder, for which he received an
agreed, out-of-range sentence of thirty years to be served at
100%. The Petitioner sought post-conviction relief, asserting
that he received ineffective assistance of counsel and that
his guilty plea was not voluntarily and knowingly entered.
Following a hearing, the post-conviction court denied relief.
After review of the record and applicable law, we affirm the
denial of post-conviction relief.
R. App. P. 3 Appeal as of Right; Judgment of the Criminal
Caldwell, Nashville, Tennessee, for the appellant, Nathan
Herbert H. Slatery III, Attorney General and Reporter; Sophia
S. Lee, Senior Counsel; Glenn R. Funk, District Attorney
General; and Pamela Anderson, Assistant District Attorney
General, for the appellee, State of Tennessee.
Everett Williams, J., delivered the opinion of the court, in
which Robert W. Wedemeyer and Camille R. McMullen, JJ.,
EVERETT WILLIAMS, JUDGE
AND PROCEDURAL HISTORY
Petitioner and a co-defendant forced their way in to the
residence of the victim, Mr. Eric Torres, and robbed him at
gunpoint. Mr. Torres later identified the Petitioner in a
photographic lineup. After leaving Mr. Torres' residence,
the Petitioner and the co-defendant went next door to Amkha
Vetvong's residence. The Petitioner and the co-defendant
attempted to force open the front door, but noticed that
someone was behind the door on the inside of the residence.
The Petitioner shot through the door, striking and fatally
wounding Mr. Vetvong. The Petitioner and co-defendant then
forced their way into the Mr. Vetvong's home in search of
items to take.
upon these actions, the Petitioner was indicted by a Davidson
County grand jury for two counts of first degree murder and
one count each of aggravated burglary, possession of a weapon
during the commission of a dangerous felony, and aggravated
robbery. Thereafter, the Petitioner pleaded guilty to second
degree murder and received a thirty-year sentence to be
served at 100% as a multiple offender. The plea called for an
out-of-range sentence pursuant to Hicks v. State,
945 S.W.2d 706 (Tenn. 1997).
the plea hearing, the trial court thoroughly covered the
rights the Petitioner would be waiving by pleading guilty, as
well as the nature of the crime and potential sentences
involved. The Petitioner expressed his intention to enter a
guilty plea to an amended charge to one count of second
degree murder, with a thirty-year sentence at 100%. After
being advised by the trial court that the Petitioner may have
only received a sentence of fifteen to twenty-five years if
he was found guilty of second degree murder, the Petitioner
agreed to accept the thirty-year sentence and further waive
any issue about range of punishment in exchange for the State
agreeing not to pursure a charge of first degree murder. The
plea was accepted, and a judgment of conviction was entered
against the Petitioner.
Petitioner filed a pro se petition for post-conviction
relief, alleging that his plea was not entered knowingly and
voluntarily because he received ineffective assistance of
counsel. At the evidentiary hearing, the twenty-one-year-old
Petitioner testified that trial counsel met with him three or
four times prior to entry of his plea but that he
"really didn't understand" his sentence. One
month prior to the Petitioner's trial, trial counsel
presented him with the thirty-year plea offer. The Petitioner
initially asked trial counsel if he could get a lower offer,
but trial counsel assured him that it would not be possible
and that it would be in his "best interest" to
accept the thirty years. The Petitioner stated that trial
counsel told him he would be serving thirty years at 85% and
that he was unaware that his plea required 100% ...