Court of Criminal Appeals of Tennessee, Knoxville
CHARLES D. JOHNSON
STATE OF TENNESSEE
Assigned on Briefs May 22, 2018
from the Circuit Court for Bledsoe County No. 2016-CR-14
Justin C. Angel, Judge
Petitioner, Charles D. Johnson, appeals the habeas corpus
court's dismissal of his petition for writ of habeas
corpus in which the Petitioner argued that he was never
indicted on his convicted offense. After a thorough review of
the record and applicable law, we affirm the dismissal of his
petition in accordance with Rule 20, Rules of the Court of
R. App. P. 3 Appeal as of Right; Judgment of the Circuit
Court Affirmed Pursuant to Rule 20, Rules of the Court of
Charles D. Johnson, Mountain City, Tennessee, pro se.
Herbert H. Slatery III, Attorney General and Reporter; and
Nicholas W. Spangler, Assistant Attorney General, for the
appellee, State of Tennessee.
Everett Williams, J., delivered the opinion of the court, in
which Thomas T. Woodall, P.J., and Robert W. Wedemeyer, J.,
EVERETT WILLIAMS, JUDGE
1998, the Petitioner pleaded guilty to first degree felony
murder and especially aggravated robbery and received
consecutive sentences of life and twenty-five years,
respectively. The Petitioner has filed two prior petitions
for habeas corpus relief. See Charles D. Johnson v.
State, No. E2007-02018-CCA-R3-HC, 2008 WL 1875166, at
*1-2 (Tenn. Crim. App. Apr. 28, 2008) perm. app.
denied (Tenn. Aug. 25, 2008). The Petitioner asserted in
his second petition that his first petition was
"withdrawn without prejudice" but failed to include
a copy of the first petition in the record. Id. at
*2. In his second petition, the Petitioner alleged that his
convictions were void because the State had failed to produce
records, including the indictment, documents related to the
pleas, and transcripts of proceedings, to support his
judgments. Id. at *1, 3. The habeas corpus court
dismissed the petition, which was affirmed by this court on
appeal. Id. at *3.
appeal arises from the Petitioner's third petition for
habeas corpus relief, in which he alleges that he was never
indicted by a grand jury on the especially aggravated robbery
charge. The State filed a motion to dismiss the petition on
the grounds that the Petitioner failed to include his
judgments or any other legal process related to his
conviction or incarceration, failed to include copies of
prior habeas corpus petitions and proceedings, and failed to
allege that the trial court was without jurisdiction. The
Petitioner responded to the State's motion and amended
his petition, alleging that the trial court was without
jurisdiction to issue a judgment or sentence since he was
never indicted on the especially aggravated robbery charge.
He attached uncertified copies of the judgment for the
especially aggravated robbery conviction but still did not
include his prior habeas corpus petitions. The habeas corpus
court granted the State's "well taken" motion
and dismissed the petition. The Petitioner timely appealed.
I, section 15 of the Tennessee Constitution provides that
"the privilege of the writ of Habeas Corpus shall not be
suspended, unless when in case of rebellion or invasion, the
General Assembly shall declare the public safety requires
it." Habeas corpus relief may be sought by "[a]ny
person imprisoned or restrained of liberty … to
inquire into the cause of such imprisonment and
restraint." T.C.A. § 29-21-101(a). The right to
relief is available "only when 'it appears upon the
face of the judgment or the record of the proceedings upon
which the judgment is rendered' that a convicting court
was without jurisdiction or authority to sentence a
defendant, or that a defendant's sentence of imprisonment
or other restraint has expired." Summers v.
State, 212 S.W.3d 251, 255 (Tenn. 2007) (quoting
Archer v. State, 851 S.W.2d 157, 164 (Tenn. 1993)).
We review the grant or denial of habeas corpus relief de novo
with no presumption of correctness given to the findings and
conclusions of the lower court. Id. at 255.
the statutory language "appears broad, in fact,
'[h]abeas corpus under Tennessee law has always been, and
remains, a very narrow procedure.'" Edwards v.
State, 269 S.W.3d 915, 919 (Tenn. 2008) (quoting
Archer, 851 S.W.2d at 162). A habeas corpus petition
is used to challenge void and not merely voidable judgments.
Id. at 255-56. A void judgment "is one in which
the judgment is facially invalid because the court lacked
jurisdiction or authority to render the judgment."
Taylor v. State, 995 S.W.2d 78, 83 (Tenn. 1999);
Dykes v. Compton, 978 S.W.2d 528, 529 (Tenn. 1998).
A petitioner bears the burden of proving a void judgment or
illegal confinement by a preponderance of the evidence.
Wyatt v. State, 24 S.W.3d 319, 322 (Tenn. 2000). The
habeas corpus court has authority to dismiss a petition when
the petition shows the petitioner "would not be entitled
to any relief." T.C.A. § 29-21-109. If the petition
fails to establish that a judgment is void, the habeas corpus
court is not obligated to hold a hearing on the allegations.
Hogan v. Mills, 168 S.W.3d 753, 755 (Tenn. 2005).
Code Annotated section 29-21-107 provides the formal
requirements for an application or petition for writ of
habeas corpus. A petition must state "[t]hat it is first
application for the writ, or if a previous application has
been made, a copy of the petition and proceedings thereon
shall be produced, or satisfactory reasons be given for the
failure so to do." T.C.A. § 29-21-107(b)(4). The
procedural requirements are mandatory and must be
scrupulously followed. Hickman v. State, 153 S.W.3d
16, 21 (Tenn. 2004); Archer, 851 S.W.2d at 165. A
petition for relief may be denied by a habeas ...