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Walker v. State

Court of Criminal Appeals of Tennessee, Jackson

June 11, 2018

NATHANIEL WALKER
v.
STATE OF TENNESSEE

          January 3, 2018 Session

          Appeal from the Circuit Court for Madison County No. C-16-159 Kyle Atkins, Judge

         The Petitioner, Nathaniel Walker, appeals the denial of his petition for post-conviction relief, arguing that his trial counsel provided ineffective assistance of counsel and that his guilty pleas were unknowingly and involuntarily entered. Following our review, we affirm the summary denial of the petition.

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

          J. Noble Grant, II, Jackson, Tennessee, for the appellant, Nathaniel Walker.

          Herbert H. Slatery III, Attorney General and Reporter; David H. Findley, Senior Counsel; Jody S. Pickens, District Attorney General; and Ben Mayo, Assistant District Attorney General, for the appellee, State of Tennessee.

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

          OPINION

          ALAN E. GLENN, JUDGE

         FACTS

         On June 23, 2015, the Petitioner pled guilty to aggravated assault, aggravated burglary, and employing a firearm during the commission of a felony in exchange for concurrent, three-year sentences for the aggravated assault and aggravated burglary convictions and a six-year sentence for employing a firearm during the commission of a felony to run consecutively to the three-year sentences and concurrent to a previously-imposed three-year sentence. The Petitioner filed his initial pro se petition for post- conviction relief on June 21, 2016. Counsel was appointed and filed an amended petition for post-conviction relief on October 20, 2016.

         At the February 16, 2017 evidentiary hearing, the Petitioner testified regarding a number of ways in which he believed trial counsel was deficient. These included counsel's refusal to file a motion to sever his case from his co-defendants; her failure to properly advise him about the mandatory nature of his sentence; and her failure to share with him photographs of the victim's head. The Petitioner also claimed that counsel never explained how he could be convicted for possession of a gun if he did not handle the gun or why his jail credits only counted toward three of the charges. In addition, counsel led him to believe he would receive parole after serving thirty percent of his sentence, but he did not. The Petitioner initially said that trial counsel did not discuss the likelihood of his receiving a maximum sentence and advised him not to go to trial, but later he acknowledged that he was advised that if he went to trial he could receive eighteen years or more and that six years was the mandatory minimum for the firearm charge. The Petitioner acknowledged that he told the trial court that trial counsel was excellent at the plea agreement hearing, but at the post-conviction hearing, the Petitioner recanted, testifying that trial counsel was excellent on another prior case in which she represented him, but did not put forth much effort in this case and told him that he was "guilty because it was a juvenile" who was injured during the commission of the offenses.

         Regarding his request for a motion for severance, the Petitioner testified that he would not have taken the plea if he had a court date separate from the other co-defendants. The Petitioner testified that he believed that because his co-defendant and cousin, Darron Thompson, admitted to his charge, the Petitioner had to take a plea because, otherwise, he would be going to trial with Mr. Thompson and he did not want to "mess up [his] cousin."

         On cross-examination, the Petitioner was asked whether trial counsel promised him that he would receive parole, to which the Petitioner answered that trial counsel promised him that "[i]f it's at thirty percent they'll get you parole." However, at his plea hearing, the Petitioner answered in the affirmative when asked whether he understood the court's instruction at his plea hearing that there was nothing certain regarding his release eligibility date for parole.

         Trial counsel testified that she had been practicing law since 2011, with approximately fifty percent of her current practice being criminal defense, ranging from simple possession cases all the way up to murder cases. She also said she had previously handled several cases involving charges of employing a firearm during the commission of a dangerous felony. Trial counsel testified that she and the Petitioner met twice in jail and once in court. During their first meeting, which lasted at least an hour, she and the Petitioner, among other things, reviewed discovery and discussed the facts of the case. During their second meeting, which lasted approximately thirty to forty-five minutes, she and the Petitioner ...


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