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Clifton v. State

Court of Criminal Appeals of Tennessee, Knoxville

June 26, 2018

CHRISTOPHER CLIFTON
v.
STATE OF TENNESSEE

          Assigned on Briefs May 22, 2018

          Appeal from the Criminal Court for Knox County No. 110905 Bobby R. McGee, Judge

         The Petitioner, Christopher Clifton, appeals the post-conviction court's dismissal of his petition for post-conviction relief, wherein the Petitioner argued that he entered an involuntary and unknowing guilty plea to aggravated assault. After thorough review of the record and applicable law, we affirm the dismissal of the petition.

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

          J. Liddell Kirk, Knoxville, Tennessee, for the appellant, Christopher Clifton.

          Herbert H. Slatery III, Attorney General and Reporter; Katherine C. Redding, Assistant Attorney General; Charme Allen, District Attorney General; and Ta Kisha Fitzgerald, Assistant District Attorney General, for the appellee, State of Tennessee.

          John Everett Williams, J., delivered the opinion of the court, in which Thomas T. Woodall, P.J., and Robert W. Wedemeyer, J., joined.

          OPINION

          JOHN EVERETT WILLIAMS, JUDGE

         FACTUAL AND PROCEDURAL HISTORY

         The Petitioner entered a guilty plea to aggravated assault and received a four-year sentence. State v. Christopher Clifton, No. E2015-02307-CCA-R3-CD, 2017 WL 838666, at *1 (Tenn. Crim. App. Mar. 3, 2017), no perm. app. filed. Pursuant to the plea agreement, the Petitioner was given the opportunity to apply for probation. Id. Trial counsel withdrew from representation, and new counsel was appointed. Id. at *2. After a hearing on the Petitioner's application for probation, the trial court denied probation and sentenced the Petitioner to serve the four-year sentence in confinement. Id. The Petitioner subsequently filed a motion to withdraw his guilty plea. Id.

         In his motion to withdraw his guilty plea, the Petitioner asserted that his plea was involuntarily and unknowingly entered because he had suffered a stroke two years prior to entering the plea, "had 'never faced a felony charge of this nature or magnitude, '" and "was on Supplemental Security Income due to 'persistent seizures, memory loss, and overall disability following' surgery in 2011." Id. At the motion hearing, trial counsel testified that "the [Petitioner] had brain trauma, previously had suffered a stroke, suffered from depression, had some memory issues, and was unable to 'completely understand what was going on' at times." Id. He stated that he did not have the Petitioner's mental health evaluated but that he did not believe an evaluation was necessary. Id. at *2-3. He further testified that he had no reason to believe the Petitioner did not understand what was occurring when entering his guilty plea. Id. at *3.

         The trial court denied the Petitioner's motion, holding that the Petitioner "failed to present any proof of a mental defect or disorder that would have rendered his plea involuntary or unknowing." Id. This court affirmed the denial of the motion on appeal. Id. at *5.

         The Petitioner filed a timely pro se petition for post-conviction relief, in which he alleged his guilty plea was involuntarily and unknowingly entered. Post-conviction counsel was subsequently appointed but did not amend the pro se petition. At the beginning of the post-conviction hearing, the State made a motion to dismiss the petition alleging that the claim raised was previously determined. The ...


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