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Donnell v. Washburn

Court of Criminal Appeals of Tennessee, Nashville

May 13, 2019

REGINALD TYRONE DONNELL
v.
RUSSELL WASHBURN, WARDEN

          Assigned on Briefs November 15, 2018

          Appeal from the Circuit Court for Trousdale County No. 2018-CV-4686 John D. Wootten, Jr., Judge.

         The Petitioner, Reginald Tyrone Donnell, filed a petition for habeas corpus relief from his two convictions of second degree murder, contending that the indictment charging him was void and that a fatal variance existed between the indictment and the proof adduced at trial. The habeas corpus court summarily dismissed the petition for failure to comply with the procedural requirements of Tennessee Code Annotated section 29-21-107, and the Petitioner appeals. Upon review, we affirm the habeas corpus court's summary dismissal of the petition.

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

          Reginald Tyrone Donnell, Hartville, Tennessee, Pro Se.

          Herbert H. Slatery III, Attorney General and Reporter; Renee W. Turner, Senior Assistant Attorney General; Tom P. Thompson, Jr., District Attorney General; for the Appellee, State of Tennessee.

          Norma McGee Ogle, J., delivered the opinion of the court, in which John Everett Williams, P.J., and Alan E. Glenn, J., joined.

          OPINION

          NORMA MCGEE OGLE, JUDGE.

         I. Factual Background

         The Petitioner was indicted for the first degree murder of Brenda Corder and the first degree murder of Deon Starks. State v. Reginald Tyrone Donnell, No. M1999-02184-CCA-R3-CD, 2000 WL 1763685, at *1 (Tenn. Crim. App. at Nashville, Nov. 30, 2000), abrogated by State v. Jackson, 60 S.W.3d 738 (Tenn. 2001). The jury convicted the Petitioner of two counts of second degree murder. Id. On direct appeal, this court affirmed the Petitioner's convictions and sentences. Id.

         Thereafter, on February 7, 2018, the Petitioner filed a petition for habeas corpus relief, alleging that the indictment charging him with two counts of first degree murder was void because the prosecutor drafted the indictment, and it was signed only by the grand jury foreman, not all twelve grand jurors. The Petitioner further alleged that a fatal variance existed between the indictment and the evidence at trial, namely that the trial court constructively amended the indictment when it instructed the jury it could consider the doctrine of transferred intent to convict the Petitioner of the second degree murder of Corder and Starks.

         In ruling upon the motion, the habeas corpus court noted that the record before it was "scanty." The habeas corpus court held that the Petitioner had "failed to comply with the minimal requirements under the Tennessee Habeas Corpus Act"[1] and found "that the failure to submit materials in accordance with the provision of the Habeas Corpus Act [was] fatal to his request for relief." Accordingly, the habeas corpus court summarily dismissed the petition. On appeal, the Petitioner challenges this ruling.

         II. Analysis

         Initially, we note that the determination of whether to grant habeas corpus relief is a question of law. Summers v. State, 212 S.W.3d 251, 255 (Tenn. 2007). As such, we will review the trial court's findings de novo without a presumption of correctness. Id. Moreover, it is the petitioner's burden to demonstrate, by a preponderance of the evidence, "that the sentence ...


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