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McAllister v. State

Court of Criminal Appeals of Tennessee, Nashville

July 12, 2019


          Assigned on Briefs May 7, 2019 at Jackson

          Appeal from the Circuit Court for Giles County No. CR-13140 Stella L. Hargrove, Judge

         The petitioner, Maurice McAllister, appeals the denial of his petition for post-conviction relief, which petition challenged his 2013 conviction of rape, alleging that he was deprived of the effective assistance of counsel. Discerning no error, we affirm the denial of post-conviction relief.

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

          Stacie L. Odeneal, Lawrenceburg, Tennessee, for the appellant, Maurice McAllister.

          Herbert H. Slatery III, Attorney General and Reporter; Sophia S. Lee, Assistant Attorney General; Brent Cooper, District Attorney General; and Victoria Haywood, Assistant District Attorney General, for the appellee, State of Tennessee.

          James Curwood Witt, Jr., J., delivered the opinion of the court, in which Thomas T. Woodall, and D. Kelly Thomas, Jr., JJ., joined.



         In 2012, the Giles County Grand Jury charged the petitioner with 13 counts of rape and one count of aggravated rape arising from accusations made "by a group of young Amish people." State v. Maurice McAllister, No. M2014-02022-CCA-R3-CD, slip op. at 1 (Tenn. Crim. App., Nashville, Dec. 16, 2015), perm. app. denied (Tenn. Apr. 6, 2016). The aggravated rape charge was severed from the other charges, and the petitioner proceeded to trial on the aggravated rape charge. Id., slip op. at 1-2. The State's evidence at trial established that the victim and other Amish girls worked for the petitioner and his wife helping with "weeding, painting, raking leaves, and working in the flower beds." Id., slip op. at 7. On the victim's sixteenth birthday, the petitioner approached her in the "wash-house" at her home and "reached on [her] breast," "masturbate[ed] in front of her," and "put his finger in her vagina." Id., slip op. at 7-8 (first alteration in original). The petitioner had previously shown the victim a pistol, and, during the incident in the wash-house, he "threatened to shoot her with it" if she told anyone of his conduct. Id., slip op. at 8. In a separate incident, the petitioner instructed the victim to "cut some of her pubic hair and give to him." Id., slip op. at 8. During a recorded interview with law enforcement officers, the petitioner admitted to touching the victim's breasts and placing his finger in her vagina but repeatedly denied having threatened her. Id., slip op. at 6.

         The jury convicted the petitioner of the lesser included offense of rape, and the trial court imposed a sentence of 12 years' incarceration. Id., slip op. at 9. This court affirmed the petitioner's conviction and sentence on direct appeal. Id., slip op. at 16-17.

         The petitioner filed a timely pro se petition for post-conviction relief and, after the appointment of counsel, filed an amended petition, alleging the ineffective assistance of the petitioner's trial counsel. In his pro se petition, the petitioner alleged that trial counsel performed deficiently by failing to preserve certain issues for appeal, failing to pursue a plea agreement, failing to argue mitigating evidence, failing to object to the jury instructions, failing to request the dismissal of certain jurors for cause, failing to seek a change in venue, failing to object to certain enhancement factors at sentencing, and failing to ensure that the trial court made explicit findings in sentencing the petitioner. In his amended petition, however, the petitioner makes only a general claim of his trial counsel's deficient performance and does not allege any specific facts supporting his claim.

         At the July 13, 2018 evidentiary hearing, the petitioner testified that he hoped to "get some relief" from the post-conviction court; specifically, he wanted "[s]ome time off of [his] sentence." He cited his good behavior during incarceration as a reason for his deserving post-conviction relief. He stated that he did not think "that anything went wrong with the trial at all," and he repeatedly stated that trial counsel provided proper representation. He also stated that his post-conviction counsel did not provide "proper representation," which complaint stemmed primarily from a lack of correspondence. When asked whether trial counsel "did exactly what he was supposed to do," the petitioner responded, "Yes."

         On cross-examination, the petitioner identified his signature on the post-conviction petition and acknowledged filing it. He acknowledged that he did not raise any claims as to post-conviction counsel's representation in his pro se petition. Upon questioning by the court, the petitioner stated that he did not know why he was in court that day and that he was not notified of the scheduled hearing until he was awoken that day at 5:30 a.m. and told to get ready for court.

         At the close of the petitioner's evidence, the State moved to dismiss the post-conviction petition for lack of evidence of trial counsel's deficient performance, which motion the post-conviction court granted. In its written order denying relief, the post-conviction court found that the petitioner "repeatedly denied that he had any issues with [trial counsel's] representation" and that the petitioner believed that trial counsel had provided "proper representation." The court found that the petitioner was physically and mentally sound at the evidentiary hearing and "merely wanted to complain about the two attorneys appointed to assist him with a [post-conviction] petition that obviously someone at the penitentiary prepared for him." The court also found that the petitioner's pro se and amended petitions for ...

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