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Delk v. State

Court of Appeals of Tennessee, Jackson

July 18, 2019


          Assigned on Briefs July 1, 2019

          Appeal from the Chancery Court for Hardeman County No. 18991 William C. Cole, Chancellor

         Appellant inmate filed a petition for a writ of mandamus in the chancery court seeking redress for various errors involving the sentence he ultimately received following a plea of guilty to two felonies. Because we conclude that Appellant failed to show he had no other equally effective means to redress these alleged errors, we affirm the trial court's dismissal of Appellant's petition.

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

          Adrian Delk, Hartsville, Tennessee, Pro se.

          Herbert H. Slatery, III, Attorney General and Reporter; Andrée Sophia Blumstein, Solicitor General; Rob Mitchell, Assistant Attorney General, for the appellee, State of Tennessee.

          J. Steven Stafford, P.J., W.S., delivered the opinion of the court, in which Charles D. Susano, Jr., and Andy D. Bennett, JJ., joined.




         On August 22, 2013, Petitioner/Appellant Adrian Delk ("Appellant") was indicted by a Shelby County grand jury for one count of attempted second-degree murder and two counts of aggravated assault based on allegations that he attacked his ex-girlfriend. Three months later, Appellant was indicted on the additional charge of solicitation to commit first-degree murder, allegedly for attempting to hire someone to kill the same ex-girlfriend. On February 6, 2014, in Shelby County Criminal Court ("the criminal court") Appellant pleaded guilty to aggravated assault and solicitation to commit first-degree murder. Appellant received "consecutive sentences of four years and eight years, respectively, as a Range I offender, for an effective term of twelve years at 30%." Delk v. State, No. W2015-01246-CCA-R3-PC, 2016 WL 4189718, at *1 (Tenn. Crim. App. Aug. 5, 2016), perm. app. denied (Tenn. Oct. 21, 2016).

         The genesis of this case is a petition for a writ of mandamus filed by Appellant in the Hardeman County Chancery Court ("the chancery court" or "the trial court") on August 23, 2018.[2] Therein, Appellant alleged that the criminal court failed to award proper pre-trial jail credits by using an erroneous "sentence effective date." Appellant further alleged that this error breached his plea agreement with the State of Tennessee ("the State"). Attached to Appellant's petition were the judgments from his original convictions and corrected judgments. An original judgment entered on February 6, 2014, for the solicitation of first degree murder charge indicated that Appellant had pretrial jail credit from December 5, 2013, to February 6, 2014, with the special condition "No PSS; No PSRS." On the same day, a judgment was entered on the aggravated assault charge noting that Appellant had pretrial jail credits from January 31, 2013 to February 6, 2014. This judgment noted a special condition that "ct. 1 and ct. 2 NP/NC. No PSS/PSRS." In contrast, a corrected judgment to the solicitation of first degree murder charge, entered on January 1, 2017, had the space dedicated to pretrial jail credits exed out and the following special condition included: "No pss; no psrs. This was an NIC indictment. [Appellant] cannot receive any jail credit on this ind. 13-05543 [i.e., the solicitation of murder charge] until [Appellant] completed serving sentence on Ind. 13-04041 [i.e., the aggravated assault charge]." A corrected judgment as to the aggravated assault charge was also entered on January 1, 2017; this corrected judgment likewise had the pretrial jail credit section exed out and the following special condition: "No PSS; no PSRS. [Appellant] to receive jail credit for 1/31/13 to 2/16/14. [Appellant] must serve entire sentence on this indictment prior to receiving any jail credit on Ind. 13-05543 [i.e., the solicitation charge]." Both corrected judgments were endorsed by the clerk on January 23, 2017, and indicated there were "orders attached to judgment" in the form of "corrected judgment sheet[s]"; no additional orders are attached to the judgments included in the appellate record. Appellant also attached a transcript from his plea colloquy in which the criminal court trial judge explained that he was agreeing to "a total twelve years at thirty percent eligibility."[3] As a result of the change in the judgments, Appellant alleged that he was required to spend considerably more time in jail before reaching his release eligibility date, rendering his decision to accept the plea involuntary and unknowing, as he was informed of the incorrect release eligibility date at the time of the plea.[4]

         The State responded by filing a motion to dismiss on the grounds that the chancery court lacked subject jurisdiction and that the petition failed to state claim. In its accompanying memorandum of law, the State argued that the chancery court lacked subject matter jurisdiction because Appellant's petition should be construed as an effort to correct an illegal sentence, which is governed by Rule 36.1 of the Tennessee Rules of Criminal Procedure. Under Rule 36.1, such a motion must be filed in the court in which the judgment of conviction was entered, i.e., the criminal court. Tenn. R. Crim. P. 36.1(a)(1). The State further argued that Appellant's petition could be dismissed on the merits, as it did not allege facts meeting the strict requirements of the writ of mandamus action. In particular, the State argued that Appellant failed to show that he was being denied an established right. On January 23, 2019, the chancery court dismissed Appellant's petition, ruling that it was "not a proper case for the issuance of a writ of mandamus." The trial court further ruled that it lacked jurisdiction, as the proper court to adjudicate Appellant's request was the criminal court. Appellant thereafter appealed.

         Issues Presented

         Appellant raises several issues concerning the propriety of the State's actions in his underlying criminal case. However, as we perceive it, this case involves one dispositive issue: whether the trial court ...

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