Court of Criminal Appeals of Tennessee, Nashville
ANTONIO D. IDELLFONSO-DIAZ
RUSSELL WASHBURN, WARDEN
Assigned on Briefs June 19, 2019
from the Circuit Court for Trousdale County No. 18-CV-4729
John D. Wootten, Jr., Judge
Petitioner, Antonio D. Idellfonso-Diaz, appeals the denial of
his petition for habeas corpus relief. Following our review,
we affirm the habeas corpus court pursuant to Rule 20 of the
Rules of the Court of Criminal Appeals.
R. App. P. 3 Appeal as of Right; Judgment of the Circuit
Court Affirmed Pursuant to Rule 20 of the Rules of the Court
of Criminal Appeals
Antonio D. Idellfonso-Diaz, Hartsville, Tennessee, Pro Se.
Herbert H. Slatery III, Attorney General and Reporter;
Jeffrey D. Zentner, Assistant Attorney General; and Tom P.
Thompson, Jr., District Attorney General, for the Appellee,
State of Tennessee.
Everett Williams, P.J., delivered the opinion of the court,
in which D. Kelly Thomas, Jr., and Robert L. Holloway, Jr.,
EVERETT WILLIAMS, PRESIDING JUDGE
Petitioner pleaded guilty to two counts of second degree
murder in 2008, and the trial court sentenced him to
concurrent forty-year sentences. In October 2018, the
Petitioner filed a petition for writ of habeas corpus,
alleging that the trial court lacked jurisdiction to convict
or sentence him because the district attorney general did not
sign the indictment. He also alleged that he was arrested
without a valid arrest warrant. The habeas corpus court
entered an order summarily denying the Petitioner's
I section 15 of the Tennessee Constitution guarantees the
right to seek habeas corpus relief. See also T.C.A.
§ 29-21-101. The determination of whether a petition for
a writ of habeas corpus should be granted is a question of
law. Edwards v. State, 269 S.W.3d 915, 919 (Tenn.
2008). This court reviews the denial of a writ of habeas
corpus de novo with no presumption of correctness given to
the habeas corpus court's decision. Cantrell v.
Easterling, 346 S.W.3d 445, 448 (Tenn. 2011). There are
very narrow grounds upon which habeas relief may be granted.
Taylor v. State, 995 S.W.2d 78, 83 (Tenn. 1999).
"'[T]he purpose of a habeas corpus petition is to
contest void and not merely voidable judgments.'"
Archer v. State, 851 S.W.2d 157, 163 (Tenn. 1993)
(quoting Potts v. State, 833 S.W.2d 60, 62 (Tenn.
1992)). Habeas corpus relief is available when it appears
from the face of the judgment or the record that the
convicting court lacked jurisdiction to sentence a petitioner
or that a petitioner's sentence has expired. Id.
at 164. The habeas corpus court may summarily dismiss the
petition if the petition fails to state a cognizable claim.
T.C.A. § 29-21-109. The burden is on the petitioner to
establish that the judgment is void or that the sentence has
expired. Summers v. State, 212 S.W.3d 251, 261
Petitioner argues that the district attorney general's
failure to sign the indictment deprived the trial court of
jurisdiction to accept his guilty plea. The State notes that
the Petitioner only included two of his three indictments and
that it is possible that the district attorney general signed
the third page that is not included in the record. In the
Petitioner's reply brief, he asserts that the third page
of the indictment was attached to his petition filed in the
habeas corpus court and requests that this court supplement
the record to include the third indictment. We decline to do
so. Even if the indictment was unsigned, the lack of the
district attorney general's signature is not the sort of
defect that renders the judgment void.
corpus relief is warranted when an indictment is "so
defective as to deprive the court of jurisdiction.".
Dykes v. Compton, 978 S.W.2d 528, 529 (Tenn. 1998).
The State maintains that the Petitioner is not entitled to
relief because his objections to the indictment were required
to be raised pretrial. See Derrick Richardson v. Virginia
Lewis, Warden, No. E2005-00817-CCA-R3-HC, 2006 WL
3479530, at *2 (Tenn. Crim. App. Dec. 1, 2006) (citing Tenn.
R. Crim. P. 12(b)(2)). A petitioner is required to raise
objections to certain defects prior to trial. State v.
Nixon, 977 S.W.2d 119, 121 (Tenn. Crim. App. 1997).
Defects in an indictment "that go to matters of form
rather than substance" are required to be raised prior
to trial. Id. The failure of the district attorney
to sign an indictment is a matter of form, and the Petitioner
was required to raise an objection to the lack of the
district attorney general's signature pretrial.
Id.; see also Quinton Albert Cage v. David
Sexton, Warden, No. E2011-01609-CCA-R3-HC, 2012 WL
2764998, at *3 (Tenn. Crim. App. July 10, 2012) (citing
Richardson, 2006 WL 3479530 at *2). ("This
court has previously held that an allegation regarding the
lack of the district attorney's signature on an
indictment will not warrant habeas relief."). The
Petitioner also asserts that the indictment was not properly
signed by all the grand jurors. However, it is not a
requirement that all members of the grand jury sign the
indictment. T.C.A. § 40-13-105; State v. Edward
Dewayne Shelton, Jr., No. M2018-00319-CCA-R3-CD, 2018 WL
5733132, at *2 (Tenn. Crim. App. Oct. 31, 2018) (concluding
that when the indictment is endorsed as a true bill, T.C.A.
§ 40-13-105 only requires that it be signed by the
foreperson of the grand jury), perm. app. denied
(Tenn. Feb. 20, 2019).
Petitioner also claims that the trial court lacked
jurisdiction to convict or sentence him because there was no
arrest warrant issued for his arrest and the indictment was
accordingly void. The Petitioner argues that he was arrested
without a warrant in violation of Rule 4(c)(1) of the
Tennessee Rules of Criminal Procedure, Tennessee Code
Annotated section 40-6-201, Fourth and Fourteenth Amendments
of the United States Constitution. This court has held that
defects in a criminal warrant are cured by a valid and timely
indictment. Bobby Scales v. Dwight Barbee, Warden,
No. W2012-00163-CCA-R3-HC, 2012 WL 4017375, at *2 (Tenn.
Crim. App. Sept. 12, 2012). The State argues that
there is nothing in the record that indicates that the
indictments were not timely issued in this case. See
James Thomas v. Randy Lee, Warden, No.
E2015-02427-CCA-R3-HC, 2016 WL 3996488, at *2 (Tenn. Crim.
App. July 21, 2016) (denying habeas relief on the
petitioner's claim that the arrest warrant was void when
the indictment was issued within the statute of limitations).
We agree. Accordingly, we conclude that the habeas corpus
court did not err by summarily dismissing the petition due to
the Petitioner's failure to state a cognizable claim.
opinion would have no precedential value, the Court of
Criminal Appeals may affirm the judgment or action of the
trial court by memorandum opinion when the judgment is
rendered or the action taken in a proceeding without a jury
and such judgment or action is not a determination of guilt,
and the evidence does not preponderate against the finding of
the trial judge. See Tenn. Ct. Crim. App. R. 20. We
conclude that this case satisfies the criteria of Rule 20.