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Winkfield v. State

Court of Criminal Appeals of Tennessee, Jackson

August 30, 2019


          Assigned on Briefs at Knoxville June 25, 2019

          Appeal from the Circuit Court for Madison County No. C-18-1999 Donald H. Allen, Judge

         The Petitioner, Samuel Winkfield, appeals the Madison County Circuit Court's summary dismissal of his petition for a writ of error coram nobis from his second degree murder and tampering with evidence convictions, for which he received an effective sentence of twenty-five years. We affirm the judgment of the coram nobis court.

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

          Samuel Winkfield, Clifton, Tennessee, Pro Se.

          Herbert H. Slatery III, Attorney General and Reporter; Brent C. Cherry, Senior Assistant Attorney General; Jody Pickens, District Attorney General; and Alfred Earls, Assistant District Attorney General, for the appellee, State of Tennessee.

          Robert H. Montgomery, Jr., J., delivered the opinion of the court, in which Norma McGee Ogle and J. Ross Dyer, JJ., joined.



         This case relates to the 2007 shooting death of the Petitioner's roommate, James Charles Haney. The Petitioner was indicted for first degree premeditated murder, first degree felony murder, especially aggravated kidnapping, tampering with evidence, and conspiracy to tamper with evidence. The jury acquitted the Petitioner of first degree felony murder and conspiracy to tamper with evidence but was unable to reach verdicts on the remaining charges. The trial court granted a mistrial, and at the second trial, the Petitioner was convicted of second degree murder and tampering with evidence. The jury was unable to reach a verdict on especially aggravated kidnapping, and the charge was ultimately dismissed. See State v. Samuel Armod Winkfield, No. W2008-01347-CCA-R3-CD, 2010 WL 796917 (Tenn. Crim. App. Mar. 9, 2010), perm. app. denied (Tenn. Aug. 25, 2010). The Petitioner unsuccessfully sought post-conviction relief on the basis that he received the ineffective assistance of counsel because counsel failed to investigate adequately, to produce defense witnesses, to obtain expert testimony, to cross-examine witnesses adequately, and to explore alternative defense theories. See Samuel Winkfield v. State, No. W2012-02413-CCA-R3-PC, 2013 WL 6001929 (Tenn. Crim. App. Nov. 8, 2013), perm. app. denied (Tenn. Apr. 11, 2014). The Petitioner also unsuccessfully sought federal habeas corpus relief. See Samuel Winkfield v. Cherry Lindamood, Warden, No. 17-6194, 2017 WL 6887029 (6th Circ. 2017).

         On August 17, 2018, the Petitioner filed the instant petition for a writ of error coram nobis. In the petition, he stated that he was entitled to relief because the State violated the rules of discovery and Brady v. Maryland, 373 U.S. 83 (1963), by failing to disclose plea agreements with trial witnesses, police statements and grand jury testimony of trial witnesses, "evidence detailed in its investigation," police "lead/tip sheets," officer notes, an October 19, 2006 9-1-1 recording, crime scene photographs, and records related to the victim's injuries. The Petitioner argued that if he had received a complete discovery package, he would have been able to undermine the State's theory that the Petitioner "committed any crime" and to impeach the State's witnesses. The Petitioner also argued that (1) the trial court provided the jury with incorrect instructions relative to the elements of each offense, (2) the evidence was insufficient to support his convictions, (3) the trial court and the prosecutor failed to inquire about a potential conflict of interests related to trial counsel's simultaneous representation of a State's witness, (4) the "predicate convictions used to convict and sentence the Petitioner . . . and establish him as a violent [offender] at 100% [service] is void because the plea upon which it rested was obtained in violation of prior case law," (5) his sentence is excessive, and (6) he received the ineffective assistance of counsel.

         The State contended that the petition was untimely and requested that it be dismissed. Alternatively, the State denied suppressing evidence and violating the rules of discovery. The State asserted that it had an open-file discovery policy and that the Petitioner was provided "full access to all [S]tate files." The State argued that anything not contained in the discovery materials were matters of public record and were accessible by the Petitioner. The State argued that the Petitioner's remaining issues were not cognizable for coram nobis relief.

         The coram nobis court summarily denied relief and dismissed the petition. The court ruled that the petition was untimely after determining that the Petitioner was convicted in January 2008 and that this court denied relief in March 2010. The court found that the petition included two attachments, reflecting the prison in which the Petitioner was confined had been on lock-down status in April 2018 and July 2018, and determined that this did not entitle the Petitioner to equitable tolling of the statute of limitations because the lock-down periods were approximately ten years after the judgments became final.

         The coram nobis court likewise determined that judgments of conviction showing the State's witnesses had criminal histories were public records and were accessible by the Petitioner and his trial counsel. The court noted that the July 23, 2007 judgment of conviction for State's witness William L. Hammond did not constitute new evidence because it existed at the time of the January 2008 trial. Relative to State's witness Larry Futtrell, the court found that, according to the Petitioner's motion to reveal the plea agreement, the defense knew the substance of Mr. Luttrell's proposed trial testimony. The court noted that Mr. Luttrell and the Petitioner were confined in the same jail and found that judgments reflecting prior convictions would have been public records. The court, likewise, found that the Petitioner failed to provide reasons why discovery was not addressed in the post-conviction proceedings.

         The coram nobis court determined that Brady violations could not be raised in a coram nobis petition and that no basis existed to toll the statute of limitations for any cognizable claim. The court found that the petition did not include documents or evidence showing that new evidence existed. That court found that the Petitioner only attached Mr. Hammond's 2007 judgment of conviction, the Petitioner's judgments of conviction, a discovery motion filed by trial counsel, a letter to the prosecutor, and a document ...

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