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Goble v. State

Court of Criminal Appeals of Tennessee, Knoxville

September 13, 2019

SEAN PATRICK GOBLE
v.
STATE OF TENNESSEE

          Assigned on Briefs June 25, 2019

          Appeal from the Criminal Court for Greene County No. 15-CR-505 Alex Pearson, Judge by Designation

         The Petitioner, Sean Patrick Goble, appeals from the Greene County Criminal Court's summary dismissal of his petition pursuant to the Post-Conviction DNA Analysis Act of 2001 (the Act), Tennessee Code Annotated sections 40-30-301 to -313 (2018). The post-conviction court denied relief on the basis that the results of the DNA analysis would not have exculpated the Petitioner of first degree murder. On appeal, the Petitioner contends that the court erred in dismissing his petition. We affirm the judgment of the post-conviction court.

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

          Sean Patrick Goble, Mountain City, Tennessee, Pro Se.

          Herbert H. Slatery III, Attorney General and Reporter; Ronald L. Coleman, Assistant Attorney General; Dan E. Armstrong, District Attorney General; Ritchie Collins, 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.

          OPINION

          ROBERT H. MONTGOMERY, JR., JUDGE.

         This case arises from the Petitioner's 1995 first degree murder conviction, for which he received a life sentence. The Petitioner pleaded guilty and did not seek appellate review of the conviction proceedings. In 1997, the Petitioner sought post-conviction relief, but his petition was summarily dismissed as untimely. See Sean Patrick Gobble v. State, No. 03C01-9711-CR-00503, 1998 WL 661522, at *1 (Tenn. Crim. App. Sept. 25, 1998), perm. app. denied (Tenn. Mar. 8, 1998).

         On November 5, 2015, the Petitioner filed the instant post-conviction petition seeking DNA analysis pursuant to the Act. He alleged that his DNA profile had not been compared with the DNA from the victim's vaginal and anal swabs and that an analysis would show that he did not kill the victim. Initially, the State did not respond, and the post-conviction court summarily denied relief on the basis that the petition was untimely. See Sean Patrick Goble v. State, No. E2017-01749-CCA-R3-PC, 2018 WL 3410029, at *1 (Tenn. Crim. App. July 12, 2018). On appeal, this court determined that the general one-year statute of limitations governing post-conviction petitions did not apply to petitions requesting DNA analysis pursuant to the Act and remanded this case to the court for consideration of the petition. Id.

         On August 6, 2018, the State responded to the petition. An April 13, 1995 laboratory report attached to the response showed the analysis of the victim's vaginal and anal swabs contained DNA from the victim and from an unknown person. The State agreed that a comparative analysis of the Petitioner's DNA and the DNA from the unknown person had not been performed. The State also attached the Petitioner's April 13, 1995 written police statement, in which he confessed to killing the victim, identified a photograph of the victim as the person he had killed, identified the location where he had left the victim's body, and drew a map of the area for investigators. The State also attached case notes from Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) Agent Thomas R. Snapp. The notes stated that on April 13, 1995, Agent Snapp spoke with the Petitioner after the Petitioner provided the written statement. The notes reflected that, during the conversation, the Petitioner admitted he had lied to Agent Snapp when he initially denied having sexual intercourse with the victim. The State argued that, as a result, the Petitioner had failed to show that the outcome of the trial court proceedings would have been different or that the Petitioner would not have been prosecuted. The State argued that even if an analysis showed the DNA of the unknown person did not match the Petitioner, the victim's sexual activity with someone other than the Petitioner did not exonerate the Petitioner of the murder.

         On August 13, 2018, the post-conviction court summarily denied relief. After reviewing the Petitioner's police statement, the court found that the Petitioner "gave a full confession" in which he detailed where he met the victim, how he killed the victim, and where he left the victim's body. The court found that the Petitioner, likewise, drew a diagram "concerning the crime." The court found that the Petitioner initially denied having sexual intercourse with the victim before the killing but that the Petitioner later admitted having intercourse with the victim. The court determined that the inconsistency in the Petitioner's statements was not relevant because the question of whether the victim had intercourse with "one or numerous other individuals does not take away from the fact that the [Petitioner] murdered the victim" and that he admitted it to law enforcement and to the trial court at the guilty plea hearing. The court found that this case involved the Petitioner and the victim meeting at a truck stop, the victim's looking for a ride to another state, and the Petitioner's killing the victim. The court determined that the identity of the person whose DNA was found on the victim's swabs did not create a reasonable probability that the Petitioner would not have been prosecuted or convicted. The court, likewise, determined that the Petitioner's request for DNA analysis was not to demonstrate his innocence but was rather an attempt to "thwart" the administration of justice. This appeal followed.

         The Act provides that persons convicted of first degree murder,

may at any time, file a petition requesting the forensic DNA analysis of any evidence that is in the possession or control of the prosecution, law enforcement, laboratory, or court, and that is related to the investigation or prosecution that resulted in the ...

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