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State v. Copeland

Court of Criminal Appeals of Tennessee, Nashville

October 1, 2019


          Assigned on Briefs February 12, 2019

          Appeal from the Criminal Court for Davidson County No. 2009-C-2680 Steve R. Dozier, Judge.

         Defendant, Trenell Lamar Copeland, appeals from his convictions of four counts of aggravated sexual battery of a child. Defendant was found guilty following a jury trial in 2010. On appeal, Defendant argues that (1) the evidence at trial was insufficient to support the convictions, (2) the trial court erred in its instructions to the jury, and (3) the trial court erred by allowing the victim's prior consistent statements to be admitted into evidence. After review of the record and the parties' briefs, we affirm the judgments of the trial court.

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

          Leah R. Wilson, Nashville, Tennessee (on appeal); and Dana Nero, Nashville, Tennessee (at trial) for the appellant, Trenell Lamar Copeland.

          Herbert H. Slatery III, Attorney General and Reporter; Ruth Anne Thompson, Senior Assistant Attorney General; Glenn R. Funk, District Attorney General; and Tammy Meade and Kristen Menke, Assistant District Attorneys General, for the appellee, State of Tennessee.

          Thomas T. Woodall, J., delivered the opinion of the court, in which Robert W. Wedemeyer and Timothy L. Easter, JJ., joined.



         Procedural History

         Defendant's case has a long and tortuous history leading to its current status. At the conclusion of a jury trial in the Davidson County Criminal Court on September 15, 2010, the jury found Defendant guilty of four counts of aggravated sexual battery related to four separate incidents involving the same victim. Defendant was sentenced on October 29, 2010, and the record shows judgments were entered that day. Defendant received an effective sentence of 22 years' incarceration. From the record it appears that trial counsel, who was retained by Defendant, did nothing in the case after the sentencing hearing, and there is no order allowing trial counsel to withdraw.

         On August 6, 2012, Defendant's present attorney filed an untimely petition for post-conviction relief on behalf of Defendant. Despite the fact that the petition failed to allege any facts to justify tolling the one-year statute of limitations for post-conviction cases, the State did not file a motion to dismiss. Instead, an agreed order was entered on August 8, 2012, wherein the trial court ordered, "[t]hat the appeal in this case will be delayed, pending the Post[-]Conviction Motion [sic] to be filed by Counsel for Defendant [sic] and it being heard before this Honorable Court." T.C.A. § 40-30-113 allows for the granting of a delayed appeal when a post-conviction court "conducting a hearing pursuant to [the Post-Conviction Procedure Act] finds that the petitioner was denied the right to an appeal from the original conviction" due to violation of either the United States or Tennessee Constitutions.

         On April 29, 2013, an amended petition for post-conviction relief was filed on behalf of Defendant by present counsel. The amended petition alleged ineffective assistance of trial counsel, including the total failure to appeal the convictions and the failure to move to withdraw as counsel. Again, nothing was alleged to justify tolling the statute of limitations. More than a year later, on July 1, 2014, present counsel filed a second amended petition for post-conviction relief. This amended petition was identical to the first amended petition except that it added one ground of ineffective assistance of counsel - that trial counsel failed to timely file a motion for new trial. For the third time, no allegations were made to justify tolling the statute of limitations.

         On July 11, 2014, the post-conviction court held an evidentiary hearing on the petition for post-conviction relief, as amended. Despite the fact that the post-conviction court stated in an order that trial counsel testified at the hearing, the transcript abruptly ends in mid-sentence of comments by the prosecutor during Defendant's testimony. There is no testimony of trial counsel in the transcript. Furthermore, the transcript is replete with errors by the court reporter. Numerous misspellings occur throughout the transcript. More egregious are unintelligible words or collection of letters, i.e., "I told you when I talked to you about the /TKPWOS see, the /TKPWHROS see eyes;" "getting your bond red doesed;" "I think her last name is play mate, " "Are sail ya play mate;" "even three of your girlfriend /ORS baby mama;" "those people that testified at the /PWOBD hearing;" "I wasn't Nevada Venn thinking about going to trial, just "plead" employed guilty;" "I just "plead" employed guilty." As noted above, the transcript abruptly ended on page 19 with the following remarks by the prosecutors:

Q. All right. And the DCS worker that was on the jury, I'm going to have to say that I don't are [sic] any recollection of a DCS worker, but I do know that we asked far [sic] lot of ...

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