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Lavender v. State

Court of Criminal Appeals of Tennessee, Nashville

October 4, 2019

SANTERIAUS D. LAVENDER
v.
STATE OF TENNESSEE

          Assigned on Briefs August 27, 2019

          Appeal from the Criminal Court for Davidson County No. 2013-B-1428 Mark J. Fishburn, Judge.

         Petitioner, Santeriaus D. Lavender, [1] pled guilty to second degree murder in exchange for a sentence of thirty years to be served at 100 percent. Petitioner subsequently filed a petition for post-conviction relief, alleging that he received the ineffective assistance of counsel and that his guilty plea was not knowing and voluntary. The post-conviction court denied relief, and upon our review of the record, we affirm the judgment of the post-conviction court.

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

          Ryan C. Caldwell, Nashville, Tennessee, for the appellant, Santeriaus D. Lavender.

          Herbert H. Slatery III, Attorney General and Reporter; Sophia S. Lee, Senior Assistant Attorney General; Glenn Funk, District Attorney General; and Janice Norman, Assistant District Attorney General, for the appellee, State of Tennessee.

          Timothy L. Easter, J., delivered the opinion of the court, in which Camille R. McMullen and J. Ross Dyer., JJ., joined.

          OPINION

          TIMOTHY L. EASTER, JUDGE.

         Factual and Procedural History

         On May 21, 2013, Petitioner was indicted on four counts; one count of first-degree murder, one count of felony murder, one count of especially aggravated robbery, and one count of aggravated robbery. On December 15, 2016, Petitioner pled guilty to the reduced charge of second degree murder in exchange for a sentence of thirty years to be served at a 100 percent.

         The following is a summary of the factual basis for Petitioner's guilty plea: Petitioner's Co-Defendant, Bersha Edens, placed a phone call to Richard Farrar to tell him she had Xanax bars for sale. Petitioner and Co-Defendant Edens planned to rob Mr. Farrar when he arrived to purchase the Xanax. Mr. Farrar arrived at the meeting place driving a vehicle, and his friend Mr. Chad Daniel was with him. Mr. Daniel stayed in the vehicle while Mr. Farrar went to meet Co-Defendant Edens. Co-Defendant Edens handed Mr. Farrar four Xanax bars, and Mr. Farrar handed her twenty dollars. Co-Defendant Edens then called Petitioner, and Petitioner immediately entered the area, armed with a semi-automatic handgun, and robbed Mr. Farrar. Mr. Farrar ran back to his vehicle where Mr. Daniel was counting his money. As Mr. Farrar was backing up the vehicle, Petitioner approached the vehicle and demanded Mr. Daniel's money. Mr. Farrar began to drive away, and Petitioner fired multiple shots at the car, hitting Mr. Daniel in the chest. Mr. Daniel died a short time later.

         At the plea hearing, Petitioner testified that he understood the petition to enter the guilty plea and that trial counsel satisfactorily answered his questions with regard to the plea. The trial court thoroughly examined Petitioner in order to ascertain that Petitioner discussed the plea with trial counsel and that Petitioner understood the plea. Petitioner responded affirmatively. The trial court asked if Petitioner had any complaints about trial counsel. Petitioner responded "no." Petitioner stated that he could read and write and that he had completed high school. Petitioner affirmed that he was not on medication, drugs, or other intoxicants, nor was he suffering from any condition that would not enable him to fully understand the proceedings. Petitioner affirmed that he understood the original charges, the possible corresponding punishments, and what the State would have to show for a jury to convict and that he had discussed the issues with his attorney.

         The trial court stated, "You're pleading guilty to Second-Degree Murder in Count [One]. You're going to be sentenced to thirty years at a hundred percent under State v. Hicks and . . . the other count will be dismissed. Is that what your understanding, sure of what you're to plead to as well as actual punishment being imposed[?]" Petitioner responded "yeah." The trial court went on to explain that the punishment under the plea agreement was greater than the maximum sentence the trial court could impose if Petitioner were found guilty by a jury on the same charge of second degree murder. The trial court asked if Petitioner discussed this sentence in detail with trial counsel and understood everything. Petitioner responded that he understood and had no further questions about his plea or the punishment being imposed.

         The trial court then explained all the rights Petitioner had as a criminal defendant and asked questions about Petitioner's understanding of each. The trial court asked Petitioner if anyone had threatened or promised anything in order to get Petitioner to enter the plea. Petitioner responded "no." The facts of the case were then read in to the record, and the trial court asked Petitioner if ...


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