Assigned on Briefs September 4, 2019
from the Criminal Court for Shelby County No. 13-06162 J.
Robert Carter, Jr., Judge.
Christopher Stephen Jones, was convicted by a jury of first
degree murder and abuse of a corpse, for which he received a
life sentence. His convictions were affirmed on direct appeal
by this Court. State v. Christopher Jones, No.
W2015-01028-CCA-R3-CD, 2017 WL 192146, at *1 (Tenn. Crim.
App. Jan. 17, 2017), no perm. app. filed. Petitioner
sought post-conviction relief on the basis of ineffective
assistance of counsel. The post-conviction court denied
relief after a hearing. Petitioner appealed. After a review,
we dismiss the appeal.
R. App. P. 3 Appeal as of Right; Appeal Dismissed
Matthews, Memphis, Tennessee, for the appellant, Christopher
Herbert H. Slatery III, Attorney General and Reporter;
Katharine K. Decker, Assistant Attorney General; Charme P.
Allen, District Attorney General; and Glen Baity and Leslie
Byrd, Assistant District Attorneys General, for the appellee,
State of Tennessee.
Timothy L. Easter, J., delivered the opinion of the court, in
which Alan E. Glenn and Robert L. Holloway, Jr., JJ., joined.
TIMOTHY L. EASTER, JUDGE.
was convicted of the 2013 killing of his estranged wife,
taking her body to a remote location, and setting it on fire.
State v. Christopher Jones, No.
W2015-01028-CCA-R3-CD, 2017 WL 192146, at *1 (Tenn. Crim.
App. Jan. 17, 2017), no perm. app. filed. On appeal,
this Court affirmed Petitioner's convictions.
Id. Petitioner executed a pro se petition for
post-conviction relief on January 18, 2018, in which he
claimed that the "[i]nstitution lock down on 1-16-18 and
1-17-18 made notary, copy and mail services
unavailable." The pro se petition is stamped by a notary
on January 18, 2018. However, the petition is not file
stamped by the Shelby County Criminal Court. The petition
alleges that he received ineffective assistance of counsel at
trial and on appeal.
post-conviction court entered an order on February 16, 2018,
finding that the petition "appears to have been timely
filed." Counsel was appointed, and an amended petition
for relief was filed. The amended petition named specific
instances of ineffective assistance of counsel, including:
(1) trial counsel's failure to order a mental evaluation;
(2) trial counsel's failure to raise an insanity defense;
(3) trial counsel's failure to interview Petitioner's
children; (4) trial counsel's failure to subpoena
witnesses; (5) trial counsel's effective denial of
Petitioner's right to testify by intimidation; (6) trial
counsel's failure to object to the introduction of
bloodwork; (7) trial counsel's failure to ensure a speedy
trial; (8) trial counsel's failure to challenge the
cadaver dog's qualifications; (9) appellate counsel's
failure to "raise any of these issues"; (10) trial
counsel's failure to address the writ of mandamus filed
by Petitioner; (11) trial counsel's failure to challenge
the indictment; (12) trial counsel's failure to
investigate the witnesses at the Christmas party; (13) trial
counsel's failure to use potentially exculpatory evidence
from a mental evaluation; (14) trial counsel's failure to
challenge allegations of perjury at the police department;
(15) trial counsel's failure to certify Petitioner as an
expert; (16) trial counsel's failure to challenge the
chain of custody with regard to the video; (17) trial
counsel's failure to establish that Petitioner had no
knowledge or reason to believe that the victim was going to
appear or testify at a divorce proceeding; (18) the trial
court's failure to suppress the video; (19) the trial
court's failure to investigate a potential conflict of
interest between trial counsel and Petitioner; and (20) the
appellate court's ruling that evidence of concealing a
crime after the fact can be used as evidence of an intent to
commit the crime itself. The State did not raise the
timeliness of the petition before or at the hearing. The
post-conviction court ultimately denied the petition after an
evidentiary hearing, and this appeal followed.
appeal, Petitioner argues that the post-conviction court
improperly denied relief. Specifically, Petitioner claims
that he "wanted counsel to present an insanity
defense" and that he "needed his children to
testify" in order to establish his mental state at the
time of the crime. Petitioner also argues that trial counsel
failed to call "the people at the Christmas party"
to testify at trial. The State initially argues that
Petitioner has waived his issues on appeal by failing to
submit a transcript of the post-conviction evidentiary
hearing. Additionally, the State argues that the
petition for post-conviction relief was untimely but,
curiously, does not request a dismissal of the appeal for
want of jurisdiction. Finally, the State insists that
Petitioner failed to show clear and convincing evidence that
his counsel were deficient or that he was prejudiced by their
initial matter, we must address the timeliness of
Petitioner's pro se petition for post-conviction relief.
Post-conviction relief is available for any conviction or
sentence that is "void or voidable because of the
abridgment of any right guaranteed by the Constitution of
Tennessee or the Constitution of the United States."
T.C.A. § 40-30-103. However, to obtain relief, the
post-conviction petition must be filed within one year of the
final action of the highest state appellate court to which an
appeal is taken. T.C.A. § 40-30-102(a); see also
Williams v. State, 44 S.W.3d 464, 468 (Tenn. 2001). The
statute emphasizes that "[t]ime is of the essence of the
right to file a petition for post-conviction relief" and
that "the one-year limitations period is an element of
the right to file such an action and is a condition upon its
exercise." T.C.A. § 40-30-102(a).
the post-conviction statute's language conferring
jurisdictional import to the timely filing of a petition, it
is essential that the question of timeliness be resolved
before any adjudication on the merits of the petitioner's
claims may properly occur." Antonio L. Saulsberry v.
State, No. W2002-02538-CCA-R3-PC, 2004 WL 239767, at *1
(Tenn. Crim. App. Feb. 9, 2004), perm. app. denied
(Tenn. June 1, 2004). In other words, if the trial court did
not have jurisdiction to consider a petition for
post-conviction relief because it was untimely, and due
process did not require the tolling of the statute of
limitations, we must dismiss the appeal even if the State
failed to raise the statute of limitations at the trial