Court of Criminal Appeals of Tennessee, Knoxville
Assigned on Briefs June 25, 2019
from the Circuit Court for Blount County No. C-24084 Don R.
Ash, Senior Judge
Petitioner, Anthony Todd Ghormley, appeals the Blount County
Circuit Court's denial of his petition for
post-conviction relief from his convictions of two counts of
attempted first degree murder, one count of especially
aggravated kidnapping, one count of especially aggravated
burglary, and three counts of aggravated assault and
resulting effective sentence of one hundred five years. On
appeal, the Petitioner contends that he received the
ineffective assistance of trial counsel and that the trial
court was impermissibly biased against him. Based upon the
record and the parties' briefs, we affirm the judgment of
the post-conviction court.
R. App. P. 3 Appeal as of Right; Judgment of the Circuit
L. Gulley, Jr., Knoxville, Tennessee, for the appellant,
Anthony Todd Ghormley.
Herbert H. Slatery III, Attorney General and Reporter; Renee
W. Turner, Assistant Attorney General; Michael L. Flynn,
District Attorney General; and Ellen L. Berez and Tyler B.
Parks, Assistant District Attorneys General, for the
appellee, State of Tennessee.
W. Wedemeyer, J., delivered the opinion of the court, in
which Robert H. Montgomery, Jr., and J. Ross Dyer, JJ.,
W. WEDEMEYER, JUDGE
Petitioner's trial began on September 15, 2009. On direct
appeal of his convictions, this court gave the following
factual account of his crimes:
[O]n September 17, 2007, Ghormley and his wife, Karen Van
Dyke, had an argument while they were at the home of Gaynell
Head, Van Dyke's grandmother. Ghormley returned to his
residence, and Van Dyke remained at Head's home, spending
the night with Head and Candy Bussey, Van Dyke's cousin.
Early in the morning of the next day, while the women were
asleep, Ghormley returned to the home. He forced his way
through the locked front door and attacked the three women.
He struck them each repeatedly with a baseball bat and cut
them with a knife. Van Dyke escaped by jumping out a window,
and she called police from a neighbor's house. Bussey
fled out the front door, which Ghormley had blocked with a
chair to prevent entry into the house. When police arrived,
Ghormley took Head hostage and locked himself in the
bathroom. After a standoff that lasted several hours,
Ghormley surrendered and was arrested.
State v. Anthony Todd Ghormley, No.
E2010-00634-CCA-R3-CD, 2012 WL 171940, at *1 (Tenn. Crim.
App. at Knoxville, Jan. 20, 2012).
jury convicted the Petitioner of two counts of attempted
first degree premeditated murder, a Class A felony; one count
of especially aggravated kidnapping, a Class A felony; one
count of especially aggravated burglary, a Class B felony;
and three counts of aggravated assault, a Class C
felony. After a sentencing hearing, the trial
court ordered that he serve an effective sentence of one
hundred five years in confinement.
direct appeal of his convictions to this court, the
Petitioner argued that the trial court erred by refusing to
conduct a competency hearing or reset the trial when his
competency to stand trial was questioned two weeks before the
trial date. Id. at *1. The Petitioner also claimed
that the trial court erred by allowing him to represent
himself for several months during the pretrial proceedings
and by allowing the State to amend the indictment on the
first day of trial. Id. This court held that the
trial court erred by not holding a hearing to determine the
Petitioner's competency to stand trial and remanded the
case for a retrospective competency hearing. Id. at
*4-5. This court noted that if the trial court determined
that the Petitioner was competent at the time of trial, then
the trial court's failure to hold the hearing was
harmless error; however, if the trial court determined that
the Petitioner was not competent at the time of trial, then
the trial court was required to vacate the judgments and
grant a new trial. Id. at *5. As to the
Petitioner's remaining issues, this court held that he
was not entitled to relief. Id. at *6-9.
trial court held the retrospective competency hearing on June
14, 2013. State v. Anthony Todd Ghormley, No.
E2013-01932-CCA-R3-CD, 2014 WL 5699517, at *1 (Tenn. Crim.
App. at Knoxville, Nov. 5, 2014), perm. app. denied,
(Tenn. Feb. 19, 2015). At the hearing, the Petitioner
testified that he was diagnosed with bipolar disorder, that
he was prescribed Paxil and Depakote, and that he refused to
take any medication in the two weeks before trial.
Id. The Petitioner said he thought his trial was a
conspiracy that involved trial counsel, the trial court, the
prosecutor, and "a woman who worked for the DA's
office designed to 'railroad [him] on through the
system.'" Id. at *2. He also said that
during the trial, he began seeing "'shadow
people.'" On cross-examination, the Petitioner
acknowledged filing a petition for an order of protection to
prevent jail officials from making him take his medication.
Id. Moreover, in the summer of 2008, he filed
"a number of pro se motions, each of which was titled
aptly and filed in the correct court and each of which cited
appropriate legal authorities and asked for specific legal
relief." Id. He also filed a pro se motion on
August 15, 2008, requesting a forensic evaluation.
Rokeya Farooque, a forensic psychiatrist from the Middle
Tennessee Mental Health Institute (MTMHI), testified that she
evaluated the Petitioner in 2007 and diagnosed him with
"'intermittent explosive disorder'" because
"'he is not able to control his behavior. He gets
upset, he gets agitated. . . . [H]is practice is that he
[loses] his temper.'" Id. She did not find
that the Petitioner had any psychotic disorder, including
bipolar disorder. Id. The Petitioner was of average
intelligence with no cognitive impairments, was aware of the
charges, and understood that he would likely be incarcerated
for the rest of his life if convicted. Id. He also
"showed the ability to work with his attorneys and to
recognize and distinguish inculpatory and exculpatory
evidence, as well as an 'adequate understanding of the
adversarial nature of the adjudication process and the roles
of the participants.'" Id.
Judge Jon Kerry Blackwood, who presided over the
Petitioner's trial, testified that the Petitioner had
been evaluated at MTMHI and declared competent; therefore, he
did not order another evaluation two weeks before trial.
See id. at *4. Judge Blackwood "'never had
any doubt that [the Petitioner] was [anything] but
competent'" and thought the Petitioner was
"'very intelligent, very articulate.'"
Id. Judge Blackwood allowed the Petitioner to
represent himself for a period of time, but then the
Petitioner wrote a letter to the trial court stating that he
would accept appointed counsel. Id. Judge Blackwood
said that the Petitioner named well-known criminal defense
attorneys in Knoxville that he would accept to represent him
and that the Petitioner "had enough sense about that to
know that he wanted one of the best [attorneys] in Knox
County.'" Id. The Petitioner also
"asked to be transferred to the penitentiary so that he
would be afforded a better law library for legal
Lawhorn, the Blount County Jail Medical Unit Supervisor and a
nurse practitioner, testified at the hearing about the
Petitioner's refusal to take his medication. Id.
at *5. She described the Petitioner as "'always
cooperative and alert, oriented'" and said that he
did not appear to be depressed, delusional, or out of touch
with reality. Id. On July 28, 2008, the Petitioner
asked to see a mental health doctor. Id. The
clinical social worker at the jail, who acted as a clearing
house for those requests, wrote that the Petitioner had a
history of demanding medications and then refusing them.
Id. The Petitioner was taken off the mental health
waiting list on December 11, 2008. See id.
23, 2013, the trial court ruled that the Petitioner was
competent at the time of trial. The Petitioner challenged the
trial court's ruling, and this court affirmed the
judgment of the trial court. Id. at *7. As this
Doctor Farooque testified that the defendant was competent
and that he did not require medication to maintain his
competence. The defendant presented no evidence to the
contrary. No evidence indicated that the defendant was, at
any time, unable "'to understand the nature and
object of the proceedings against him [or her], to consult
with counsel[, ] and assist in preparing his [or her]
defense.'" [State v. Johnson, 401 S.W.3d 1,
17 (Tenn. 2013) (quoting State Reid, 164 S.W.3d 286,
306 (Tenn. 2005)).] Evidence concerning the defendant's
behavior and demeanor evinced his competence, as did all of
the medical testimony. Finally, the defendant's pro se
pleadings, though vituperative, suggested a familiarity with
the legal system and an above average ability to assist in
the preparation of his defense.
February 22, 2016, the Petitioner filed a pro se petition for
post-conviction relief, claiming, in pertinent part, that he
received the ineffective assistance of counsel because trial
counsel ("Counsel") failed to file his notice of
insanity defense in a timely manner; failed to prepare a
defense and discuss that defense with him; failed to
investigate possible witnesses and subpoena them for trial;
and failed to investigate his case. The Petitioner also alleged
that "Judge Blackwood was clearly biased against
[him]" because Judge Blackwood "made many decisions
out of spite or anger ...