Court of Criminal Appeals of Tennessee, Nashville
WILLIE LEE HUGHES, JR.
STATE OF TENNESSEE
Session October 15, 2019
from the Circuit Court for Williamson County No. CR-170485
Michael Binkley, Judge
Williamson County jury convicted Petitioner, Willie Lee
Hughes, Jr., of aggravated robbery, for which he received a
sentence of twenty-five years'
incarceration. Petitioner filed for post-conviction
relief, which was denied following an evidentiary hearing.
Petitioner appeals, asserting that he was denied the
effective assistance of counsel based on trial counsel's
failure to: (1) explore racial bias during jury selection;
(2) challenge the lack of diversity in the venire; (3) advise
Petitioner of his right to allocution at sentencing; and (4)
argue on appeal that the trial court erred by failing to
declare a mistrial after being advised of an interaction
between jurors and Petitioner's son. Following a thorough
review, we affirm the judgment of the post-conviction court.
R. App. P. 3 Appeal as of Right; Judgment of the Circuit
Vakessha Hood-Schneider, Franklin, Tennessee, for the
appellant, Willie Lee Hughes, Jr.
Herbert H. Slatery III, Attorney General and Reporter; Clark
B. Thornton, Senior Assistant Attorney General; Kim R.
Helper, District Attorney General; and Mary Katharine White,
Assistant District Attorney General, for the appellee, State
L. Holloway, Jr., J., delivered the opinion of the court, in
which John Everett Williams, P.J., and Robert H. Montgomery,
Jr., J., joined.
L. HOLLOWAY, JR., JUDGE.
Factual and Procedural Background
direct appeal, this court summarized the evidence at trial as
[Petitioner's] aggravated robbery case proceeded to trial
in May 2014. The State's proof at trial established that,
at approximately 6:00 a.m. on August 18, 2011, Maria Jaimes
was drinking coffee outside her place of employment,
Brentwood Magic Cleaners, when a black male accosted her with
a large knife. The assailant placed the knife against Ms.
Jaimes's stomach and demanded that she "give [him]
everything" before taking her iPod, cellular telephone,
and handbag. The assailant then ran to a light-colored
Chevrolet Blazer parked in front of a nearby hotel and fled
the scene; a white shirt concealed the vehicle's license
plate. Ms. Jaimes reported the robbery to her manager, who in
turn called the police.
Brentwood Police Department ("BPD") Officer Stanley
Boyd responded to the scene and spoke with Ms. Jaimes, who
provided a description of the assailant and his vehicle. Upon
learning that the assailant had stolen Ms. Jaimes's
cellular telephone, Officer Boyd requested that the cellular
carrier "ping" the telephone's location. The
"ping" returned a location in north Nashville, and
Officer Boyd advised officers with the Metropolitan Nashville
Police Department ("Metro"), who responded to the
Metro Officers Kevin Cooley and Andrew Johnson arrived at the
location at approximately 7:30 a.m., and about 30 minutes
later, they observed a grey Blazer pull into the driveway of
1806 Elizabeth Road. The officers approached the driver of
the vehicle, who identified herself as Lynne Edmonds. While
the officers were speaking with Ms. Edmonds, [Petitioner]
walked out of the house and identified himself to the
officers. [Petitioner] admitted to Officer Cooley that he had
been driving the Blazer earlier that morning. Ms. Edmonds
gave officers consent to search the Blazer, and Officer
Johnson discovered a large folding knife in the rear of the
vehicle. At that point, Metro officers contacted BPD
detectives and informed them that "we may have got your
Shortly thereafter, BPD Detective James Colvin arrived at the
scene and spoke with [Petitioner]. After Detective Colvin
provided [Petitioner] with his Miranda warnings,
[Petitioner] stated that he had been at the Elizabeth Road
residence "[a]ll morning" and adamantly denied any
involvement in the robbery. Eventually, [Petitioner] admitted
that someone named "K.C." was driving the Blazer
that morning, that K.C. had parked in front of the hotel, and
that K.C. returned to the Blazer holding a woman's
handbag. [Petitioner] insisted that he had never gotten out
of the Blazer.
Detective Colvin attempted to locate K.C. without any
success, and in his subsequent interview with Ms. Jaimes, she
stated that [Petitioner] was the only person she saw in the
On August 22, 2011, [Petitioner] requested to speak with
Detective Colvin at the Brentwood Police Department.
Detective Colvin again administered Miranda warnings
to [Petitioner], and [Petitioner] signed a waiver of his
rights. Initially, [Petitioner] maintained that the robbery
had been K.C.'s idea and that he had remained in the
Blazer while K.C. committed the robbery. Upon further
questioning by Detective Colvin, [Petitioner] eventually
admitted, "It was me, me by myself." [Petitioner]
confessed that Ms. Jaimes's cellular telephone and iPod
were at the Elizabeth Road residence. Although he was unable
to find Ms. Jaimes's handbag, which [Petitioner] stated
he had thrown out of the Blazer following the robbery,
Detective Colvin recovered the telephone and iPod from the
Elizabeth Road residence and returned the items to Ms.
With this evidence, the State rested. Following a
Momon colloquy, [Petitioner] elected not to testify
and chose not to present any proof. Based on the evidence
presented, the jury convicted [Petitioner] as charged of
Following a sentencing hearing, the trial court sentenced
[Petitioner] as a Range III, persistent offender to a term of
[twenty-five] years' incarceration.
State v. Willie Lee Hughes, Jr., No.
M2015-01207-CCA-R3-CD, 2016 WL 6956804, at *1-2 (Tenn. Crim.
App. Nov. 29, 2016), perm. app. denied (Tenn. Feb.
16, 2017). This court affirmed Petitioner's judgments of
conviction, and the Tennessee Supreme Court denied further
Petitioner filed a timely pro se petition for post-conviction
relief. Following the appointment of counsel, Petitioner
filed an amended petition. At an evidentiary hearing,
Petitioner testified that trial counsel was first appointed
as "elbow counsel" because Petitioner intended to
represent himself. However, Petitioner eventually asked for
trial counsel to fully represent him because Petitioner felt
that he "didn't have all the legal material [he]
needed to represent [him]self[.]" Petitioner stated that
he met with trial counsel "maybe once or twice"
before trial. He said that they discussed trying to get
Petitioner's statement to police suppressed but that they
did not discuss trial strategy. Petitioner agreed that trial
counsel discussed with him the evidence that would be
presented at trial and that trial counsel wrote letters to
him in response to Petitioner's letters.
recalled that, after jury selection, trial counsel approached
the trial court and said that Petitioner "might have an
issue not having a black juror to select from."
Petitioner stated that his trial was not fair because trial
counsel did not do anything to follow up on the issue of the
lack of any black jurors in the venire. Petitioner stated
that trial counsel asked questions of the potential jurors
and discussed with him which jurors to strike. Petitioner
said that he could not recall how many challenges trial
counsel actually used to strike jurors.
testified that trial counsel failed to make him aware of his
right to allocution before the sentencing hearing. Petitioner
stated that, if he had known he could make an allocution
statement, he would have asked the trial court to "have
sympathy on [him] for the fact that [Petitioner] only did
what [he] did to try to pay rent[.]" Petitioner agreed
that he told Detective Colvin that his motive behind the
robbery had been that he "had bills to pay[.]"
Petitioner acknowledged that the trial court was aware of his
statement to Detective Colvin regarding why he committed the
offense, even though he did not make an allocution statement
testified that trial counsel failed to preserve several
issues that should have been presented on appeal. Petitioner
said that trial counsel did not discuss with him the issues
to be raised on appeal even though Petitioner sent trial
counsel letters regarding "things [he] thought [trial
counsel] should have raised[.]" Petitioner stated that
he was not given the opportunity to review the appeal before
it was filed. He acknowledged that trial counsel filed a
motion for new trial but stated that trial counsel did not
raise the same issues Petitioner mentioned in his letters to
cross-examination, Petitioner agreed that he robbed the
victim and that she was able to provide police with a
description of a vehicle that Petitioner had borrowed from a
family member. Petitioner further agreed that the family
member testified that Petitioner was driving the vehicle at
the time of the offense. Petitioner explained that he
eventually confessed to committing the robbery and that he
told police where some of the stolen items could be found.
Petitioner agreed that trial counsel talked with him about
the weapon used in the robbery.
trial counsel's representation, Petitioner recalled that
trial counsel "said he was going to try to get that
weapon suppressed because he [did not] feel like it was a
deadly weapon." Petitioner acknowledged that, if trial
counsel had been able to convince the jury that the weapon
was not a "deadly weapon," he could have been
convicted of a lesser offense. Petitioner agreed that trial
counsel attempted to get his statement to police suppressed
and that trial counsel was successful in having portions of
the statement redacted.
girlfriend, Cintrelle Reed-Colbert, testified that she was
present for Petitioner's trial and that she had an
interaction with two male jurors during a break in the trial.
She stated that, as she and Petitioner's son were going
to lunch, they saw two jurors in the parking lot who could
not get their car to start. Ms. Reed-Colbert asked the jurors
if they needed help, and they said, "Yes, we think our
car won't start, we don't know what's wrong with
it[.]" Ms. Reed-Colbert replied, "Well, I can give
you a jump, and I have a gallon of water in my car; [it]
sounds like it could be the battery." She explained that
she helped them get their car started and recalled that her
conversation with the jurors was limited to "the battery