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Estrada v. State

Court of Criminal Appeals of Tennessee, Nashville

December 30, 2019

MARIO CRUZ ESTRADA
v.
STATE OF TENNESSEE

          Assigned on Briefs October 16, 2019

          Appeal from the Circuit Court for Lawrence County No. 34773 Stella L. Hargrove, Judge.

         The Petitioner, Mario Cruz Estrada, appeals the Lawrence County Circuit Court's denial of his petition for post-conviction relief from his 2015 conviction for attempted second degree murder and his twelve-year sentence. The Petitioner contends that he received the ineffective assistance of trial counsel. Because the notice of appeal was untimely, we dismiss the appeal.

         Tenn. R. App. P. 3 Appeal as of Right; Appeal Dismissed

          Mark Free, Columbia, Tennessee, for the appellant, Mario Cruz Estrada.

          Herbert H. Slatery III, Attorney General and Reporter; Courtney N. Orr, Assistant Attorney General; Brent A. Cooper, District Attorney General; and Christi Thompson, Assistant District Attorney General, for the appellee, State of Tennessee.

          Robert H. Montgomery, Jr., J., delivered the opinion of the court, in which James Curwood Witt, Jr., and Robert L. Holloway, Jr., JJ., joined.

          OPINION

          ROBERT H. MONTGOMERY, JR., JUDGE.

         The Petitioner's conviction relates to the January 1, 2014 stabbing of Charles Davis. On the day of the stabbing, the victim and Ms. Carranza engaged in a verbal argument about the Petitioner's drinking and driving with Ms. Carranza and her four-year-old daughter inside the Petitioner's car. The argument escalated into a physical altercation between the victim and Ms. Carranza, who began hitting the victim with her fists. The victim grabbed Ms. Carranza's arms and laid her on the ground in an effort to protect himself. According to the victim, the Petitioner approached stabbed him multiple times before fleeing the scene with Ms. Carranza. See State v. Mario Cruz Estrada, No. M2016-00056-CCA-R3-CD, 2016 WL 6996399, at *1-3 (Tenn. Crim. App. Nov. 30, 2016), no perm. app. filed.

         On December 1, 2017, the Petitioner filed the instant petition for post-conviction relief, alleging that he received the ineffective assistance of trial counsel. The Petitioner asserted that counsel failed to conduct an adequate investigation and to present evidence showing the victim was the first aggressor.

         At the post-conviction hearing, trial counsel testified that the physical altercation between Ms. Carranza and the victim occurred out of the Petitioner's view and that the first thing the Petitioner saw was Ms. Carranza on the floor with the victim lying on top of her. Counsel recalled that the Petitioner began assaulting the victim and that, ultimately, the victim was stabbed and the Petitioner and Ms. Carranza fled the scene.

         Trial counsel testified that he began representing the Petitioner after the arraignment, that he did not file any pretrial motions, that he obtained the State's discovery materials and reviewed them with the Petitioner, and that he attempted to negotiate a plea agreement. Counsel recalled that the Petitioner had been released on bond at the time counsel was retained. Counsel said that he and the Petitioner had "some miscommunications or some phone calls" but that they discussed the State's initial and final plea offers before the guilty plea deadline.

         Trial counsel testified that although the Petitioner had eight previous felony convictions, the offenses occurred within twenty-four hours and that, as a result, the Petitioner had one previous felony conviction for purposes of sentencing. Counsel did not recall the State's arguing that the Petitioner had more than one previous felony conviction and said the Petitioner was sentenced as a Range I offender. Counsel said, though, the previous conviction increased the length of the within-range sentence imposed by the trial court.

         Trial counsel testified that he learned through the discovery materials that Ms. Carranza was not charged with the same offense as the Petitioner, although she and the Petitioner were both charged with conspiracy. Counsel ...


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