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Mason v. State

Supreme Court of Arkansas

June 19, 2014

FREDRICK MASON, a/k/a FREDERICK DWAYNE MASON, PETITIONER
v.
STATE OF ARKANSAS, RESPONDENT

Page 470

PETITION TO REINVEST JURISDICTION IN THE TRIAL COURT TO CONSIDER A PETITION FOR WRIT OF ERROR CORAM NOBIS. PULASKI COUNTY CIRCUIT COURT, NO. 60CR-07-1780.

Fredrick Mason, Pro se, petitioner.

Dustin McDaniel, Att'y Gen., by: Brad Newman, Ass't Att'y Gen., for respondent.

OPINION

Page 471

PRO SE

PER CURIAM

In 2007, petitioner Fredrick Mason, who is also known as Frederick Dwayne Mason, was found guilty of two counts of aggravated robbery, two counts of theft of property, and one count of second-degree battery. He was sentenced to serve an aggregate term of imprisonment of 660 months. The Arkansas Court of Appeals affirmed. Mason v. State, 2009 Ark.App. 794.

Petitioner has now filed a pro se petition in this court requesting that jurisdiction be reinvested in the trial court so that he may proceed with a petition for writ of error coram nobis. A request for leave to proceed in the trial court is necessary because the trial court can entertain a petition for writ of error coram nobis after a judgment has been affirmed on appeal only after we grant permission. Burton v. State, 2014 Ark. 44 (per curiam); Charland v. State, 2013 Ark. 452 (per curiam).

A writ of error coram nobis is an extraordinarily rare remedy, more known for its denial than its approval. Cromeans v. State, 2013 Ark. 273 (per curiam); Howard v. State, 2012 Ark. 177, 403 S.W.3d 38. The writ is allowed only under compelling circumstances to achieve justice and to address errors of the most fundamental nature. McDaniels v. State, 2012 Ark. 465 (per curiam). We have held that a writ of error coram nobis is available to address certain errors that are found in one of four categories: insanity at the time of trial, a coerced guilty plea, material evidence withheld by the prosecutor, or a third-party confession to the crime during the time between conviction and appeal. Charland, 2013 Ark. 452; Cromeans, 2013 Ark. 273; Pitts v. State, 336 Ark. 580, 986 S.W.2d 407 (1999) (per curiam). The function of the writ is to secure relief from a judgment rendered while there existed some fact that would have prevented its rendition if it had been known to the trial court and which, through no negligence or fault of the defendant, was not brought forward before rendition of judgment. McFerrin v. State, 2012 Ark. 305 (per curiam); Cloird v. State, 2011 Ark. 303 (per curiam). The petitioner has the burden of demonstrating a fundamental error of fact extrinsic to the record. Williams v. State, 2011 Ark. 541 (per curiam). Coram-nobis proceedings are attended by a strong presumption that the judgment of conviction is valid. Roberts v. State, 2013 Ark. 56, 425 S.W.3d 771; Carter v. State, 2012 Ark. 186 (per curiam); Penn v. State, 282 Ark. 571, 670 S.W.2d 426 (1984) (citing Troglin v. State, 257 Ark. 644, 519 S.W.2d 740 (1975)).

As grounds for the writ, petitioner first focuses on the trial court's denial of a defense motion for continuance that was based on counsel's consideration of whether to call petitioner's brother, Nicholas Mason, as a witness for the defense.[1] Petitioner contends that his trial attorney was remiss in failing to procure Nicholas's

Page 472

attendance at trial because Nicholas would have been a material witness for the defense. Petitioner further argues that counsel also erred in failing to object at trial to the State's having withheld from the defense the victim's statement and in failing to adequately represent him on direct appeal. In short, petitioner contends that he was not afforded effective assistance of counsel at trial and on direct appeal.

The allegations of ineffective assistance of counsel are outside the purview of a coram-nobis proceeding. Wright v. State, 2014 Ark. 25 (per curiam) (citing State v. Tejeda-Acosta, 2013 Ark. 217, 427 S.W.3d 673); Watts v. State, 2013 Ark. 485 (per curiam). Such claims are properly raised in a timely petition for postconviction relief pursuant to Arkansas Rule of Criminal Procedure 37.1 (2007). A petition for writ of error ...


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