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Noble v. State

Supreme Court of Arkansas

July 31, 2014

LEONARD NOBLE, PETITIONER
v.
STATE OF ARKANSAS, RESPONDENT

SEBASTIAN COUNTY CIRCUIT COURT, GREENWOOD DISTRICT. NO. 66CR-98-72.

Leonard Noble, Pro se, petitioner.

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

OPINION

PRO SE PETITION TO REINVEST JURISDICTION IN THE TRIAL COURT TO CONSIDER A PETITION FOR WRIT OF ERROR CORAM NOBIS

Page 48

PER CURIAM

In 1999, petitioner Leonard Noble was found guilty by a jury of residential burglary and rape and sentenced as a habitual offender to an aggregate sentence of 900 months' imprisonment. The Arkansas Court of Appeals affirmed. Noble v. State, CR-00-587 (Ark.App. Sept. 19, 2001) (original docket no. CACR 00-587).

Petitioner has now filed a pro se petition in this court requesting tat 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,

Page 49

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 states that he has been trying diligently to acquire evidence that was suppressed by the prosecution that would show that he is actually innocent of the offenses. A claim of evidence wrongfully suppressed by the State fits within one of the four categories for coram-nobis relief under Brady v. Maryland, 373 U.S. 83, 83 S.Ct. 1194, 10 L.Ed.2d 215 (1963). Failure to disclose evidence favorable to the defense in violation of Brady, if established, is cause to grant the writ. Pitts, 336 Ark. 580, 986 S.W.2d 407.

In Strickler v. Greene, 527 U.S. 263, 119 S.Ct. 1936, 144 L.Ed.2d 286 (1999), the Supreme Court revisited Brady and declared that, when the petitioner contends that material evidence was not disclosed to the defense, the petitioner must show that " there is a reasonable probability that, had the evidence been disclosed to the defense, the result of the proceeding would have been different." 527 U.S. at 280 (quoting United States v. Bagley, 473 U.S. 667, 682, 105 S.Ct. 3375, 87 L.Ed.2d 481 (1985)). In Strickler, the Court also set out the three elements of a true Brady violation: (1) the evidence at issue must be favorable to the accused, either because it is exculpatory, or because it is impeaching; (2) the evidence must have been suppressed by the State, either willfully or inadvertently; and (3) prejudice must have ensued. Strickler, 527 U.S. 263, 119 S.Ct. 1936, 144 L.Ed.2d 286; see also Buchanan v. State, 2010 Ark. 285 (per curiam). Here, petitioner has not demonstrated that there was specific evidence favorable to the defense that was suppressed by the State or that he was prejudiced.

As grounds for the claim that the State withheld favorable evidence from the defense, appellant states that the defense filed a motion for discovery in 1999 seeking any report or statement of experts, including results of physical or mental examinations, scientific testing, and comparisons, but the prosecutor deliberately suppressed the evidence requested. ...


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