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Spratt v. State

Supreme Court of Arkansas

July 31, 2014


Page 905


Roy Dean Spratt, Pro se, appellant.

Dustin McDaniel, Att'y Gen., by: Nicana C. Sherman, Ass't Att'y Gen., for appellee.



Page 906


In 2011, appellant Roy Dean Spratt was found guilty by a jury in the Desha County Circuit Court of attempted residential burglary and was sentenced as a habitual offender to 360 months' imprisonment. A fine of $5,000 was also imposed. The Arkansas Court of Appeals affirmed. Spratt v. State, 2013 Ark.App. 170.

In 2013, appellant filed in the circuit court a timely, verified pro se petition for postconviction relief pursuant to Arkansas Rule of Criminal Procedure 37.1 (2011). The petition was denied, and appellant brings this appeal. This court will reverse the circuit court's decision granting or denying postconviction relief only when that decision is clearly erroneous. Johnson v. State, 2014 Ark. 74; Pankau v. State, 2013 Ark. 162. A finding is clearly erroneous when, although there is evidence to support it, the appellate court, after reviewing the entire evidence, is left with the definite and firm conviction that a mistake has been committed. Sartin v. State, 2012 Ark. 155, 400 S.W.3d 694.

As his first point for reversal of the order, appellant contends that the trial court erred in denying the Rule 37.1 petition without holding an evidentiary hearing. Arkansas Rule of Criminal Procedure 37.3 provides that an evidentiary hearing should be held in a postconviction proceeding unless the files and record of the case conclusively show that the petitioner is entitled to no relief. Anthony v. State, 2014 Ark. 195 (per curiam); Lemaster v. State, 2013 Ark. 449 (per curiam); Eason v. State, 2011 Ark. 352 (per curiam); Hayes v. State, 2011 Ark. 327, 383 S.W.3d 824 (per curiam). When it denies a Rule 37.1 petition without an evidentiary hearing, the trial court " shall make written findings to that effect, specifying any parts of the files, or records that are relied upon to sustain the court's findings." Ark. R. Crim. P. 37.3(a); see Eason, 2011 Ark. 352; Montgomery v. State, 2011 Ark. 462, 385 S.W.3d 189 (" [W]here no hearing is held on a Rule 37 petition, the trial court has an obligation to provide written findings that conclusively show that the petitioner is entitled to no relief." ). Here, the trial court's order addressed the allegations raised in the Rule 37.1 petition in compliance with Rule 37.3(a), and, moreover, it was evident from the face of the

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petition and the record that no relief was warranted. See Lemaster, 2013 Ark. 449.

In his other issues in this appeal, appellant argues that it was error for the trial court to reject his claim that his trial attorney was ineffective.[1] When considering an appeal from a circuit court's denial of a Rule 37.1 petition based on ineffective assistance of counsel, the sole question presented is whether, based on a totality of the evidence under the standard set forth by the United States Supreme Court in Strickland v. Washington, 466 U.S. 668, 104 S.Ct. 2052, 80 L.Ed.2d 674 (1984), the circuit court clearly erred in holding that counsel's performance was not ineffective. Taylor v. State, 2013 Ark. 146, 427 S.W.3d 29. The benchmark for judging a claim of ineffective assistance of counsel must be " whether counsel's conduct so undermined the proper functioning of the adversarial process that the trial cannot be relied on as having produced a just result." Strickland, 466 U.S. at 686. Pursuant to Strickland, we assess the effectiveness of counsel under a two-prong standard. First, a petitioner raising a claim of ineffective assistance must show that counsel made errors so serious that counsel was not functioning as the " counsel" guaranteed the petitioner by the Sixth Amendment to the United States Constitution. Williams v. State, 369 Ark. 104, 251 S.W.3d 290 (2007). There is a strong presumption that trial counsel's conduct falls within the wide range of professional assistance, and a petitioner has the burden of overcoming this presumption by identifying specific acts or omissions of trial counsel, which, when viewed from counsel's perspective at the time of the trial, could not have been the result of reasonable professional judgment. Henington v. State, 2012 Ark. 181, 403 S.W.3d 55; McCraney v. State, 2010 Ark. 96, 360 S.W.3d 144 (per curiam).

Second, the petitioner must show that counsel's deficient performance so prejudiced petitioner's defense that he was deprived of a fair trial. Holloway v. State, 2013 Ark. 140, 426 S.W.3d 462. A petitioner making an ineffective-assistance-of-counsel claim must show that his counsel's performance fell below an objective standard of reasonableness. Abernathy v. State, 2012 Ark. 59, 385 S.W.3d 477 (per curiam). The petitioner must show that there is a reasonable probability that, but for counsel's errors, the fact-finder would have had a reasonable doubt respecting guilt, i.e., the decision reached would have been different absent the errors. Howard v. State, 367 Ark. 18, 238 S.W.3d 24 (2006). A reasonable probability is a probability sufficient to undermine confidence in the outcome of the trial. Id. The language, " the outcome of the trial," refers not only to the finding of guilt or innocence, but also to possible prejudice in sentencing. Id. Unless a petitioner makes both showings, it cannot be said that the conviction resulted from a breakdown in the adversarial ...

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