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Gardner v. Hobbs

Supreme Court of Arkansas

September 4, 2014


Page 664


Wallace Gardner, Pro se, appellant.

Dustin McDaniel, Att'y Gen., by: Kent G. Holt, Ass't Att'y Gen., for appellee.


Page 665


In 2004, appellant Wallace Gardner was found guilty by a jury of capital murder and aggravated robbery. He was sentenced as a habitual offender to an aggregate term of life imprisonment without parole. We affirmed. Gardner v. State, 364 Ark. 506, 221 S.W.3d 339 (2006).

In 2013, appellant, who was incarcerated at a unit of the Arkansas Department of Correction located in Jefferson County, filed a pro se petition for writ of habeas corpus in the Jefferson County Circuit Court.[1] In the petition, he raised the following claims: the felony information violated the constitutional prohibition against double jeopardy because it was necessary to prove the underlying offense of aggravated robbery to prove the offense of capital murder, and he was denied equal protection and due process of law; he is actually innocent of the offenses; the evidence adduced at trial was insufficient to sustain the judgment; he was not afforded effective assistance of of counsel. The circuit court denied the habeas petition, and appellant brings this appeal. Appellant has also filed a motion for appointment of counsel to represent him on appeal.

In his brief, appellant repeats the claims raised in the habeas petition pertaining to double jeopardy, sufficiency of the evidence, and ineffective assistance of counsel and also argues other points that were not raised below. Interspersed with the sufficiency-of-the-evidence argument, appellant contends that he is actually innocent of the offenses.[2]

A circuit court's denial of habeas relief will not be reversed unless the court's findings are clearly erroneous. Sanders v. Straughn, 2014 Ark. 312, 439 S.W.3d 1 (per curiam) (citing Henderson v. State, 2014 Ark. 180 (per curiam)). 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. Bryant v. Hobbs, 2014 Ark. 287 (per curiam); Tolefree v. State, 2014 Ark. 26 (per curiam) (citing Hill v. State, 2013 Ark. 413 (per curiam)). Because it is clear from the record that the circuit court did not err in its order, appellant's motion for appointment of counsel is denied, and the order is affirmed.

A writ of habeas corpus is proper only when a judgment of conviction is invalid on its face or when a trial court lacked jurisdiction over the cause. Bryant, 2014 Ark. 287; Girley v. Hobbs, 2012 Ark. 447 (per curiam); Abernathy v. Norris, 2011 Ark. 335 (per curiam). The burden is on the petitioner in a habeas-corpus petition to establish that the circuit court lacked jurisdiction or that the commitment was invalid on its face; otherwise, there is no basis for a finding that a writ of habeas corpus should issue. Bryant, 2014 Ark. 287 (citing Young v. Norris, 365 Ark. 219, 226 S.W.3d 797 (2006) (per curiam)). Under our statute, a petitioner who does not proceed under Act 1780 of 2001 Acts of Arkansas must plead either the facial invalidity or the lack of jurisdiction by the trial court and must additionally make a showing by affidavit or other evidence of probable cause to believe that he is illegally detained. Ark. Code Ann. § 16-112-103(a)(1) (Repl. 2006);

Page 666

Murphy v. State, 2013 Ark. 155 (per curiam); Murry v. Hobbs, 2013 Ark. 64 (per curiam). Proceedings for the writ are not intended to require an extensive review of the record of the trial proceedings, and the court's inquiry into the validity of the judgment is limited to the face of the commitment order. Murphy, 2013 Ark. 155.

With respect to appellant's double-jeopardy claim, some claims of double jeopardy are cognizable in a habeas proceeding. Meadows v. State, 2013 Ark. 440 (per curiam); see also Flowers v. Norris, 347 Ark. 760, 68 S.W.3d 289 (2002). Detention for an illegal period of time is precisely what a writ of habeas corpus is designed to correct. Meadows, 2013 Ark. 440. But, when a double-jeopardy claim does not allege that, on the face of the commitment order, there was an illegal sentence imposed on a conviction, the claim does not implicate the jurisdiction of the court to hear the case, and the claim is not one cognizable in a habeas ...

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