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Mooney v. State

Supreme Court of Arkansas

October 30, 2014

SONYA NATE MOONEY, PETITIONER
v.
STATE OF ARKANSAS, RESPONDENT

PETITION WITH AMENDMENT DENIED.

Sonya Nate Mooney, Pro se petitioner.

Dustin McDaniel, Att'y Gen., by: Kent G. Holt, Ass't Att'y Gen., Valerie L. Hays, for respondent.

OPINION

Page 122

PRO S.E. PETITION TO REINVEST JURISDICTION IN THE TRIAL COURT TO CONSIDER A PETITION FOR WRIT OF ERROR CORAM NOBIS AND AMENDMENT TO PETITION [CRAIGHEAD COUNTY CIRCUIT COURT, NO. 16CR-06-378]

PER CURIAM

In 2008, petitioner Sonya Nate Mooney was found guilty by a jury of first-degree murder and sentenced to 420 months' imprisonment. The Arkansas Court of Appeals affirmed. Mooney v. State, 2009 Ark.App. 622, 331 S.W.3d 588.

On September 2, 2014, petitioner filed the instant pro se petition, seeking to reinvest jurisdiction in the circuit court to consider a petition for writ of error coram nobis in the case.[1] Subsequently, petitioner

Page 123

filed an amendment to the petition. The petition, as amended, is denied because petitioner has failed to raise any claim that would support issuance of a writ of error coram nobis.

A petition for leave to proceed in the circuit court is necessary because the circuit court can entertain a petition for writ of error coram nobis after a judgment has been affirmed on appeal only after we grant permission. Pitts v. State, 2014 Ark. 132 (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) (citing Howard v. State, 2012 Ark. 177, 403 S.W.3d 38). Coram-nobis proceedings are attended by a strong presumption that the judgment of conviction is valid. Greene v. State, 2013 Ark. 251 (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 circuit court and which, through no negligence or fault of the defendant, was not brought forward before rendition of the judgment. Id. The petitioner has the burden of demonstrating a fundamental error of fact extrinsic to the record. Williams v. State, 2011 Ark. 541 (per curiam).

The writ is allowed only under compelling circumstances to achieve justice and to address errors of the most fundamental nature. Cromeans, 2013 Ark. 273 (citing 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: (1) insanity at the time of trial, (2) a coerced guilty plea, (3) material evidence withheld by the prosecutor, or (4) a third-party confession to the crime during the time between conviction and appeal. Greene, 2013 Ark. 251.

Petitioner first asserts that coram-nobis relief is warranted because Brady v. Maryland, 373 U.S. 83, 83 S.Ct. 1194, 10 L.Ed.2d 215 (1963) was violated based on the concealment of evidence by the prosecuting attorney and defense counsel. Failure to disclose evidence favorable to the defense is a Brady violation, and such an allegation falls within one of the four categories of coram-nobis relief. Bannister v. State, 2014 Ark. 59 (per curiam). The United States Supreme Court held in Brady that " the suppression by the prosecution of evidence favorable to an accused upon request violates due process where the evidence is material to guilt or punishment, irrespective of the good faith or bad faith of the prosecution." Brady, 373 U.S. at 87. In Strickler v. Greene, 527 U.S. 263, 119 S.Ct. 1936, 144 L.Ed.2d 286 (1999), the Court revisited Brady and declared that evidence is material " if 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)). There are three elements of a 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; (3) prejudice must have ensued. Strickler, 527 U.S. 263, 119 S.Ct. 1936, 144 L.Ed.2d 286; Watts v. State, 2013 Ark. 485 (per curiam).

Petitioner contends that Brady was violated because the prosecution and defense counsel concealed from the jury an unrelated ...


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