APPEAL FROM THE HOWARD COUNTY CIRCUIT COURT. NO. CR-08-93. HON. CHARLES A. YEARGAN, JUDGE.
Jeff Rosenzweig, for appellant.
Dustin McDaniel, Att'y Gen., by: Lauren Elizabeth Heil, Ass't Att'y Gen., for appellee.
JIM HANNAH, Chief Justice.
Appellant Wyouman David Camp appeals an order of the Howard County Circuit Court denying his petition for postconviction relief pursuant to Arkansas Rule of Criminal Procedure 37.1 (2014). For reversal, Camp argues that the circuit court erred in denying his petition because his counsel was ineffective for advising him to reject the State's plea offer. This court has jurisdiction of this case because we are required by law to hear postconviction appeals. See Ark. S.Ct. R. 1-2(a)(8) (2014). We affirm.
On May 26, 2008, Harry Surber fatally shot Camp's estranged wife, Robin Camp, while she worked as a cashier at the Family Dollar Store in Nashville. Prior to trial,
the State offered Camp a sentence of twenty years in exchange for a guilty plea, but Camp rejected the State's offer. The case proceeded to trial, and Surber testified that Camp and his sister, Jo Ann Hicks, had hired him to murder Robin. The jury convicted Camp of first-degree murder as an accomplice and sentenced him to life imprisonment in the Arkansas Department of Correction. Paul Hoover, who is now deceased, represented Camp at trial.
We granted Camp's pro se motion for belated appeal and for appointment of counsel, taking judicial notice of Hoover's death in October 2009. Camp v. State, 2010 Ark. 193 (per curiam). We affirmed in Camp v. State, 2011 Ark. 155, 381 S.W.3d 11.
On July 11, 2011, Camp filed a pro se Rule 37 petition, alleging that he was denied effective assistance of counsel. In his petition, Camp argued that Hoover was ineffective for his failure (1) to keep Camp informed of discovery and to insist that he reject the plea; (2) to procure material witnesses for Camp's defense; (3) to file a motion to suppress to exclude Camp's cell-phone records; (4) to object to photographs of a pistol owned by Camp; (5) to call an expert witness to question Surber's drug use; (6) to allow the State to lead a prosecution witness; and (7) to object to a juror's dismissal. For his eighth ineffective-assistance claim, Camp alleged that the circuit court erred in denying his motion for directed verdict. Subsequently, Camp retained Jeff Rosenzweig as postconviction counsel.
On March 4, 2013, the circuit court held a hearing on Camp's petition for postconviction relief. Camp testified about the circumstances surrounding the plea offer. He testified that Hoover was deceased; that Hoover had visited him twice in jail while he awaited trial; and that he had met with Hoover once or twice in the courtroom. Camp testified that he and Hoover discussed the State's offer of a twenty-year sentence in exchange for a guilty plea. According to Camp, Hoover advised him not to take the offer because the State did not have any evidence against him. The transcript of the parties' in-chambers plea discussion reveals that the circuit court directed Hoover to ask Camp pertinent questions surrounding the plea. In response to Hoover's questions, Camp stated that he knew that he could plead guilty in exchange for a twenty-year sentence; that he had knowledge of the plea offer but declined the State's offer; that he knew of the evidence to be presented; and that he made the decision to reject the plea offer voluntarily.
At the Rule 37 hearing, Camp testified that he remembered declining the plea offer but claimed that he was not aware that the State would use certain evidence against him. When asked by Rule 37 counsel whether he had knowledge of the State's evidence presented against him at trial, Camp replied, " No." Camp claimed that he did not know that Hicks or Brandy Holt, his wife's daughter, would testify against him at trial. Camp stated that he was surprised when Hicks testified about " what [he] wanted done" and that Holt testified about a " pistol that was presented as evidence that I had her over at the sale barn taking target practice with it [sic]." Camp also claimed that Hoover had not told him prior to trial that Surber would testify that Camp had hired him to kill his wife. When asked if he would have accepted the twenty-year plea offer if he had been made aware of ...