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Barnett v. State

Supreme Court of Arkansas

May 7, 2015

RODNEY E. BARNETT, PETITIONER
v.
STATE OF ARKANSAS, RESPONDENT

Page 684

MISSISSIPPI COUNTY CIRCUIT COURT, CHICKASAWBA DISTRICT, NO. 47CR-94-372.

Rodney Barnett, petitioner, Pro se.

Leslie Rutledge, Att'y Gen., by: Kathryn Henry, Ass't Att'y Gen., for respondent.

OPINION

Page 685

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

PER CURIAM

In 2000, petitioner Rodney E. Barnett was convicted by a jury in the Mississippi County Circuit Court, Chickasawba District, of the capital murder of Lester Frazier and was sentenced to life imprisonment without parole. We affirmed. Barnett v. State, 346 Ark. 11, 53 S.W.3d 527 (2001).

In 2006, Barnett filed in this court a pro se petition to reinvest jurisdiction in the circuit court to consider a petition for writ of error coram nobis, in which he alleged that the prosecutor withheld material evidence to bolster the testimony of one of its witnesses, Larry Black. Specifically, Barnett contended that the prosecutor withheld jail records that would have supported his claim that he never shared a jail cell with Black and, thus, Black's testimony regarding a jail-house confession could not have been credible. The petition was denied on the ground that Barnett's claim that he did not share a jail cell with Black was made a part of the record through the cross-examination of Black, and, therefore, coram-nobis relief was not appropriate where Barnett failed to demonstrate some fundamental error of fact extrinsic to the record. Barnett v. State, CR-00-1384, (Ark. Jan. 25, 2007) (unpublished per curiam).

Now before us is Barnett's second pro se petition to reinvest jurisdiction in the circuit court to consider a petition for writ of error coram nobis.[1] 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. Cromeans v. State, 2013 Ark. 273 (per curiam) (citing Sparks v. State, 2012 Ark. 464 (per curiam)); Grant v. State, 2010 Ark. 286, 365 S.W.3d 894 (per curiam) (citing Newman v. State, 2009 Ark. 539, 354 S.W.3d 61). This court will grant such permission only when it appears that the proposed attack on the judgment is meritorious. Echols v. State, 354 Ark. 414, 418, 125 S.W.3d 153, 156 (2003). In making such a determination, we look to the reasonableness of the allegations of the petition and to the existence of the probability of the truth thereof. Id.

A writ of error coram nobis is an extraordinarily rare remedy more known for its denial than its approval. Cromeans, 2013 Ark. 273 (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) (citing Newman, 2009 Ark. 539, 354 S.W.3d 61). The function of the writ is to secure relief from a judgment rendered while there existed some fact that would

Page 686

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, ...


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