Petition for certiorari filed at, 08/17/2015
This opinion is uncorrected and subject to revision before publication in the printed official reporter.
PULASKI COUNTY CIRCUIT COURT, NO. 60CR-98-626.
For PETITIONER: WILLIAM ROBERT SIMPSON JR., ATTORNEY GENERAL.
SECOND PRO SE PETITION TO REINVEST JURISDICTION IN THE TRIAL COURT TO CONSIDER A PETITION FOR WRIT OF ERROR CORAM NOBIS
In 1999, James Charles Fudge was found guilty by a jury in the Pulaski County Circuit Court of capital murder and sentenced to death. We affirmed. Fudge v. State, 341 Ark. 759, 20 S.W.3d 315 (2000). In subsequent proceedings under Arkansas Rule of Criminal Procedure 37.5 (1999), the trial court granted Fudge a new sentencing hearing based upon trial counsel's failure to object to evidence that was presented as an aggravating circumstance. This court affirmed the order. State v. Fudge, 361 Ark. 412, 206 S.W.3d 850 (2005). On resentencing in 2006, Fudge was sentenced to life imprisonment without parole.
In 2010, Fudge filed a pro se petition asking that this court reinvest jurisdiction in the trial court to consider a petition for writ of error coram nobis. A petition to reinvest jurisdiction is necessary because a circuit court can entertain a petition for writ of error coram nobis only after this court grants permission. Dansby v. State, 343 Ark. 635, 37 S.W.3d 599 (2001) (per curiam). This court will grant such permission only when it appears 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 v. State, 2013 Ark. 273; Howard v. State, 2012 Ark. 177, 403 S.W.3d 38. The writ is allowed only under compelling circumstances to achieve justice and to address errors of the most fundamental nature. Hooper v. State, 2015 Ark. 108 (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: insanity at the time of trial, a coerced guilty plea, material evidence withheld by the prosecutor, or a third-party confession to the crime during the time between conviction and appeal. Cromeans, 2013 Ark. 273; Pitts v. State, 336 Ark. 580, 986 S.W.2d 407 (1999) (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 judgment. McFerrin v. State, 2012 Ark. 305 (per curiam); Cloird v. State, 2011 Ark. 303 (per curiam). The petitioner has the burden of demonstrating a fundamental error of fact extrinsic to the record. Williams v. State, 2011 Ark. 541 (per curiam). Coram-nobis proceedings are attended by a strong presumption that the judgment of conviction is valid. Roberts v. State, 2013 Ark. 56, 425 ...