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Vance v. State

Supreme Court of Arkansas

June 4, 2015

DAVID L. VANCE, PETITIONER
v.
STATE OF ARKANSAS, RESPONDENT

Counsel Amended June 11, 2015.

SALINE COUNTY CIRCUIT COURT, NO. 63CR-09-315.

David R. Cannon, attorney.

Attorney General.

OPINION

Page 839

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

PER CURIAM

In 2010, David L. Vance was found guilty of raping his fourteen-year-old daughter and was sentenced to 240 months' imprisonment. We affirmed. Vance v. State, 2011 Ark. 392, 384 S.W.3d 515. Vance then filed in the trial court a petition for postconviction relief pursuant to Arkansas Rule of Criminal Procedure 37.1 (2011). The petition was denied, and this court affirmed the order. Vance v. State, 2012 Ark. 254 (per curiam).

On April 16, 2015, Vance filed in this court the pro se petition that is now before us seeking leave to proceed in the trial court with a petition for writ of error

Page 840

coram nobis.[1] After a judgment has been affirmed on appeal, a petition filed in this court for leave to proceed in the trial court is necessary because the circuit court can entertain a petition for writ of error coram nobis only after we grant permission. Dansby v. State, 343 Ark. 635, 37 S.W.3d 599 (2001) (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). The writ is allowed only under compelling circumstances to achieve justice and to address errors of the most fundamental nature. 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: 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. Charland v. State, 2013 Ark. 452 (per curiam) (citing 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. Chestang v. State, 2014 Ark. 477 (per curiam); McFerrin v. State, 2012 Ark. 305 (per curiam). The petitioner has the burden of demonstrating a fundamental error of fact extrinsic to the record. Wright v. State, 2014 Ark. 25 (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 S.W.3d 771.

In his petition, Vance contends that the prosecution at his trial withheld exculpatory evidence from the defense in violation of Brady v. Maryland, 373 U.S. 83, 83 S.Ct. 1194, 10 L.Ed.2d 215 (1963). Vance identifies the withheld evidence as bloody sheets and couch covers. He notes that this court, in the decision affirming the judgment, referred to the victim's awakening one morning and noticing vaginal bleeding and to Vance's engaging in intercourse with the victim on a couch. Vance points to testimony at trial where a witness testified that the sheets from the bed where the victim was raped were not seized by authorities, probably because the rape was alleged to have been committed two months prior, and that there was no effort to obtain the sheets for forensic testing even though blood evidence can sometimes be found after repeated washings. Vance contends that the failure to seize the evidence amounts to withholding material evidence that could have established his innocence. Vance's claim is essentially that the State failed to collect all the evidence that could have been obtained that would have been favorable to the defense.

A Brady violation is established when evidence favorable to the defense is wrongfully withheld by the State. Pitts, 336 Ark. 580, 986 S.W.2d 407. In Strickler v. Greene, 527 U.S. 263, 119 S.Ct. 1936, 144 L.Ed.2d 286 (1999), the Supreme Court revisited Brady and declared that, when the petitioner contends that material evidence was ...


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