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Oliver v. State

Supreme Court of Arkansas

February 25, 2016

KELLY LAMONT OLIVER, APPELLANT
v.
STATE OF ARKANSAS, APPELLEE

          APPEAL FROM THE GARLAND COUNTY CIRCUIT COURT. NO. 26CR-10-519. HONORABLE MARCIA R. HEARNSBERGER, JUDGE.

         Kelly Lamont Oliver, Pro se, appellant.

         Leslie Rutledge, Att'y Gen., by: Pamela Rumpz, Ass't Att'y Gen., for appellee.

          OPINION

Page 299

          PER CURIAM

         In 2012, appellant Kelly Lamont Oliver entered a negotiated plea of guilty to attempted first-degree murder and aggravated robbery. He was sentenced to an aggregate term of 780 months' imprisonment. On May 19, 2015, Oliver filed in the trial court a pro se petition for writ of error coram nobis. The petition was denied. Oliver brings this appeal.

          The standard of review of an order entered by the trial court on a petition for writ of error coram nobis is whether the trial court abused its discretion in granting or denying the writ. Newman v. State, 2014 Ark. 7, at 13-14. An abuse of discretion occurs when the trial court acts arbitrarily or groundlessly. Nelson v. State, 2014 Ark. 91, 431 S.W.3d 852. The trial court's findings of fact, on which it bases its decision to grant or deny the petition for writ of error coram nobis, will not be reversed on appeal unless they are clearly erroneous or clearly against the preponderance of the evidence. Newman v. State, 2014 Ark. 7, at 13-14. There is no abuse of discretion in the denial of error-coram-nobis relief when the claims in the petition were groundless. Nelson, 2014 Ark. 91, 431 S.W.3d 852.

          A writ of error coram nobis is an extraordinarily rare remedy. State v. Larimore, 341 Ark. 397, 17 S.W.3d 87 (2000). Coram-nobis proceedings are attended by a strong presumption that the judgment of conviction is valid. Id. The

Page 300

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 trial court and which, through no negligence or fault of the defendant, was not brought forward before rendition of the judgment. Newman v. State, 2009 Ark. 539, 354 S.W.3d 61. The petitioner has the burden of demonstrating a fundamental error of fact extrinsic to the record. Roberts v. State, 2013 Ark. 56, 425 S.W.3d 771.

          The writ is allowed only under compelling circumstances to achieve justice and to address errors of the most fundamental nature. Id. A writ of error coram nobis is available for addressing 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. Howard v. State, 2012 Ark. 177, 403 S.W.3d 38.

         In his petition, Oliver first stated that he had filed a petition for writ of habeas corpus in federal court, alleging that he was denied effective assistance of counsel when he entered his plea, and that the claim would be " reiterated herein." The ineffective-assistance-of-counsel allegations raised in the coram-nobis petition, however, did not establish a ground for the writ. This court has repeatedly held that ineffective-assistance-of-counsel claims are not cognizable in error-coram-nobis proceedings and that such proceedings are not a substitute for raising ineffective-assistance-of-counsel claims under our postconviction rule, Arkansas Rule of Criminal Procedure 37.1. White v. State, 2015 Ark. 151, at 4-5, 460 S.W.3d 285, 288.

          Oliver also argued in his petition that his guilty plea was coerced, which is one of the grounds on which the writ may issue. Oliver did not allege that the plea was the result of fear, duress, or threats of mob violence as previously recognized by this court as grounds for a finding of coercion. SeeWeekly v. State, 2014 Ark. 365, 440 S.W.3d 341 (per curiam). Instead, he contended that he suffered from a mental disease or defect and that he entered the plea when he had not been receiving his psychiatric medication, was out of touch with his mother on whom he relied, was affected by his attorney's " stronger will," and was " scared to death." He further asserted that his attorney, the trial court, and everyone in the courtroom was hostile to him, which, when coupled with his mental instability and desire to please the court, caused him to enter the plea. He stated that he had a history of suicide attempts and had been prescribed medication to treat mood and depressive disorders. Oliver alleged that there was a doctor who would testify to his mental disease or defect, but counsel erroneously advised him that the doctor was neither licensed nor qualified. Thus, the crux of Oliver's claim for issuance of the writ was primarily the claim that his plea was the result of his mental state. This court has held that, when claiming insanity at the time of trial, the burden is on the petitioner who claims a history of mental disease or defect to overcome the strong presumption that the judgment was valid. Noble v. State, 2015 Ark. 215, at 3, 462 S.W.3d 341, 344 (per curiam). The petitioner ...


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