PETITION TO REINVEST JURISDICTION IN THE TRIAL COURT TO
CONSIDER A PETITION FOR WRIT OF ERROR CORAM NOBIS [PULASKI
COUNTY CIRCUIT COURT, NO. 60CR-03-2984]
Tishaun Stenhouse is incarcerated in the Arkansas Department
of Correction pursuant to a 2004 judgment reflecting his
convictions for capital murder and committing a felony with a
firearm for which he was sentenced to life imprisonment
without parole plus 15 years' imprisonment. This court
affirmed his convictions and sentences. Stenhouse v.
State, 362 Ark. 480, 209 S.W.3d 352 (2005).
before this court is Stenhouse's application to reinvest
jurisdiction in the trial court to consider a petition for
writ of error coram nobis based on a claim that the
prosecutor withheld material exculpatory evidence in
violation of Brady v. Maryland, 373 U.S. 83 (1963).
Stenhouse contends that this evidence would have established
that Stenhouse had acted in self-defense at the time he shot
the victim, Braylon Gray. In his response to the State's
response to his petition, Stenhouse alternatively alleges
that had the evidence been disclosed there is a reasonable
probability that he would have been convicted of a lesser-
included offense, or that his sentence for capital murder
would have been mitigated. Stenhouse further contends that
the prosecutor withheld evidence of plea deals that could
have been used to impeach the credibility of the State's
eyewitnesses-Tiffany Williams and Brandon Landers.
support of his claim for relief, an affidavit is attached to
the petition executed by Tiffany Williams in March 2016
wherein Williams recants her trial testimony in which she
stated that Gray was unarmed and walking away from Stenhouse
at the time Gray was shot and killed. Instead, Williams avers
in the affidavit that Gray was armed, possessed drugs, and
was approaching Stenhouse with a gun in hand when Stenhouse
fired the fatal shots and that Williams removed Gray's
gun as well as the drugs and hid them before the police
arrived. According to the affidavit, Williams informed the
prosecutor that she had concealed Gray's gun and drugs,
and the prosecutor intentionally suppressed this revelation.
Williams's affidavit further accuses the prosecutor of
securing probation for Williams on felony forgery charges
that were pending against her in exchange for Williams's
favorable testimony and of deliberately concealing the plea
deal. Finally, Williams attests in the affidavit that the
prosecutor gave Williams debit cards as well as "Old
Navy" gift cards to ensure Williams's continuing
further alleges that Brandon Landers was also given a plea
deal in exchange for his testimony, which was, likewise,
withheld from the defense. In support of this allegation,
Stenhouse attaches documents demonstrating Landers's
guilty pleas and sentences to possession of controlled
substances in August 2003 and October 2003. According to
Stenhouse, the lenient sentences imposed as a result of
Landers's guilty pleas demonstrate that Landers's
testimony was provided in exchange for plea deals that had
been concealed from the defense.
first note that a petition filed in this court for leave to
proceed in the trial court where the judgment was entered is
necessary because the trial court can entertain a petition
for writ of error coram nobis after a judgment has been
affirmed on appeal only after we grant permission.
Roberts v. State, 2013 Ark. 56, at 11, 425 S.W.3d
771, 778. A writ of error coram nobis is an extraordinarily
rare remedy. Howard v. State, 2012 Ark. 177, at 4,
403 S.W.3d 38, 42–43. Coram-nobis proceedings are
attended by a strong presumption that the judgment of
conviction is valid. Id. 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 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
writ is allowed only under compelling circumstances to
achieve justice and to address errors of the most fundamental
nature. Id. We have held that 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.
not required to accept the allegations in a petition for writ
of error coram nobis at face value. Goff v. State,
2012 Ark. 68, at 3, 398 S.W.3d 896, 898 (per curiam). While
allegations of a Brady violation fall within one of
the four categories of fundamental error that this court has
recognized, the fact that a petitioner alleges a
Brady violation alone is not sufficient to provide a
basis for error-coram-nobis relief. Smith v. State,
2015 Ark. 188, at 4-5, 461 S.W.3d 345, 349 (per curiam). To
establish a Brady violation, three elements are
required: (1) the evidence at issue must be favorable to the
accused, either because it is exculpatory or because it is
impeaching; (2) that evidence must have been suppressed by
the State, either willfully or inadvertently; (3) prejudice
must have ensued. State v. Larimore, 341 Ark. 397,
404, 17 S.W.3d 87, 91 (2000).
that the alleged withheld evidence meets the requirements of
a Brady violation and is both material and
prejudicial, in order to justify issuance of the writ, the
withheld material evidence must also be such as to have
prevented rendition of the judgment had it been known at the
time of trial. Smith, 2015 Ark. 188, at 4–5,
461 S.W.3d at 349. To merit relief, a petitioner must
demonstrate that there is a reasonable probability that the
judgment of conviction would not have been rendered, or would
have been prevented, had the information been disclosed at
trial. Id. Finally, this court has held that
recanted testimony is not cognizable in a claim for
error-coram-nobis relief. Jackson v. State, 2010
Ark. 81, at 2 (per curiam). This is so because a writ of
error coram nobis may not be used to contradict any fact
already adjudicated. Smith v. State, 200 Ark. 767,
768, 140 S.W.2d 675, 676 (1940). Here, Williams recanted her
trial testimony over ten years after Stenhouse had been
convicted and his conviction had been affirmed on direct
appeal. Stenhouse, 362 Ark.
480, 209 S.W.3d 352.
contends in his petition that Williams's affidavit
establishes a Brady violation entitling him to
coram-nobis relief because the allegations contained therein
attest to the deliberate suppression of material evidence
that was unknown to the defense, which creates a reasonable
probability that, had this evidence been disclosed, the
result of his trial would have been different. To the extent
that Williams's affidavit recanting her testimony has
alleged sufficient facts to meet the requirements of a
Brady violation, the remaining testimony and
evidence presented at the trial demonstrates that evidence
that Gray was armed, which Williams alleges had been
suppressed, would not have changed the outcome of the trial.
trial record reveals that Williams and Landers were called to
testify by the State, and two additional eyewitnesses, Marvin
Porter and Angelo Scott, were called by the defense.
Williams, together with Landers, Porter, and Scott, testified
that Gray had not made verbal threats or behaved aggressively
toward Stenhouse, while Williams, Landers, and Porter
testified that Gray was unarmed. Porter, a witness for the
defense, testified that after Stenhouse fired the first shot,
Gray fell face-down on the ground as Stenhouse continued
firing his gun. The above-cited testimony was consistent with
the physical evidence described by the medical examiner, in
that, the examiner testified that the autopsy established
that Gray had been shot multiple times in the back and that
the trajectory of at least two of the bullets demonstrated
that shots had been fired while Gray was lying face- down on
the ground. The remaining physical evidence adduced at trial
established that six bullet casings discovered at the scene
were fired from the same gun, that the casings matched
bullets removed from Gray's body and from the crime
scene, and that gunshot residue on Gray's clothing
established that at least two bullets were fired at close
range or approximately twelve inches from the point of
impact. Despite evidence that a nearby street lamp
illuminated the area where the shooting occurred, Stenhouse
testified that he never saw the gun that Williams now asserts
was in Gray's hand. Finally, Stenhouse admitted that he
could have retreated during the course of the events that led
to Gray's death.
of the testimony and evidence recited above, the presentation
of Williams's recent account of events would not have
changed the outcome of the trial by establishing that
Stenhouse fired in self-defense, especially in light of
Stenhouse's admission that he did not see a gun in
Gray's possession. See Halfacre v. State, 277
Ark. 168, 171–72, 639 S.W.2d 734, 736, (1982) (in
determining the reasonableness of appellant's plea of
self-defense, the relevant issue was not whether the victims
had started fights, but whether appellant was aware of such
incidents). Finally, Stenhouse's admission that he could
have retreated further negates his assertion of self-defense.
See Ark. Code Ann. § 5-2-607(b) (Repl. 2006).
alternatively contends that disclosure of evidence allegedly
suppressed by the prosecutor created a reasonable probability
that he would have been convicted of either first-degree
murder, second-degree murder, or manslaughter-the
lesser-included offenses to capital murder. Again, a review
of the testimony and evidence set forth above dispels a
reasonable probability that such evidence would have resulted
in a conviction of a lesser-included offense that did not
include premeditation and deliberation. See Ark.
Code Ann. § 5-10-101(4) (Repl. 1997). This court has
held that premeditation and deliberation may be inferred from
the type and character of the weapon; the manner in which the
weapon was used; the nature, extent, and location of the
wounds; and the accused's conduct. Thornton v.
State, 2014 Ark. 157, at 12, 433 S.W.3d 216,
222–23 (citing Robinson v. State, 363 Ark.
432, 214 S.W.3d 840 (2005)). Evidence of multiple close-range
gunshots is consistent with a conclusion of premeditation and
deliberation. See id. (citing Coggin v.
State, 356 Ark. 424, 156 S.W.3d 712 (2004)). Findings of
premeditation have been upheld in cases where the evidence
showed that a victim was shot multiple times from behind.
See id. (citing Farris v. State, 308 Ark.
561, 826 S.W.2d 241 (1992)).
subsequent statement recanting her testimony that Gray was
unarmed does not establish that Gray's murder was
justified, nor does it refute evidence establishing that
Stenhouse acted with premeditation and deliberation when he
shot Gray multiple times in the back and at close range.
See Taylor v. State, 303 Ark. 586, 594, 799 S.W.2d
519, 524 (1990) (recanted testimony would not have dispelled
evidence of the appellant's involvement in the crime and
resulted in a different verdict). Moreover, Stenhouse's
assertion that evidence that Gray was armed would have
mitigated his sentence for the crime of capital murder is
without merit because ...