MOTION FOR TRANSCRIBED RECORD AND FOR EXTENSION OF TIME TO
FILE BRIEF [PULASKI COUNTY CIRCUIT COURT, NO. 60CR-14-2209]
December 14, 2015, appellant Ronnie Johnson pleaded guilty to
two counts of robbery and was sentenced to an aggregate
sentence of 480 months' imprisonment in the Arkansas
Department of Correction. On January 14, 2016, Johnson filed
a pro se petition for writ of error coram nobis, a petition
for correction of illegal sentence in an illegal manner, a
motion for evidentiary hearing, and a notice of
fraud/fraudulent practices, alleging that he was induced,
misled, misguided, and misinformed by counsel into pleading
guilty and that counsel failed to present a defense and did
not "test the State's case[.]" Specifically,
Johnson claimed that counsel was ineffective for failing to
obtain video-surveillance evidence of one of the two
robberies taken from an E-Z Mart and that he would not have
pleaded guilty had counsel not "committed the
prejudicial errors that ha[ve] tainted his case." He
further argued that, because he was induced into pleading
guilty, his sentence is illegal. The trial court denied
Johnson's request for relief, finding that Johnson failed
to state how he was induced into pleading guilty; that there
was no proof of coercion offered; that Johnson was not
entitled to an evidentiary hearing; and that Johnson's
sentence was not illegal. Now before us is Johnson's motion
for transcribed record and for extension of time to file a
is clear from the record that the appellant cannot prevail if
an appeal of an order that denied postconviction relief were
permitted to go forward, we dismiss the appeal. Wheeler
v. State, 2015 Ark. 233, 463 S.W.3d 678 (per curiam);
see also Justus v. State, 2012 Ark. 91. As it is
clear from the record that Johnson could not prevail on
appeal, the appeal is dismissed. The dismissal of the appeal
renders the motion moot.
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 clearly erroneous or clearly
against the preponderance of the evidence. Newman,
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
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 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.
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
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, 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.
Johnson attempts to couch his video-surveillance claim in
terms of a coerced-guilty plea, which would provide a basis
for relief in a coram-nobis proceeding, the actual basis for
his claim is ineffective assistance of counsel with the
underlying argument that, due to counsel's deficiency in
not obtaining the E-Z Mart video surveillance, he would not
have pleaded guilty to robbery. 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, 460 S.W.3d 285, 288.
Johnson contends he was coerced by his counsel's
statement to "take this deal or else" and that
counsel "induced [him] to affirmatively answer[ ] that
he was 'satisified' with the services of
'counsel[ ]', " he did not allege that he
suffered any specific mistreatment. See Westerman v.
State, 2015 Ark. 69, 456 S.W.3d 374. Johnson did not
demonstrate that his plea was obtained through intimidation,
coercion, or threats because the coram-nobis petition did not
allege that the plea was the result of fear, duress, or
threats of mob violence as previously recognized by this
court as cognizable for coram-nobis relief. Gonder v.
State, 2016 Ark. 140, reh'g denied (Apr.
21, 2016); Noble v. State, 2015 Ark. 141, 460 S.W.3d
774. Simply put, Johnson's allegations do not rise to the
level of coercion, which is defined as "compulsion of a
free agent by physical, moral, or economic force or threat of
physical force." White v. State, 2015 Ark. 151,
at 5, 460 S.W.3d 285, 288-89 (quoting Black's Law
Dictionary 315 (10th ed. 2014)). Accordingly, the trial
court properly denied coram-nobis relief.
extent Johnson argued that his judgment was illegal on its
face, the claim also fails. Perrian v. State, 2015
Ark. 424, at 2 (per curiam) (An appeal from an order that
denied a petition for postconviction relief, including a
petition under Arkansas Code Annotated section 16-90-111,
will not be permitted to go forward where it is clear that
there is no merit to the appeal.). There is a provision in
section 16-90-111 that allows the trial court to correct an
illegal sentence at any time because a claim that a sentence
is illegal presents an issue of subject-matter jurisdiction.
Williams v. State, 2016 Ark. 16, 479 S.W.3d 544 (per
curiam). While the time limitations on filing a petition
under section 16-90-111(a)(b)(1) on the grounds that the
sentence was imposed in an illegal manner were superseded by
Arkansas Rule of Criminal Procedure 37.2(c) (2015), the
portion of section 16-90-111 that provides a means to
challenge a sentence at any time on the ground that the
sentence is illegal on its face remains in effect.
Halfacre v. State, 2015 Ark. 105, 460 S.W.3d 282
contended his sentence was illegal on its face because he was
induced by his counsel to plead guilty and because counsel
was ineffective for failing to secure the E-Z Mart
surveillance video. The claims advanced by Johnson in his
petition did not allege an illegal sentence that is
jurisdictional in nature; rather, the grounds for relief were
the type to have been raised at trial, on appeal, or, to the
extent the claims were intended as allegations of ineffective
assistance of counsel, in a timely filed petition for
postconviction relief pursuant to Rule 37.1 of the Arkansas
Rules of Criminal Procedure. Williams, 2016 Ark. 16,
479 S.W.3d 544. Furthermore, conclusory allegations-such as
Johnson's claims regarding the E-Z Mart video
surveillance or his counsel's statement to "take
this deal or else"-that are unsupported by facts and
provide no showing of prejudice are insufficient to warrant
postconviction relief. See Chatmon v. State, 2016
Ark. 126, at 7, reh'g denied (April 21, 2016).
Based on the foregoing, the appeal is dismissed, rendering
the motion for transcribed record and extension of time to
file brief moot.
dismissed; motion moot.