FROM THE PULASKI COUNTY CIRCUIT COURT [NO. 60CR-12-3694]
HONORABLE HERBERT T. WRIGHT, JR., JUDGE
Rosenzweig, for appellant.
Rutledge, Att'y Gen., by: Vada Berger, Ass't
Att'y Gen., for appellee.
K. WOOD, Associate Justice.
Michael Lee Williams, appeals the Pulaski County Circuit
Court's denial, following a hearing, of his petition for
postconviction relief filed pursuant to Rule 37.1 of the
Arkansas Rules of Criminal Procedure. For reversal, Williams
maintains that his counsel was ineffective for failing to
present exculpatory testimony or statements from three
codefendants. We agree with the circuit court that
Williams's argument is without merit. Accordingly, we
affirm the denial of postconviction relief.
was convicted by a Pulaski County jury of five counts of
aggravated robbery and five counts of theft of property
obtained by threat of serious physical injury. He was
sentenced to a total of fifty years' imprisonment. The
Arkansas Court of Appeals affirmed the judgment. Williams
v. State, 2014 Ark.App. 561, 444 S.W.3d 877.
contends that his trial counsel was ineffective for not
calling three witnesses at trial, Antonio Bozeman, Joe Bell,
and Johnathan Hattison. At the Rule 37 hearing, the witnesses
testified that Williams accompanied them to the crime scene
but that he remained in the car and did not participate in
the robberies. Williams claims that the circuit court
erroneously denied relief because each of the witnesses would
have testified at his trial that he did not participate in
the crimes. However, Williams's trial counsel, Don
Trimble, testified that his defense strategy was that
Williams was not present at the crime scene. The focus of his
case was one of misidentification, in part due to
Williams's facial scars that witnesses failed to describe
in their identification. Thus, Williams's counsel did not
offer the testimony of the subject witnesses because it would
have undermined his trial strategy by placing Williams at the
scene at the time of the robberies. The circuit court
concluded that Williams's counsel's failure to offer
testimony that would have undercut this theory of the case
was reasonable trial strategy.
court does not reverse the denial of postconviction relief
unless the circuit court's findings are clearly
erroneous. Sartin v. State, 2012 Ark. 155, 400
S.W.3d 694. A finding is clearly erroneous when the appellate
court, after reviewing the entire evidence, is left with the
definite and firm conviction that the circuit court made a
mistake. Id. In making a determination on a claim of
ineffective assistance of counsel, this court considers the
totality of the evidence. Id.
standard of review requires that we assess counsel's
effectiveness under the two-prong standard set forth by the
United States Supreme Court in Strickland v.
Washington, 466 U.S. 668, 104 S.Ct. 2052 (1984). In
asserting ineffective assistance of counsel pursuant to
Strickland, the petitioner first must show that
counsel's performance was deficient. McDaniels v.
State, 2014 Ark. 181, 432 S.W.3d 644. This requires a
showing that counsel made errors so serious that he was not
functioning as the "counsel" guaranteed by the
Sixth Amendment. Id. Additionally, counsel is
allowed great leeway in making strategic and tactical
decisions, particularly when deciding not to call a witness.
Noel v. State, 342 Ark. 35, 26 S.W.3d 123 (2000).
"[M]atters of trial strategy and tactics, even if
arguably improvident, fall within the realm of counsel's
professional judgment and are not grounds for finding
ineffective assistance of counsel." Howard v.
State, 367 Ark. 18, 238 S.W.3d 24 (2006). The reviewing
court must indulge in a strong presumption that counsel's
conduct falls within the wide range of reasonable
professional assistance. Id.
the petitioner must show that counsel's deficient
performance prejudiced the defense, which requires a showing
that counsel's errors were so serious as to deprive the
petitioner of a fair trial. Id. In doing so, the
petitioner must show that there is a reasonable probability
that the fact-finder's decision would have been different
absent counsel's errors. Id. A reasonable
probability is a probability sufficient to undermine
confidence in the outcome of the trial. Id.
a petitioner makes both Strickland showings, it
cannot be said that the conviction resulted from a breakdown
of the adversarial process that renders the result
unreliable. Id. "[T]here is no reason for a
court deciding an ineffective assistance claim . . . to
address both components of the inquiry if the defendants make
an insufficient showing on one." Anderson v.
State, 2011 Ark. 488, at 3-4, 385 S.W.3d 783, 786-87
(quoting Strickland, 466 U.S. at 697, 104 S.Ct.
this precedent, we affirm the circuit court's finding
that it was reasonable trial strategy for Williams's
counsel not to proffer the testimony of individuals who would
have undercut his case theory. The decision whether or not to
call particular witnesses is a matter of professional
judgment, and even if another attorney would have chosen a
different course, it is not grounds for postconviction relief
on the basis of ineffective assistance of counsel. See
Noel, 342 Ark. at 42-43, 26 S.W.3d at 128. Because
Williams does not meet his burden of proof on the deficiency
prong of the Strickland test, we hold that the
circuit court ...