APPEAL FROM THE POPE COUNTY CIRCUIT COURT AND MOTION FOR
DEFAULT JUDGMENT [58CR-15-516] HONORABLE WILLIAM M. PEARSON,
Michael Edward Hansler, pro se appellant.
Rutledge, Att'y Gen., by: David R. Raupp, Ass't
Att'y Gen., for appellee.
January 20, 2016, judgment was entered in the Pope County
Circuit Court reflecting that Michael Edward Hansler had
entered a negotiated plea of nolo contendere to rape for
which a sentence of 180 months' imprisonment was imposed.
On April 11, 2016, Hansler filed in the trial court a timely,
verified pro se petition for postconviction relief pursuant
to Arkansas Rule of Criminal Procedure 37.1 (2016) seeking to
have the judgment vacated on the ground that he was not
afforded effective assistance of counsel. The trial court
denied the relief sought, and Hansler brings this appeal.
Hansler has filed a motion for a "default judgment"
on the grounds that the appellee State was improperly granted
extensions of time to file its brief and that he was entitled
to appointment of counsel in the Rule 37.1 proceeding and is
entitled to an attorney to represent him on appeal.
affirm the trial court's order denying the Rule 37.1
petition. The motion seeking a default judgment and
appointment of counsel is moot. The Rule 37.1 petition filed
in the trial court was devoid of facts to support his claims
of ineffective assistance of counsel. Conclusory statements
cannot be the basis for postconviction relief, Anderson
v. State, 2011 Ark. 488, 385 S.W.3d 783, and this court
will affirm the denial of relief unless the trial court's
findings are clearly erroneous. Beavers v. State,
2016 Ark. 277, __S.W.3d__. A finding is clearly erroneous
when, although there is evidence to support it, the appellate
court, after reviewing the entire evidence, is left with the
definite and firm conviction that a mistake has been
plea of guilty or nolo contendere is entered, the sole issue
in postconviction proceedings is whether the plea was
intelligently and voluntarily entered on advice from
competent counsel. See Mancia v. State, 2015 Ark.
115, 459 S.W.3d 259. In his petition, Hansler raised the
following allegations of ineffective assistance of counsel:
(1) counsel did not listen to his protestations that he was
innocent of the offense charged and seemed determined to
focus on securing a favorable plea offer from the State; (2)
counsel failed to investigate the case: (3) counsel failed to
provide him with all the evidence so that he could determine
who the trial witnesses would be and what evidence had been
obtained by the authorities; (4) counsel was prejudiced
against Hansler because Hansler is a Wiccan and counsel
advised him that the jury would consist of Christians who
would be biased against him.
first should be noted that Hansler in his brief in this
appeal enlarges on and embellishes the allegations contained
in his Rule 37.1 petition. This court will not consider the
new material contained in the brief. We do not address new
arguments raised for the first time on appeal or consider
factual substantiation added to bolster the allegations made
below. Thornton v. State, 2014 Ark. 113 (per
curiam). When reviewing the trial court's ruling on a
Rule 37.1 petition, the appellant is limited to the scope and
nature of the arguments that he made below that were
considered by the trial court in rendering its ruling.
Pedraza v. State, 2016 Ark. 85, 485 S.W.3d 686 (per
respect to Hansler's assertions that counsel failed to
investigate his case, did not discuss the evidence with him,
and focused on obtaining a favorable plea bargain, the claims
were not supported by facts to show that Hansler was
prejudiced by counsel's conduct. To prevail on a claim of
ineffective assistance of counsel for failure to investigate
or discuss evidence with the petitioner, the petitioner must
allege some direct correlation between counsel's
deficient performance and the decision to enter the plea, or
the petitioner is procedurally barred from postconviction
relief. See Mancia, 2015 Ark. 115, 459 S.W.3d 259.
Statements without an alleged factual basis do not suffice.
Pedraza, 2016 Ark. 85, at 3-4, 485 S.W.3d 686, 690.
Hansler did not state any specific information that could
have been discovered with more investigation, could have been
brought out if counsel had discussed the evidence with him
more thoroughly, or not focused on plea bargaining such that
his decision to enter a plea would have been changed.
Accordingly, he did not show that counsel made any error.
See Sandoval-Vega v. State, 2011 Ark. 393, 384
neither Hansler's conclusory claim that counsel was
prejudiced against him because of his Wiccan religion nor
Hansler's statement that counsel advised him of the
possibility that a jury might be, or would be, biased against
him because of his religion demonstrated that counsel was
incompetent under the Strickland standard. Hansler
offered no facts to establish that any alleged bias or advice
counsel might have given him concerning the possible
religious prejudice of the jury rendered his plea
involuntary. By not delineating the actual prejudice that
arose from counsel's conduct, he failed entirely to show
that there was a direct correlation between counsel's
deficient behavior and his decision to enter the plea.
Scott v. State, 2012 Ark. 199, 406 S.W.3d 100.
Hansler states in his brief that he is "appealing the
fact that Judge Pearson denied my Rule 37 petition without a
hearing." Pursuant to Rule 37.3(a), the trial court has
the discretion to deny relief under the Rule without a
hearing. Sims v. State, 2015 Ark. 363, at 16, 472
S.W.3d 107, 118. The trial court need not hold an evidentiary
hearing where it can be conclusively shown on the record, or
the face of the petition itself, that the allegations have no
merit." Bienemy v. State, 2011 Ark. 320 (per
curiam). Because Hansler's petition lacked factual
support for the claims it contained, we cannot say that the
files and records of the case and the petition itself did not
conclusively show that Hansler's allegations of
ineffective assistance of counsel were not well taken.
Therefore, the trial court did not err in denying the
petition without a hearing. See Robinson v. State,
2014 Ark. 310, 439 S.W.3d 32 (per ...