PHILLIP D. WILLIAMS PETITIONER
STATE OF ARKANSAS RESPONDENT
PETITION TO REINVEST JURISDICTION IN THE TRIAL COURT TO
CONSIDER A PETITION FOR WRIT OF ERROR CORAM NOBIS [PULASKI
COUNTY CIRCUIT COURT, NO. 60CR-00-3339]
2000, Phillip D. Williams was charged with one count of
capital-felony murder in the death of Eldrick Williams, two
counts of aggravated robbery, and one count of misdemeanor
theft of property. In 2001, a Pulaski County jury convicted
Williams on all counts, and the trial court sentenced him as
a habitual offender to life imprisonment without parole for
capital murder and twenty-year terms of imprisonment on each
of the aggravated robbery convictions. The sentence for
misdemeanor theft of property merged with his
felony-conviction sentences pursuant to Ark. Code Ann. §
5-4-404(c)(1) (Supp. 2001). We affirmed. Williams v.
State, 351 Ark. 215, 91 S.W.3d 54 (2002)
before us is Williams's pro se petition to reinvest
jurisdiction in the trial court to consider a petition for
writ of error coram nobis in the case. The petition for leave
to proceed in the trial court 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. Newman v. State, 2009 Ark. 539,
354 S.W.3d 61. 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. Westerman v. State, 2015 Ark.
69, at 4, 456 S.W.3d 374, 376; Roberts v. State,
2013 Ark. 56, 425 S.W.3d 771.
function of the writ is to secure relief from a judgment
rendered while there existed some fact that would have
prevented its rendition had it 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, 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, 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. These
categories, however, are not absolute and may be expanded
when there is a showing of a procedural gap whereby a
petitioner in a particular case would be denied due process
of law if a coramnobis proceeding were not allowed to fill
the void. See Strawhacker v. State, 2016 Ark. 348;
500 S.W.3d 716; see also Pitts v. State, 2016 Ark.
345, 501 S.W.3d 803.
grounds for the writ, Williams asserts he has obtained newly
discovered evidence in the form of a sworn affidavit from
Kareem Holloway, who testified against Williams at trial,
that gives an entirely different account of the events that
resulted in Williams being charged with, and convicted of,
the offenses. Williams has appended the affidavit to his
suffice to say that it is well settled that a claim of
recanted testimony, standing alone, is not cognizable in an
error-coram nobis proceeding. Stenhouse v. State,
2016 Ark. 295, at 4 (per curiam); see also White v.
State, 2014 Ark. 348, at 2, 438 S.W.3d 916, 918 (per
curiam); Smith v. State, 200 Ark. 767, 140 S.W.2d
675 (1940) (holding that the writ was not available to afford
relief on the ground that the principal witness against the
accused had recanted and that others since the accused's
conviction had confessed to the crime). This is so because a
writ of error coram nobis may not be used to contradict any
fact already adjudicated. Smith, 200 Ark. 767, 768,
140 S.W.2d 675, 676. Even claims involving a victim's
sworn statement recanting his or her testimony do not warrant
issuance of the writ. Riley v. State, 2015 Ark. 232,
at 2-3 (per curiam); Thomas v. State, 367 Ark. 478,
341 S.W.3d 247 (2006) (per curiam). The presentation of
evidence in a coram nobis petition that attacks the
credibility of a witness at trial, such as recantation of
testimony, constitutes a direct attack on the judgment.
See Riley, 2015 Ark. 232, at 3; see also Malone
v. State, 294 Ark. 127, 741 S.W.2d 246 (1987) (per
curiam) (The affidavit of a witness recanting his or her
trial testimony is a direct challenge to the judgment of
conviction.). Direct attacks on the judgment of conviction
are properly made at trial and on the record on appeal.
See, e.g., Dickerson v. State, 2011 Ark.
247 (per curiam).
Williams's assertion that Holloway's affidavit is
newly discovered evidence, the affidavit is, as stated, a
direct recantation of trial testimony. As such, it is not a
ground for the writ regardless of how it is labeled by the
petitioner. Williams's coram nobis petition is a
statement of his version of the events that led to the death
of Eldrick Williams, coupled with Holloway's affidavit
that supports, to some extent, Phillip Williams's version
of the events. In short, the petition is a claim that the
evidence adduced at trial was not accurate. Claims that
challenge the evidence adduced at trial are not within the
purview of a coram nobis ...