FROM THE PULASKI COUNTY CIRCUIT COURT, FIRST DIVISION [NO.
60CR-10-2047] HONORABLE LEON JOHNSON, JUDGE
Montgomery, Adams & Wyatt, PLC, by: Dale E. Adams, for
Rutledge, Att'y Gen., by: Brad Newman, Ass't
Att'y Gen., for appellee.
RAYMOND R. ABRAMSON, Judge
Blackwell appeals the order of the Pulaski County Circuit
Court denying her petition for postconviction relief pursuant
to Arkansas Rule of Criminal Procedure 37.1 (2016). We affirm
the circuit court's decision.
March 28, 2010, a car driven by Blackwell hit Ralph John
Friedmann, who was walking on a sidewalk along Breckenridge
Drive in Little Rock. Friedmann died from his injuries on
June 8, 2010. On June 24, 2010, the State charged Blackwell
with felony negligent homicide and third-degree battery for
the death of Friedmann. On September 4, 2013, the State
amended the charges to include a charge for manslaughter.
a jury convicted Blackwell of felony negligent homicide,
manslaughter, and third-degree battery. The jury sentenced
Blackwell to ten years' imprisonment for felony negligent
homicide and fined her $500 for third-degree battery. The
jury did not sentence Blackwell on the manslaughter charge at
the request of the State. On February 18, 2015, this court
affirmed Blackwell's conviction. Blackwell v.
State, 2015 Ark.App. 96, 455 S.W.3d 848.
5, 2015, Blackwell filed a petition in the Pulaski County
Circuit Court for postconviction relief pursuant to Arkansas
Rule of Criminal Procedure 37.1. She alleged that her trial
counsel was ineffective for failing to (1) move to dismiss
either the felony negligent-homicide charge or the
manslaughter charge; (2) object to the use of nonpattern jury
instructions; (3) cross-examine former police officer Natasha
Sims about her termination from the Little Rock Police
Department; (4) protect her right to trial by an impartial
jury; (5) object to the prosecutor's improper acquisition
of her sealed medical records; and (6) object or move for a
mistrial after the prosecutor made personal attacks on her
trial counsel during closing arguments.
February 19, 2016, the court held an evidentiary hearing and
took the matter under advisement. Thereafter, on May 27,
2016, the court entered an order denying Blackwell's
petition. On June 23, 2016, Blackwell appealed the decision.
We assumed jurisdiction of this appeal pursuant to footnote 1
in Barnes v. State, 2017 Ark. 76, __S.W.3d__(per
not reverse a denial of postconviction relief unless the
circuit court's findings are clearly erroneous. Reed
v. State, 2011 Ark. 115 (per curiam). 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 committed. Id.
benchmark question to be resolved in judging a claim of
ineffective assistance of counsel is whether counsel's
conduct so undermined the proper functioning of the
adversarial process that the trial cannot be relied on as
having produced a just result. Norris v. State, 2013
Ark. 205, 427 S.W.3d 626 (per curiam). We assess the
effectiveness of counsel under a two-prong standard as set
forth by the United States Supreme Court in Strickland v.
Washington, 466 U.S. 668 (1984). See Lowe v.
State, 2012 Ark. 185, 423 S.W.3d 6 (per curiam). Under
the Strickland test, a claimant must show that
counsel's performance was deficient, and the claimant
must also show that the deficient performance prejudiced the
defense to the extent that the appellant was deprived of a
fair trial. Id. A claimant must satisfy both prongs
of the test, and it is unnecessary to examine both components
of the inquiry if the petitioner fails to satisfy either
requirement. See Pennington v. State, 2013 Ark. 39
petitioner claiming ineffective assistance must first show
that counsel made errors so serious that counsel was not
functioning as the "counsel" guaranteed to the
petitioner by the Sixth Amendment to the United States
Constitution. Walton v. State, 2013 Ark. 254, (per
curiam). There is a strong presumption that trial
counsel's conduct falls within the wide range of
reasonable professional assistance, and an appellant has the
burden of overcoming this presumption by identifying specific
acts or omissions of trial counsel that when viewed from
counsel's perspective at the time of the trial could not
have been the result of reasonable professional judgment.
order to meet the second prong of the test, a claimant must
show that there is a reasonable probability that the
fact-finder's decision would have been different absent
counsel's errors. Delamar v. State, 2011 Ark. 87
(per curiam). A reasonable probability is a probability
sufficient to undermine confidence in the outcome of the
appeal, Blackwell first argues that her trial counsel was
ineffective for failing to obtain a ruling from the circuit
court on the use of nonpattern jury instructions at trial.
She recognizes that her trial attorney made
"extensive" arguments at trial concerning the
instructions but asserts that she failed to obtain a ruling
to preserve the issue for appeal. She claims that the verdict
forms in the instructions were flawed because they did not
have a place for the jury to indicate "not guilty"
for felony negligent homicide and manslaughter. She asserts
that the ...