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Jackson v. State

Supreme Court of Arkansas

June 1, 2017



          KAREN R. BAKER, Associate Justice

         In 2002, petitioner, Anarian Chad Jackson, was found guilty by a jury of first-degree murder in the shooting death of Charles Raynor and was sentenced to life imprisonment. We affirmed. Jackson v. State, 359 Ark. 297, 197 S.W.3d 468 (2004). Now before this court is Jackson's sixth pro se petition requesting that this court reinvest jurisdiction in the trial court in the case to consider a petition for writ of error coram nobis. Also before this court are Jackson's pro se motions to dismiss the State's response to his petition, his pro se motion for remand to the trial court for an evidentiary hearing and appointment of counsel, his pro se motion to supplement his coram nobis petition, his pro se motion to supplement his motion to remand to the trial court for an evidentiary hearing and appointment of counsel; and his pro se motion to add to motion to supplement the petition. For the reasons set forth below, Jackson's successive petition for coram nobis relief is denied, and his pro se motions to supplement his successive petition are denied. Jackson's remaining motions are moot.

         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, at 5, 354 S.W.3d 61, 65. A writ of error coram nobis is an extraordinarily rare remedy. Nelson v. State, 2014 Ark. 91, at 3, 431 S.W.3d 852, 854. 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. Id. The petitioner has the burden of demonstrating a fundamental error of fact extrinsic to the record. Id. 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. Id.; Howard v. State, 2012 Ark. 177, at 4, 403 S.W.3d 38, 43.

         When a petitioner files successive applications for coram nobis relief in this court, it is an abuse of the writ to argue the same claims that have been addressed if the petitioner does not allege new facts that are sufficient to distinguish his latest claims from the prior claims. See United States v. Camacho-Bordes, 94 F.3d 1168 (8th Cir.1996) (holding that res judicata did not apply to bar a second petition for writ of error coram nobis, but abuse-of-writ doctrine was applied to subsume res judicata). Jackson has repeatedly alleged in his successive petitions that investigators and the prosecutor procured false testimony through threats and promises and suppressed exculpatory evidence in violation of Brady v. Maryland, 373 U.S. 83 (1963).

         While allegations of a Brady violation fall within one of the four categories of fundamental error that this court has recognized in coram nobis proceedings, the fact that a petitioner alleges a Brady violation alone is not sufficient to provide a basis for error coram nobis relief. See Cloird v. State, 357 Ark. 446, 452, 182 S.W.3d 477, 480 (2004) (setting forth the factors that must be demonstrated to state a sufficient Brady claim). To merit relief on a claim of a Brady violation, a petitioner must demonstrate that there is a reasonable probability that the judgment of conviction would not have been rendered, or would have been prevented, had the information been disclosed at trial. Id.

         In his first petition, Jackson contended that the prosecutor had elicited false testimony from trial witnesses Takesha Griffin, who is Jackson's first cousin, and Chris Bush, who was convicted as an accomplice in the murder of Raynor. Jackson v. State, 2009 Ark. 176, at 1- 2 (per curiam). We denied relief, finding no factual support for Jackson's conclusory allegations. Id. at 3-5. In his fifth[1] petition for coram nobis relief, Jackson focused on the testimony of Griffin and alleged that Griffin had provided investigators with pretrial statements exonerating Jackson and disclosing that Jackson was in Texas at the time of the murder. Jackson v. State, 2014 Ark. 347, at 4, 439 S.W.3d 675, 677-78 (per curiam). We found that allegations involving Griffin's testimony were not extrinsic to the record, in that the trial record indicated that the defense was aware of the alibi defense and was also aware that Griffin had provided multiple contradictory pretrial statements. Id. at 4-6, 439 S.W.3d at 678-79.

         In his sixth petition, Jackson again contends that Bush and Griffin[2] were coerced by investigators and prosecutors through scare tactics and promises of leniency to provide false testimony and suppressed exculpatory evidence in violation of Brady. As with his previous petitions, Jackson adds new factual details in support of his reconstituted Brady claims.

         Jackson now contends that the prosecutor secretly dismissed a firearm charge arising from Bush's possession of a .40-caliber weapon, provided a favorable resolution of a drug offense committed by Bush in 1999, and misrepresented the facts surrounding Bush's favorable treatment to the trial court. In support of these new allegations, Jackson provides excerpts from his trial transcript, a docket sheet from Pulaski County pertaining to Bush's 1999 conviction, and an affidavit from Bush recanting his testimony and identifying "Little Mark, " who is also known as Marcus Hunter, as the true perpetrator of the crime.

         With respect to Griffin's testimony, Jackson again contends that her pretrial sworn statements implicating Jackson were the product of police misconduct that occurred during the time Griffin had spent with investigators over a period of several days. Jackson attaches another affidavit from Griffin, adding that she had engaged in oral sex with one of the investigating officers and that investigators had provided her with money to purchase crack cocaine in exchange for providing sworn testimony to implicate Jackson. Jackson maintains that the new facts set forth in Griffin's current affidavit represent newly discovered information that was known to prosecutors and withheld from the defense in violation of Brady.

         Jackson further alleges that the prosecutor had been put on notice that Detective Knowles, who Griffin alleges had pressured her to provide false testimony, had been previously accused of misconduct and attempting to bribe witnesses. In support of this allegation, Jackson cites Collier v. State, CACR-00-348[3] (Ark. Sept. 20, 2001) (unpublished per curiam), wherein this court denied a petition for a writ of error coram nobis which was based in part on an allegation that "the Little Rock Police Department" [4] had paid a witness $300.00 for his testimony and had additionally promised the witness a $10, 000 reward in exchange for false testimony. Collier, Slip op. at 2. According to Jackson, the prosecutor had a duty to disclose this evidence of Knowles's prior misconduct.

         The affidavits and attached trial transcript and docket sheet fail to substantiate Jackson's allegations, and in fact, demonstrate that the prosecutor made no misrepresentations to the trial court[5] and did not dismiss a firearm charge. As to Bush's affidavit, we have explained that recanted testimony, standing alone, is not cognizable in an error coram nobis proceeding. See 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); see also Taylor v. State, 303 Ark. 586, 799 S.W.2d 519 (1990) (A witness's recantation of part of his trial testimony was not a ground for the writ as recantation of testimony did not fit within the remedy.).

         We are not required to accept the allegations in a petition for writ of error coram nobis at face value. Instead, we look to the reasonableness of the allegations of the petition and to the existence of the probability of the truth thereof. Howard, 2012 Ark. 177, at 5, 403 S.W.3d at 43. Griffin's affidavit is simply another example of Griffin's history of providing multiple accounts of the facts surrounding the pretrial sworn statements she provided to investigators and prosecutors. Finally, Jackson's contention surrounding evidence of prior misconduct on the part of Detective Knowles is without merit in that the case relied upon by Jackson did not establish the existence of credible evidence that Knowles or any officer with the Little Rock Police department had engaged in witness tampering. See Collier, slip op., at 2.

         In sum, the addition of new factual allegations surrounding the testimony of Bush and Griffin are not sufficient to distinguish the claims from his earlier claims in that Jackson's new allegations are conclusory, involve matters that were known or could have been discovered at the time of trial, and otherwise fail to establish that material evidence had been withheld by the prosecution in violation of Brady. Affidavits from Bush and Griffin fail to create a reasonable probability that the new allegations contained therein are meritorious such that issuance of the writ is warranted. Howar ...

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