APPEAL FROM THE DREW COUNTY CIRCUIT COURT [NO. 22CR-13-33]
HONORABLE SAM POPE, JUDGE
Lee Williams, pro se appellant.
Rutledge, Att'y Gen., by: Adam Jackson, Ass't
Att'y Gen., for appellee.
COURTNEY HUDSON GOODSON, ASSOCIATE JUSTICE
Fred Lee Williams brings this appeal from the trial
court's dismissal of his pro se petition for writ of
error coram nobis. Williams argues that the writ should have
been issued because the State violated Brady v.
Maryland, 373 U.S. 83 (1963), suborned perjury and
breached the agreement he entered into with the State before
entering a plea of guilty by not disclosing to the defense
certain statements to the police and concealing the testimony
of a witness at a trial in another case. He further argues
that the trial court erred by treating his petition as a
petition claiming relief on grounds of ineffective assistance
of counsel and not addressing his Brady allegations
and his claim that he is innocent. Because we hold that the
trial court's dismissal of the petition was not an abuse
of discretion, we affirm. See State v.
Tejeda-Acosta, 2013 Ark. 217, 427 S.W.3d 673.
of error coram nobis is an extraordinarily rare remedy. It is
allowed only under compelling circumstances to achieve
justice and to address fundamental errors, which fall 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) third-party confession to the crime during
the time between conviction and appeal. State v.
Larimore, 341 Ark. 397, 17 S.W.3d 87 (2000). Williams
did not establish in his petition that his claims for relief
fit within one of the four categories.
trial court did not abuse its discretion by treating
Williams's coram nobis petition as a petition raising
claims of ineffective assistance of counsel because
Williams's allegations, while couched as Brady
violations, centered on the claim that his attorney when he
entered his plea did not competently represent him.
Specifically, Williams asserted in his coram nobis petition
that his plea was involuntary because his attorney gave him
"infirm legal advice, " did not develop a defense
to the charge of felon-in-possession-of-a-firearm, and did
not pursue an effective defense at his jury trial on other
charges. His allegations concerning his plea of guilty were
founded on assertions that his attorney did not effectively
employ the evidence that was available to refute all of the
charges against him, including the charge to which he pleaded
guilty and other charges. Ineffective-assistance-of-counsel
claims are properly raised under Arkansas Rule of Criminal
Procedure 37.1 (2016), and error coram nobis proceedings are
not a substitute for proceedings under the Rule or an
opportunity to reassert claims previously raised under the
Rule by framing the claims as unsubstantiated violations of
Brady. See Nelson v. State, 2014 Ark. 91,
431 S.W.3d 852.
respect to Williams's argument that he was forced to
plead guilty because the State concealed evidence of a
statement given to police by Varetta Butcher in violation of
Brady, Williams did not demonstrate a Brady
violation because he did not show that the statement was
hidden from the defense. There are three elements of a
Brady violation: (1) the evidence at issue must be
favorable to the accused, either because it is exculpatory or
because it is impeaching; (2) the evidence must have been
suppressed by the State, either willfully or inadvertently;
(3) prejudice must have ensued. Strickler v. Greene,
527 U.S. 263 (1999). The record reflects that reference was
made to Butcher's statement in an affidavit for a search
warrant which was filed with the circuit court in 2013, well
before Williams entered his guilty plea in 2014. Accordingly,
the statement could have been discovered by the defense, and
Williams did not meet his burden of demonstrating a
fundamental error of fact extrinsic to the record that was
concealed from the defense. See Roberts v. State,
2013 Ark. 56, 425 S.W.3d 771.
extent that Williams argued in his petition that his plea was
coerced, he contended only that the State's actions
influenced his decision to enter a plea of guilty. We have
held that the level of coercion necessary to establish a
ground for the writ requires a showing that the plea was the
product of fear, duress, or threats of mob violence.
Thacker v. State, 2016 Ark. 350, at 6, 500 S.W.3d
736, 740. Williams did not assert that his plea was a product
of those factors.
Williams's argument that he is actually innocent of the
offense to which he pleaded guilty does not establish a
ground for the writ because it constitutes a direct attack on
the judgment. See Scott v. State, 2017 Ark. 199, at
3, 520 S.W.3d 262 (claim of actual innocence amounts to a
challenge to the sufficiency of the evidence and is a direct
challenge on the judgment that is not cognizable in a coram
 The trial court first entered an order
dismissing the petition on the basis that Williams had not
obtained this court's permission to file it but
subsequently entered a second order noting that it had
jurisdiction to consider the petition because Williams had
entered a plea of guilty in the case. In the second order
from which this appeal is taken, the court considered all of
Williams's pleadings in support ...