SECOND AND SUPPLEMENTAL PETITIONS TO REINVEST JURISDICTION IN
THE TRIAL COURT TO CONSIDER A PETITION FOR WRIT OF ERROR
CORAM NOBIS [JEFFERSON COUNTY CIRCUIT COURT, NO. 35CR-86-396]
K. WOOD, ASSOCIATE JUSTICE.
Milton Jasper Jones requests that this court reinvest
jurisdiction in the trial court so that he may proceed with a
petition for writ of error coram nobis. He filed two
petitions making the request, one supplementing the other.
This is the second time that Jones has made a request for
coram-nobis relief. Jones's petition alleges that the
State withheld evidence, namely, a confession by a
codefendant. We deny the petition because it fails to allege
adequate grounds for relief.
Background and the Proposed Grounds for the Writ
petitioner who appealed his judgment of conviction must first
request this court to reinvest jurisdiction in the trial
court before he may attack that conviction through a petition
for writ of error coram nobis. Noble v. State, 2015
Ark. 141, 460 S.W.3d 774. Jones appealed his conviction for
capital felony murder in the killing of Annie Bell Hall
Killingsworth. He received a sentence of life imprisonment
without parole for the murder, and this court affirmed.
Jones v. State, 296 Ark. 135, 752 S.W.2d 274 (1988).
Jones contends that the prosecutor withheld evidence
concerning a confession by Roosevelt Ferguson. Jones alleges
that the State knew prior to his arrest that Ferguson
admitted to burglarizing Killingsworth's apartment.
Additionally, in that conversation, Ferguson implicated Jones
and Erma McCoy in Killingsworth's murder. Jones asserts
that this evidence was withheld in violation of Brady v.
Maryland, 373 U.S. 83 (1963).
was tried before Ferguson was arrested for the murder. The
two men were seen near Killingsworth's home the night
that she was murdered, and both left town the same night.
Fingerprints found inside the victim's home belonged to
Jones. After Jones was arrested, he confessed to
participating in the murder and splitting $10, 000 from the
burglary with Ferguson. He told the police that he held
Killingsworth's arms down while Ferguson smothered her
with a pillow. At trial, Jones testified that his confession
was coerced, provided an explanation for his fingerprints in
Killingsworth's apartment, and denied participating in
the burglary or murder.
alleges that, if his attorney had known about Ferguson's
confession, Jones would have pursued a different defense.
Jones further contends that he could have used evidence of
Ferguson being in the victim's home to bring a defense
based on Ferguson's sole culpability.
coram nobis is an extraordinarily rare remedy, more known for
its denial than its approval. White v. State, 2015
Ark. 151, 460 S.W.3d 285. The remedy is exceedingly narrow
and appropriate only when an issue was not addressed or could
not have been addressed at trial because it was somehow
hidden or unknown. Clark v. State, 358 Ark. 469, 192
S.W.3d 248 (2004). The 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 that, through no negligence or fault of
the defendant, was not brought forward before rendition of
the judgment. Green v. State, 2016 Ark. 386, 502
proceedings are attended by a strong presumption that the
judgment of conviction is valid. Westerman v. State,
2015 Ark. 69, 456 S.W.3d 374. This court has recognized four
categories of error for which the writ is available: (1)
insanity at the time of trial; (2) a coerced guilty plea; (3)
material evidence withheld by the prosecutor; and (4) a
third-party confession to the crime during the time between
conviction and appeal. Noble, 2015 Ark. 141, 460
S.W.3d 774. The writ is issued only under compelling
circumstances to achieve justice and to address errors of the
most fundamental nature. Green, 2016 Ark. 386, 502
court will grant permission to proceed with a petition for
the writ only when it appears, looking to the reasonableness
of the allegations in the proposed petition and the existence
of the probability of the truth of those allegations, that
the proposed attack on the judgment is meritorious. Isom
v. State, 2015 Ark. 225, 462 S.W.3d 662. This court is
not required to accept at face value the allegations in the
petition. Grady v. State, 2017 Ark. 245, 525 S.W.3d
Significance of the Confession
asserts that his alleged grounds for the writ fall within the
third and fourth recognized categories of error. However,
application of the fourth category of error is limited to
those confessions that occur within the time frame between a
conviction and its appeal. Penn v. State, 282 Ark.
571, 670 S.W.2d 426 (1984). That is not the case here, as
Jones claims the confession occurred before his arrest.
Jones's claim therefore does not fall within the fourth
category of error.
Jones's alleged claim of withheld evidence falls within
the third category of error. Yet this claim too fails because
he does not allege facts sufficient in support. To establish
a Brady violation, three elements are required: (1)
the evidence at issue must be favorable to the accused,
either because it is exculpatory or because it is impeaching;
(2) that evidence must have been suppressed by the State,
either willfully or inadvertently; and (3) prejudice must
have ensued. Green, 2016 Ark. 386, 502 S.W.3d 524.
When the petitioner alleges a Brady violation as the
basis for his claim of relief in coram-nobis proceedings, the
facts alleged in the petition must establish that there was
evidence withheld that was both material and prejudicial such
as to have prevented rendition of the judgment had it been
known at the time of trial. See Smith v. State, 2017
Ark. 236, 523 S.W.3d 354. Evidence is material if there is a