DRA'KEASE D. HALL APPELLANT
STATE OF ARKANSAS APPELLEE
APPEAL FROM THE PULASKI COUNTY CIRCUIT COURT, FOURTH DIVISION
[NO. 60CR-10-3728] HONORABLE HERBERT WRIGHT, JUDGE
Dra'Krease D. Hall, pro se appellant.
Rutledge, Att'y Gen., by: Rachel Kemp, Ass't
Att'y Gen., for appellee.
ROBINF. WYNNE, ASSOCIATE JUSTICE
Dra'Kease D. Hall appeals from the denial by the trial
court of a pro se petition for a writ of error coram nobis.
In January 2012, Hall pled guilty to first-degree murder and
criminal attempt to commit first-degree murder and was
sentenced to an aggregate term of 600 months'
petition for coram nobis relief filed in the trial court,
Hall alleged that the prosecutor and an investigator had
coerced two witnesses to implicate Hall in the crimes. Hall
attached to his pro se petition affidavits executed by
Terrance Lang and Jasper Goodwin in support of his
allegation. In their affidavits, both Lang and Goodwin
recanted what their testimony would have been if Hall had
gone to trial and stated that they had been coerced into
implicating Hall with threats of being subjected to the death
penalty. Furthermore, both Lang and Goodwin now exonerate
Hall in the crimes for which he has been convicted.
appeal, Hall raises the same claim of witness coercion raised
below, but he adds the following allegations: (1) that the
prosecutor violated Brady v. Maryland, 373 U.S. 83
(1963), by failing to disclose a plea deal offered to Lang in
exchange for Lang's testimony; (2) that his guilty plea
was founded on lies and deception resulting from
counsel's failure to conduct a reasonable investigation
by interviewing Lang and Goodwin; (3) that counsel coerced
Hall into pleading guilty by informing him that Lang and
Goodwin would testify on behalf of the State in exchange for
leniency. For the reasons set forth below, we affirm the
trial court's order denying Hall's petition.
standard of review of an order entered by the trial court on
a petition for writ of error coram nobis is whether the trial
court abused its discretion in granting or denying the writ.
Smith v. State, 2017 Ark. 236, 523 S.W.3d 354,
reh'g denied (Sept. 14, 2017). An abuse of
discretion occurs when the court acts arbitrarily or
groundlessly. Nelson v. State, 2014 Ark. 91, 431
S.W.3d 852. The trial court's findings of fact on which
it bases its decision to grant or deny the petition for writ
of error coram nobis will not be reversed on appeal unless
they are clearly erroneous or clearly against the
preponderance of the evidence. Smith, 2017 Ark. 236,
523 S.W.3d 354. There is no abuse of discretion in the denial
of error coram nobis relief when the claims in the petition
were groundless. Id. (citing Nelson, 2014
Ark. 91, 431 S.W.3d 852).
first note that Hall has raised allegations on appeal that
were not presented to the trial court in his coram nobis
petition. This court does not address new arguments raised
for the first time on appeal; nor do we consider factual
substantiation added to bolster the allegations made below.
Id. (citing Stover v. State, 2017 Ark. 66,
511 S.W.3d 333). When reviewing the trial court's ruling
on a coram nobis petition on appeal, the appellant is limited
to the scope and nature of the arguments that he or she made
below that were considered by the trial court in rendering
its ruling. Id.
of error coram nobis is an extraordinarily rare remedy.
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 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. 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 to address 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. Error coram nobis proceedings are attended by a
strong presumption that the judgment of conviction is valid.
allegations that Lang and Goodwin were coerced into providing
statements implicating Hall in the commission of the crimes
do not fit within the recognized categories for coram nobis
relief and do not otherwise provide a basis for the issuance
of this extraordinary writ. First, Hall does not allege that
his guilty plea was the result of fear, duress, or threats of
mob violence as previously recognized by this court as
grounds for a finding of coercion sufficient to set aside a
guilty plea. Green v. State, 2016 Ark. 386, 502
S.W.3d 524. Instead, Hall's petition and the attached
affidavits appear to attack his guilty plea on the basis that
it was not voluntarily and intelligently given but was the
result of an erroneous belief that Lang and Goodwin had
readily agreed to testify for the State. Any claim that a
guilty plea was not entered intelligently and voluntarily
should have been brought pursuant to Rule 37.1 of the
Arkansas Rules of Criminal Procedure (2017) and not in a
petition for writ of error coram nobis. Smith, 2017
Ark. 236, 523 S.W.3d 354; see also Nelson, 2014 Ark.
91, 431 S.W.3d 852 (Error coram nobis proceedings are not a
substitute for proceeding under Rule 37.1 to challenge the
validity of a guilty plea, nor are the two proceedings
as stated above, to merit coram nobis relief, the petitioner
must show a fundamental error of fact extrinsic to the record
that would have prevented rendition of the judgment 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. Smith, 2017 Ark.
236, 523 S.W.3d 354. Here, Hall had attached two affidavits
to the petition filed below that were executed by Lang and
Goodwin alleging that they were coerced into implicating Hall
and affirmatively stating that Hall took no part in the
crimes. On appeal, Hall argues that his guilty plea was
involuntary because counsel failed to interview these two
witnesses to determine that their statements were the result
of coercion and were therefore unreliable. By Hall's own
admission, the facts alleged in Lang's and Goodwin's
affidavits could have been discovered before trial. To
warrant coram nobis relief, the defendant must be unaware of
the fact at the time of trial and could not have discovered
the fact in the exercise of due diligence. See Echols v.
State, 354 Ark. 414, 125 S.W.3d 153 (2003). Hall does
not establish the existence of facts that could not have been
discovered at the time of trial. See Munnerlyn v.
State, 2018 Ark. 161, 545 S.W.3d 207.
it is well settled that a claim of recanted testimony,
standing alone, is not cognizable in an error coram nobis
proceeding. 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. Id. Here, Hall is
attempting to use the recanted statements of Lang and Goodwin
to demonstrate that he is innocent of the crimes to which he
pled guilty. By pleading guilty to the crimes, Hall waived
any claim that he was not guilty of the charges.
Smith, 2017 Ark. 236, 523 S.W.3d 354 (citing
Beverage v. State, 2015 Ark. 112, 458 S.W.3d 243).
Hall's guilt has been adjudicated, and Hall cannot now
use affidavits to contradict his own admission of guilt. To
the extent that Hall's allegations and the attached
affidavits challenge the reliability of Lang and
Goodwin's anticipated trial testimony as being
insufficient to sustain a finding ...