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Guthrie v. State

Court of Appeals of Arkansas, Division I

April 10, 2019

GEORGE DEWAYNE GUTHRIE APPELLANT
v.
STATE OF ARKANSAS APPELLEE

          APPEAL FROM THE CRAIGHEAD COUNTY CIRCUIT COURT, EASTERN DISTRICT [NO. 16LCR-15-18] HONORABLE JOHN N. FOGLEMAN, JUDGE

          Dusti Standridge, for appellant.

          Leslie Rutledge, Att'y Gen., by: Rebecca Kane, Ass't Att'y Gen., for appellee.

          BART F. VIRDEN, JUDGE

         Appellant George Dewayne Guthrie was convicted by a Craighead County jury of residential burglary and theft of property. He was sentenced as a habitual offender to thirty years' imprisonment in the Arkansas Department of Correction. Guthrie's convictions were affirmed on appeal to this court. Guthrie v. State, 2017 Ark.App. 681. Guthrie then filed a petition pursuant to Ark. R. Crim. P. 37.1 seeking postconviction relief due to ineffective assistance of counsel. Following a hearing, the Craighead County Circuit Court denied Guthrie's petition. He now brings this timely appeal from the denial of his petition for postconviction relief. We affirm.

         I. Procedural History

         In his Rule 37 petition, Guthrie alleged that his trial counsel was ineffective because, among other things, counsel did not question or strike venireperson Garland Pearson when counsel was advised by Guthrie that Pearson's uncle had brought criminal charges against Guthrie. Guthrie further alleged that Pearson had lied under oath when he said that he did not know Guthrie because he (Guthrie) had been married to Pearson's first cousin, Laurie. Guthrie further alleged that Pearson became jury foreman, which put him in a position to influence and manipulate the other jurors.

         The trial court held a hearing on Guthrie's petition. Pearson testified that he had been adopted when he was four years old and that he had grown up in Lake City, the site of Guthrie's trial. He said that he had moved to Memphis, Tennessee, when he was seventeen years old and had lived there until his father became sick about eight years ago. Pearson testified that he was not close to any of his family "whatsoever." He stated that his uncle, Garland Platts, had died three or four years ago. He said that he had visited Platts in hospice while he was unconscious and dying but that, before that, he had not had any contact with Platts for thirty to thirty-five years. Pearson said that he was unaware that Platts had been the victim of any crime. Pearson said that he knew of Platts's children, including Laurie, but did not know any of them personally or where they were currently living. He said that he had not had any contact with Laurie for "probably thirty years." Pearson testified that he has a half sister, Bobbie Ann, but that he did not have much contact with her and was not aware of any relationship she may have had with Guthrie.

         Pearson further testified that he did not recall ever having seen Guthrie except for when he served on the jury at Guthrie's trial. He testified that, when he was asked during voir dire if he knew any of the parties at Guthrie's trial, he had truthfully answered no. Pearson also stated that he had become foreman of the jury simply because he had sat at the end of the table. He said, "I sat there and [the other jurors were] like you're the jury foreman. I didn't know what it meant."

         Bill Howard, an attorney, testified that he had represented Guthrie when he was tried in Lake City. Howard was asked whether Guthrie had told him during voir dire that he was related to or knew Pearson, and Howard responded:

That's a tough question. Not before voir dire was conducted did that issue come up. At some point either after the trial or maybe while the jury was out, I don't remember, at some point, it was after the jury was selected that something was brought up. I can't even tell you what he said, somebody knows somebody and didn't like my cousin or my brother or something like that.

         Howard recalled telling Guthrie that, because Guthrie knew some of the jurors and he (Howard) did not, it was Guthrie's call whether to strike a potential juror. Howard further testified that, if he had known something unfavorable about a juror, he would have brought that up.

         Guthrie testified that he had advised Howard that Pearson's uncle, Garland Platts, had brought criminal charges against him in 1993 or 1994. Guthrie said that Platts was his former father-in-law, as Guthrie had been married to Platts's daughter, Laurie, who is Pearson's first cousin. Guthrie said that he had known Pearson's family "literally all of [his] life" and that he had been to Pearson's house when his mother drove the school bus. Guthrie said that he had also been in a "sexting" relationship with Pearson's sister, Bobbie Ann. He said that Bobbie Ann had once referred to the fact that Platts did not like him.

         Guthrie also testified that, as jury foreman, Pearson was in a position to sway or steer the jury in a certain direction "like possibly at sentencing" and that Pearson could have had something to do with the ultimate outcome. The trial court questioned Guthrie about what he had told Howard when Pearson denied knowing him, and Guthrie said that he had told Howard that Pearson was not telling the truth when he said that he did not know him because he had been ...


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