RODERICK R. WILLIAMS APPELLANT
STATE OF ARKANSAS APPELLEE
APPEAL FROM THE DESHA COUNTY CIRCUIT COURT [NO. 21ACR-07-50]
HONORABLE STEVEN PORCH, JUDGE
Roderick R. Williams, pro se appellant.
Rutledge, Att'y Gen., by: Kent Holt, Ass't Att'y
Gen., for appellee.
COURTNEY HUDSON GOODSON, ASSOCIATE JUSTICE
R. Williams appeals from the denial of his request for
postconviction relief on a judgment convicting him of capital
murder and other charges and imposing a life sentence without
parole for the murder charge plus a consecutive term of years
to be served on the other charges. Williams filed in the
trial court a pro se petition under Arkansas Rule of Criminal
Procedure 37.1 (2017) that the court denied without a
hearing. Because we determine from the record before us that
the trial court correctly found that the Rule 37.1 petition
was wholly without merit, we affirm the denial of
court affirmed the judgment convicting Williams after his
second trial on the charges. Williams v. State, 2011
Ark. 432, 385 S.W.3d 157 (Williams II). In the
initial proceedings, this court reversed the convictions and
remanded for a new trial, holding that the denial of a motion
for mistrial was an abuse of discretion. Williams v.
State, 2010 Ark. 89, 377 S.W.3d 168 (Williams
murder in this case occurred when Williams, in violation of
an order of protection, had gone to Kerman Harris's home,
where she lived with her parents and Williams's child.
Harris's mother, Clara Cobb, was talking to Williams on
the porch when Harris finished a phone conversation and
walked toward the porch while holding the baby. Harris saw
Williams load a shotgun and shoot Cobb in the stomach.
Williams I, this court reviewed the denial of a
motion for mistrial that was made following Harris's
unsupported statement that Williams had been convicted of
terroristic threatening for an incident involving her mother,
and we reversed and remanded for a new trial. Williams
I, 2010 Ark. 89, 377 S.W.3d 168. Prior to Williams's
second trial, the State and the defense agreed that officers
of the court and witnesses would refrain from using the word
"trial" to prevent the jurors from learning that
the case had already been tried. Despite the agreement, on
cross-examination Harris alluded to "the last
trial" during her testimony at the second trial. The
trial court denied the defense motion for a mistrial that
followed the remark. In Williams II, this court held
that because the brief and unsolicited remark was not
repeated, it was not so patently inflammatory that the trial
court abused its discretion in failing to grant the motion
for mistrial. Williams II, 2011 Ark. 432, 385 S.W.3d
157. We noted that, after the trial court denied the defense
motion for mistrial, there was a discussion in which defense
counsel agreed that no admonition should be given because it
would only draw additional attention to the remark.
Rule 37.1 petition, Williams alleged ineffective assistance
of counsel on three bases. He asserted that trial counsel was
ineffective for failing to request the admonition about
Harris's remark referencing Williams's previous trial
and for failing to question Harris about the statement that
had warranted granting a mistrial in Williams I.
Williams characterized Harris's statement in the first
trial as perjury and contended that challenging Harris's
incorrect statement that Williams was convicted of the
charges was essential to discredit her testimony. Williams
further alleged that appellate counsel was ineffective for
failing to raise issues concerning adverse evidentiary
rulings that limited trial counsel's cross-examination of
Harris about her "personal issues" concerning
another woman with whom Williams also has a child.
order denying postconviction relief, the trial court found
that Williams's Rule 37.1 petition was wholly without
merit, that defense counsel had made reasonable tactical
decisions, and that Williams had effective assistance of
counsel during his trial. The court additionally found that
Williams was afforded due process.
appeal, Williams reasserts his ineffective-assistance claims.
He also raises an additional issue alleging a due-process
violation because the evidence at trial was not sufficient to
show premeditation and deliberation, and he alleges error in
the trial court's failure to hold a hearing on the Rule
37.1 petition or to appoint counsel for the Rule 37
court reviews the trial court's decision on Rule 37.1
petitions for clear error. Gordon v. State, 2018
Ark. 73, 539 S.W.3d 586. A finding is clearly erroneous when,
although there is evidence to support it, the appellate
court, after reviewing the entire evidence, is left with the
definite and firm conviction that a mistake has been
committed. Lacy v. State, 2018 Ark. 174, 545 S.W.3d
746, petition for cert. filed (U.S. Oct. 16, 2018)
trial court did not clearly err in denying the petition
without a hearing and without appointing counsel. Rule
37.3(a) of the Arkansas Rules of Criminal Procedure (2017)
delineates the procedure for summary disposition of a Rule
37.1 petition. Under Rule 37.3, the trial court has the
discretion to deny relief without a hearing when it is
conclusively shown on the record, or the face of the petition
itself, that the allegations have no merit. Mancia v.
State, 2015 Ark. 115, 459 S.W.3d 259. If it is
conclusive on the face of the petition that no relief was
warranted, then the trial court did not err in declining to
hold an evidentiary hearing on a claim for relief.
Beverage v. State, 2015 Ark. 112, 458 S.W.3d 243.
Because, as explained below, all of Williams's claims in
the petition were clearly without merit, the trial court was
not required to conduct a hearing in order to deny relief.
the trial court had discretion to appoint counsel under
Arkansas Rule of Criminal Procedure 37.3(b) (2017), and in
order to demonstrate an abuse of discretion by the trial
court in declining to appoint counsel, an appellant must have
made a substantial showing that his petition included a
meritorious claim. Evans v. State, 2014 Ark. 6. This
court has rejected the argument that the cases Williams cites
require appointment of counsel, and ...