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Crippen v. State

Court of Appeals of Arkansas, Division III

May 22, 2019

James Edward CRIPPEN, Appellant
v.
STATE of Arkansas, Appellee

Page 391

[Copyrighted Material Omitted]

Page 392

          APPEAL FROM THE CRAWFORD COUNTY CIRCUIT COURT [NO. 17CR-14-461], HONORABLE GARY COTTRELL, JUDGE

          James Edward Crippen, pro se appellant.

         Leslie Rutledge, Att’y Gen., by: Joseph Karl Luebke, Ass’t Att’y Gen., for appellee.

         OPINION

         LARRY D. VAUGHT, Judge

          James Edward Crippen appeals the Crawford County Circuit Court’s order denying his petition for postconviction relief filed pursuant to Arkansas Rule of Criminal Procedure 37.1. On appeal, Crippen argues that his trial counsel was ineffective in failing to (1) object to the introduction of a drug-task-force officer’s testimony and an Arkansas State Crime Laboratory report and (2) call the crime-lab chemist as a witness at trial. We affirm.

          On September 22, 2014, Crippen was charged by felony information as a habitual offender with simultaneous possession of drugs and firearms, trafficking methamphetamine, possession of drug paraphernalia, theft by receiving, fleeing, and possession of a firearm by certain persons. At trial, drug-task-force officer Lanny Reese testified that during a search incident to Crippen’s arrest, officers found a case containing "around seven ounces of suspected methamphetamine." Reese also testified that the package had some "big crystal rocks in there" and that it was extremely white.

         During Reese’s testimony, the State sought to introduce the crime-lab report that described the substance tested as a "clear crystalline substance" and concluded that the substance was 200.4 grams of pure methamphetamine. Counsel for Crippen stipulated to the admission of the report, stating on the record that it was a tactical decision.[1] Relevant to this appeal, the jury convicted Crippen of trafficking methamphetamine pursuant to Arkansas Code Annotated § 5-64-440(b)(1) (Repl.

Page 393

2016), which provides that a person engages in trafficking a controlled substance if he or she possesses, possesses with the purpose to deliver, delivers, or manufactures 200 grams or more of methamphetamine. For this conviction, Crippen was sentenced to twenty-five years’ imprisonment.[2] Thereafter, Crippen’s counsel filed a no-merit appeal and a motion to withdraw as counsel. On May 16, 2018, this court affirmed Crippen’s convictions and granted his counsel’s motion to withdraw. Crippen v. State, 2018 Ark.App. 315, 2018 WL 2228117.

          Crippen then filed a timely petition for postconviction relief in the circuit court. In that petition, he raised three claims of ineffective assistance of counsel: (1) trial counsel was ineffective for failing to investigate and perform pretrial functions; (2) trial counsel was ineffective for failing to call the crime-lab chemist as a witness at trial; and (3) trial counsel was ineffective for failing to object to the testimony of Reese and to the introduction of the crime-lab report.

          The circuit court held a hearing on Crippen’s Rule 37 petition. Crippen and his trial counsel, David Dunagin, testified. At the conclusion of the hearing, the court denied Crippen’s petition. An order denying the petition was entered on October 9, 2018. In the order, the court rejected Crippen’s arguments that his trial counsel was ineffective for failing to conduct a pretrial investigation and for failing to call the crime-lab chemist as a witness at trial. The order did not address or rule on Crippen’s claim that his trial ...


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