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Sorum v. State

Court of Appeals of Arkansas, Division II

September 4, 2019

JERAN KYLER SORUM APPELLANT
v.
STATE OF ARKANSAS APPELLEE

          APPEAL FROM THE BENTON COUNTY CIRCUIT COURT [NO. 04CR-14-415] HONORABLE BRAD KARREN, JUDGE.

          Short Law Firm, by: Lee D. Short, for appellant.

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

          BART F. VIRDEN, JUDGE.

         A Benton County Circuit Court jury convicted appellant Jeran Kyler Sorum of rape, second-degree sexual assault, and first-degree computer exploitation of a child. He was sentenced to an aggregate term of twelve years in prison, and his conviction was affirmed on appeal. See Sorum v. State, 2017 Ark. App. 384, 526 S.W.3d 50. This appeal stems from the trial court's denial of Sorum's subsequent Rule 37 petition and related motions and the trial court's decision to strike the subsequent petition. We affirm.

         I. Relevant Facts

         On September 28, 2017, Sorum filed a ten-page petition for postconviction relief in which he raised three claims: (1) trial counsel was ineffective for failing to file a motion to dismiss on double-jeopardy grounds; (2) trial counsel was ineffective for failing to make a meritorious directed-verdict motion regarding the offense of computer exploitation of a child; and (3) trial counsel was ineffective for failing to argue that rape required the State to prove sexual gratification in addition to penetration. The same day, Sorum filed a motion for leave to file an enlarged Rule 37 petition arguing that the ten-page limit was insufficient for the additional issues he wished to raise. The trial court did not rule on the motion.

         On December 28 Sorum filed an amended, twenty-two-page Rule 37 petition that included two additional issues. On January 30, 2018, the trial court entered an order striking Sorum's enlarged petition and finding that Sorum filed the overlength petition without leave of the court. The court concluded that the strict requirements on the form of a Rule 37.1 petition are reasonable and proper. The court also found that Rule 37's procedural requirements do not violate due process, and the petition failed to comply with those requirements.

         On February 7, Sorum filed a motion for reconsideration of the motion for leave to file an amended and enlarged petition stating that

[t]he Petitioner has two issues to present in good-faith in his Rule 37 Petition that were unable to fit within the ten-page original petition. Those issues regarding accomplice corroboration and the rape shield hearing are legitimate and unable to be presented. Those issues can best be seen by looking at the amended and enlarged Rule 37 Petition and comparing it with the initial Rule 37 Petition.

         The trial court denied the motion, reiterating the previous conclusion that "it is not a violation of petitioner's due process rights nor is it fundamentally unfair for this court to adhere to strict requirements on the form of a Rule 37.1 petition."

         On April 2, Sorum filed a motion for leave to file an amended ten-page petition, stating that he had "culled" his original three arguments and the two additional points he wished to make. He attached the amended petition to the motion. The next day, the trial court struck the amended petition stating that "this court finds no change of circumstances from the previous ruling of this court as stated in its order, January 30, 2018, and that the hearing in this matter on April 27, 2018, will not be continued in order to allow the State additional time to respond to an amended petition." The same day, Sorum filed a motion for reconsideration, asserting that the State "has been well aware of these additional arguments for months based on prior pleadings," and he contended that the allotted response time was only twenty days and that it was twenty-four days until the hearing.

         On April 4, the trial court entered an order denying the motion to reconsider, finding no change of circumstances from the previous rulings. Additionally, the court prohibited Sorum from filing any further motions concerning an amended Rule 37 petition. After a hearing the court denied the petition. Sorum timely filed a notice of appeal.

         II. Standard of Review and Applicable Law

         When reviewing a trial court's ruling on a Rule 37.1 petition, we will not reverse the trial court's decision granting or denying postconviction relief unless it is clearly erroneous. Kemp v. State, 347 Ark. 52, 55, 60 S.W.3d 404, 406 (2001). 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. Id.

         The benchmark question to be resolved in judging a claim of ineffective assistance of counsel is whether counsel's conduct so undermined the proper functioning of the adversarial process that the trial cannot be relied on as having produced a just result. Norris v. State, 2013 Ark. 205, 427 S.W.3d 626 (per curiam). A Rule 37 petitioner's ineffective-assistance-of-counsel claims are analyzed under the two-prong standard set forth in Strickland v. Washington, 466 U.S. 668, 687 (1984), which requires a petitioner to show that his counsel's representation was deficient, and he suffered prejudice as a result. "Unless a petitioner makes both showings, it cannot be said ...


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