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Scott v. State

Supreme Court of Arkansas

October 10, 2019

BRODERICK DON SCOTT APPELLANT
v.
STATE OF ARKANSAS APPELLEE

          PRO SE APPEAL FROM THE PULASKI COUNTY CIRCUIT COURT, FIRST DIVISION [NO. 60CR-06-1822] HONORABLE LEON JOHNSON, JUDGE.

          Broderick Don Scott, pro se appellant.

          Leslie Rutledge, Att'y Gen., by: Brad Newman, Ass't Att'y Gen., for appellee.

          JOSEPHINE LINKER HART, JUSTICE.

         In 2006, appellant Broderick Don Scott entered a plea of guilty to first-degree battery, two counts of committing a terroristic act, possession of a firearm by certain persons, aggravated assault, and first-degree terroristic threatening, for which he was sentenced to an aggregate term of 360 months' imprisonment. In 2013, Scott filed in the trial court a pro se petition for writ of error coram nobis challenging the judgment, and on November 26, 2013, the petition was denied. Scott did not file a notice of appeal until February 19, 2014, eighty-five days after the order had been entered. This court denied Scott's motion for belated appeal for failure to establish good cause for the untimely filing of the notice of appeal. Scott v. State, 2014 Ark. 199 (per curiam).

         On April 20, 2016, Scott again sought coram nobis relief in the trial court. Scott filed an amended pro se petition on May 5, 2016. The trial court, addressing the May 5, 2016 amended coram nobis petition, denied relief and noted that it had found Scott's first coram nobis petition untimely in 2013 and that Scott's current petition, filed ten years after imposition of sentence, "would be no timelier than the first." This court reversed and remanded, concluding that the Brady v. Maryland, 373 U.S. 83 (1963), claim may have had merit and that the trial court was in a position to hold an evidentiary hearing to consider and test the merits of the petition. See Scott v. State, 2017 Ark. 199, 520 S.W.3d 262.

         On remand and after an evidentiary hearing, the trial court again denied relief, and Scott now appeals the denial of his second petition for writ of error coram nobis. On appeal, Scott contends that (1) the trial court erred by finding that Scott failed to demonstrate the State suppressed evidence in violation of Brady; (2) the trial court erred by not taking judicial notice of adjudicative facts regarding the file-mark dates on the evidence introduced by the State; (3) the trial court erred when it failed to apply the doctrine of "law of the case" when raised by Scott; (4) the trial court erred by stating that the victim "recanted" her statement;[1]the trial court erred by permitting the State to piecemeal its defense; and (6) the trial court erred by failing to find that Scott suffered prejudice by the suppression of the evidence. Scott has failed to establish that the trial court abused its discretion and that the writ should have issued; as such, we affirm.

         I. Standard of Review

         When the judgment is appealed, an appellant must first seek permission in this court to proceed in the trial court with a petition for writ of error coram nobis. Kain v. State, 2019 Ark. 113, 570 S.W.3d 466. However, if the judgment of conviction was entered on a plea of guilty or nolo contendere, the petition for writ of error coram nobis is first filed directly with the trial court. Id. The standard of review of an order entered by the trial court on a petition for a writ of error coram nobis is whether the trial court abused its discretion in granting or denying the writ. Osburn v. State, 2018 Ark. 341, 560 S.W.3d 774. An abuse of discretion occurs when the trial court acts arbitrarily or groundlessly. Id. 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 those findings are clearly erroneous or clearly against the preponderance of the evidence. Ramirez v. State, 2018 Ark. 32, 536 S.W.3d 614. There is no abuse of discretion in the denial of coram nobis relief when the claims in the petition were groundless. Osburn, 2018 Ark. 341, 560 S.W.3d 774.

         II. Nature of the Writ

         A writ of error coram nobis is an extraordina1ily rare remedy. State v. Larimore, 341 Ark. 397, 17 S.W.3d 87 (2000). Coram nobis proceedings are attended by a strong presumption that the judgment of conviction is valid. 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 if it had 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. Newman v. State, 2009 Ark. 539, 354 S.W.3d 61. The petitioner has the burden of demonstrating a fundamental error of fact extrinsic to the record. Roberts v. State, 2013 Ark. 56, 425 S.W.3d 771. We are not required to accept the allegations in a petition for writ of error coram nobis at face value. Jackson v. State, 2017 Ark. 195, 520 S.W.3d 242.

         III. Grounds for the Writ

         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 for addressing 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. Howard v. State, 2012 Ark. 177, 403 S.W.3d 38.

         IV. Claims for ...


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