KEVIN D. JONES APPELLANT
STATE OF ARKANSAS APPELLEE
APPEAL FROM THE PULASKI COUNTY CIRCUIT COURT, FIFTH DIVISION,
AND MOTION TO UNSEAL DOCUMENTS [NO. 60CR-15-581] HONORABLE
WENDELL GRIFFEN, JUDGE
D. Jones, pro se appellant.
Rutledge, Att'y Gen., by: Brad Newman, Ass't
Att'y Gen., for appellee.
A. WOMACK, ASSOCIATE JUSTICE.
D. Jones appeals the denial of his pro se petition for writ
of error coramnobis or to vacate his conviction. In 2016,
Jones pleaded nolo contendere to first degree battery and
unlawful possession of a firearm. He now contends that he was
coerced into entering the plea. In addition to denying his
petition, Jones claims the circuit court failed to address
his claim of "withheld evidence" and should have
conducted an evidentiary hearing. We find no error and
affirm. His subsequent motion to unseal documents is
review the circuit court's denial of a petition for writ
of error coram nobis for abuse of discretion. See Osburn
v. State, 2018 Ark. 341, at 2, 560 S.W.3d 774,
776. An abuse of discretion occurs when the court
acts arbitrarily or groundlessly. Id. There is no
abuse of discretion in the denial of coram nobis relief when
the claims in the petition were groundless. Id.
of error coram nobis is an extraordinarily rare remedy.
See Jackson v. State, 2018 Ark. 227, at 2, 549
S.W.3d 356, 358. Proceedings for the writ 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 that, through no negligence or fault of
the defendant, was not brought forward before rendition of
the judgment. Id. The petitioner has the burden of
demonstrating a fundamental error of fact extrinsic to the
writ is allowed only under compelling circumstances to
achieve justice and to address errors of the most fundamental
nature. See Dednam v. State, 2019 Ark. 8, at 3, 564
S.W.3d 259, 261. A writ of error coram nobis is available to
address certain errors 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. Id.
contends that his plea was coerced because his attorney did
not render effective assistance of counsel during the plea
hearing. As a threshold matter,
ineffective-assistance-of-counsel claims are not cognizable
in coram nobis proceedings. See State v.
Tejeda-Acosta, 2013 Ark. 217, at 8 427 S.W.3d 673, 678.
We have consistently held that a petitioner's claim that
his plea was not entered intelligently and voluntarily
because of poor advice from counsel may only be brought under
Arkansas Rule of Criminal Procedure 37.1. See Griffin v.
State, 2018 Ark. 10, at 3, 535 S.W.3d 261, 263. The writ
simply cannot be used as a substitute to pursue such claims.
prevail on a claim that a plea was coerced and warrants coram
nobis relief, the petitioner must establish that the plea was
the result of fear, duress, or threats of mob violence.
Id. The allegation that a plea was involuntarily and
unknowingly given as a result of erroneous advice does not
constitute coercion within the scope of coram nobis.
Id. Likewise, the mere pressure to accept a plea
offer occasioned by the fear of a more severe sentence is
insufficient. See Gray v. State, 2018 Ark. 79, at 3,
540 S.W.3d 658, 660. Even when counsel's advice is
erroneous or improvident, it does not demonstrate coercion.
See Green v. State, 2016 Ark. 386, at 8, 502 S.W.3d
524, 529. Poor advice does not constitute a fundamental error
of fact extrinsic to the record that warrants issuance of the
claims counsel told him if he pleaded nolo contendere, he
would be sentenced to sixty months for each charge to be
served concurrently. But he was given concurrent sentences of
180 months for first-degree battery and sixty months for
possession of a firearm. He further alleges that counsel told
him to respond to the court's questions "loud and
affirmatively." Otherwise, the court would reject his
plea and he would be subjected to severe and dire
consequences through trial. He also claims the court was
angry because he failed, through no fault of his own, to
appear for the plea hearing when it was first scheduled.
Jones accuses the court, the State, and his attorney of
conspiring to coerce him into entering his plea. Jones's
allegations of ineffective assistance and his conclusory
conspiracy accusation do not present a valid claim for coram
"withheld evidence" that Jones contends was not
considered when he entered his plea is essentially a
repetition of his ineffective assistance claim. He does not
claim the State withheld evidence in violation of Brady
v. Maryland, 373 U.S. 83 (1963). Rather, he contends
counsel's allegedly inadequate representation precluded
information from being brought out at the plea hearing. This
claim likewise fails to state a ground for the writ.
the circuit court was not required to conduct a hearing on
Jones's allegations of ineffective assistance of counsel
and his concomitant claims of trial error with respect to the
plea hearing. Because neither trial error nor ineffective
assistance of counsel is a ground for the writ, a hearing was
not required before ...