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Jones v. State

Supreme Court of Arkansas

October 10, 2019

Kevin D. JONES, Appellant
v.
STATE of Arkansas, Appellee

Page 154

[Copyrighted Material Omitted]

Page 155

         PRO SE APPEAL FROM THE PULASKI COUNTY CIRCUIT COURT, FIFTH DIVISION, AND MOTION TO UNSEAL DOCUMENTS [NO. 60CR-15-581], HONORABLE WENDELL GRIFFEN, JUDGE

          Kevin D. Jones, pro se appellant.

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

         OPINION

         SHAWN A. WOMACK, Associate Justice

          Kevin D. Jones appeals the denial of his pro se petition for writ of error coram nobis 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 accordingly moot.

          We 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.

          A writ 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 record. Id.

          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.

          Jones 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. SeeState v. Tejeda-Acosta,2013 Ark. 217, at 8, 427 S.W.3d 673, 678. We ...


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