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Stocks v. State

Supreme Court of Arkansas

October 24, 2019

Heath Carlton STOCKS, Appellant
v.
STATE of Arkansas, Appellee

Page 169

[Copyrighted Material Omitted]

Page 170

         PRO SE APPEAL FROM THE LONOKE COUNTY CIRCUIT COURT [NO. 43CR-97-9], HONORABLE JASON ASHLEY PARKER, JUDGE

          Heath Stocks, pro se appellant.

         Leslie Rutledge, Att’y Gen., by: Vada Berger, Sr. Ass’t Att’y Gen., for appellee.

         OPINION

         RHONDA K. WOOD, Associate Justice

          Heath Carlton Stocks appeals the circuit court’s denial of his pro se petition for a writ of error coram nobis and audita querela.[1] Stocks, who entered a guilty plea in 1997 to three counts of capital murder in the deaths of his family members, raises multiple grounds for relief. Because Stocks has not established grounds for issuance of the writ, we affirm.

          I. Nature of the Writ

          We review a circuit court’s denial of a petition for writ of error coram nobis for abuse of discretion. Newman v. State, 2014 Ark. 7, 2014 WL 197789. A court abuses its discretion when it acts arbitrarily or groundlessly. Nelson v. State, 2014 Ark. 91, 431 S.W.3d 852. A writ of error coram nobis is an extraordinarily rare remedy. State v. Larimore, 341 Ark. 397, 17 S.W.3d 87 2000. The function of the writ is to secure relief from a judgment when there existed some fact that would have prevented its rendition if it had been known to the circuit court and that, through no negligence or fault of the defendant, was not brought forward before judgment. Newman v. State, 2009 Ark. 539, 354 S.W.3d 61. It is the petitioner’s burden to demonstrate a fundamental error of fact extrinsic to the record. Roberts v. State, 2013 Ark. 56, 425 S.W.3d 771. The trial court is not required to hold a hearing on a clearly non-meritorious coram nobis petition. Griffin v. State, 2018 Ark. 10, 535 S.W.3d 261.

          The writ is allowed only under compelling circumstances to achieve justice and to address errors of the most fundamental nature. Dednam v. State, 2019 Ark. 8, 564 S.W.3d 259. A writ of error coram nobis is available to address the following errors: (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. Error coram nobis

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proceedings are attended by a "strong presumption" that the judgment of conviction is valid. Nelson, 2014 Ark. 91, at 3, 431 S.W.3d at 854.

          II. Stocks’s ...


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