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Hutcherson v. State

Supreme Court of Arkansas

November 7, 2019

WILLIE HUTCHERSON PETITIONER
v.
STATE OF ARKANSAS RESPONDENT

          PRO SE FOURTH PETITION TO REINVEST JURISDICTION IN THE TRIAL COURT TO CONSIDER A PETITION FOR WRIT OF ERROR CORAM NOBIS [PULASKI COUNTY CIRCUIT COURT, NO. 60CR-99-1834]

          Willie Hutcherson, pro se petitioner.

          Leslie Rutledge, Att'y Gen., by: Karen Virgina Wallace, Ass't Att'y Gen., for respondent.

          ROBIN F. WYNNE, ASSOCIATE JUSTICE

         Petitioner Willie Hutcherson brings this petition to reinvest jurisdiction in the trial court to file a petition for writ of error coram nobis in his criminal case.[1] In the petition, Hutcherson contends that the State and his trial attorneys violated Brady v. Maryland, 373 U.S. 83 (1963), by failing to disclose the statements of two police officers and that there was error in his trial. The petition reasserts an allegation previously raised in this court, as well as an issue of trial error that is outside the scope of a coram nobis proceeding. We deny the petition.

         I. Nature of the Writ

         The petition for leave to proceed in the trial court is necessary because the trial court can entertain a petition for writ of error coram nobis after a judgment has been affirmed on appeal only after we grant permission. Newman v. State, 2009 Ark. 539, 354 S.W.3d 61. A writ of error coram nobis is an extraordinarily 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. Green v. State, 2016 Ark. 386, 502 S.W.3d 524. 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, 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.

         II. Grounds for the Writ

         The writ is allowed only under compelling circumstances to achieve justice and to address errors of the most fundamental nature. Pitts v. State, 336 Ark. 580, 986 S.W.2d 407. 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. The burden is on the petitioner in the application for coram nobis relief to make a full disclosure of specific facts relied upon and not to merely state conclusions as to the nature of such facts. McCullough v. State, 2017 Ark. 292, 528 S.W.3d 833.

         III. Background

         In 2000, Hutcherson was found guilty by a jury of four counts of aggravated robbery, three counts of misdemeanor theft of property, and one count of felony theft of property. Hutcherson was sentenced as a habitual offender to an aggregate term of 2880 months' imprisonment. The Arkansas Court of Appeals affirmed. Hutcherson v. State, 74 Ark.App. 72, 47 S.W.3d 267 (2001).

         In 2008, Hutcherson filed in this court his first petition to reinvest jurisdiction in the trial court to consider a petition for writ of error coram nobis. The principal claim in the petition pertained to the statements of two police officers. We declined to grant the petition because Hutcherson admitted in the petition that the officers' statements had been obtained by the defense during the pretrial discovery process. Accordingly, the statements were not hidden from the defense and extrinsic to the record. Hutcherson v. State, CR-00-645 (Ark. Jan. 15, 2009) (unpublished per curiam).

         In 2015, Hutcherson filed a second coram-nobis petition that also concerned the officers' statements. Again, there was no claim that the statements were extrinsic to the record, and the second petition was also denied. Hutcherson v. State, 2015 Ark. 231 (per curiam).

         In 2016, Hutcherson filed a third coram-nobis petition. As he did in the first two petitions, he focused his grounds for the writ on the two officers' statements that were known to him before his trial was conducted. He added the claim that the deputy prosecutor, his attorney, and the trial judge were part of a "premeditated plan to intentionally misrepresent" him by not handling the statements properly. He stated that he obtained the statements from the discovery material and that he passed the statements along to his attorney, who gave the statements to the deputy prosecutor rather than to the judge. He contended that the deputy prosecutor failed to abide by the State's duty to conduct on-going discovery and that the deputy prosecutor's misconduct with respect to the ...


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