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Hallman v. State

Supreme Court of Arkansas

January 16, 2020

Marlon Glenn HALLMAN, Petitioner
STATE of Arkansas, Respondent

Page 796


         Marlon G. Hallman, pro se petitioner.

         Leslie Rutledge, Att’y Gen., by: Adam Jackson, Ass’t Att’y Gen., for respondent.


         COURTNEY RAE HUDSON, Associate Justice

Page 797

          Petitioner Marlon Glenn Hallman asks this court for permission to proceed in the trial court with a petition under Arkansas Rule of Criminal Procedure 37.1 (Repl. 1977) in which he would challenge a 1978 judgment that reflects his sentence of life imprisonment without parole for capital murder and twenty years for kidnapping. He fails to set out a meritorious basis for relief under the Rule, and we therefore deny the petition.

         Hallman and his codefendant, Tywanna Faye Martin, were both convicted on the same charges in the matter and received the same sentences. The two defendants filed a joint appeal, and this court affirmed the judgment. Hallman v. State, 264 Ark. 900, 575 S.W.2d 688 (1979). In a previous petition that Hallman filed in this court, one in which he sought permission to pursue a petition for writ of error coram nobis, he questioned the legality of the kidnapping sentence. In that decision, we set aside the kidnapping conviction as void. Hallman v. State, 2018 Ark. 336, 561 S.W.3d 305.

         The Rules of Criminal Procedure provide that petitioners with judgments entered before July 1, 1989, that have been affirmed on appeal, must obtain leave from this court before filing a postconviction petition in the trial court.[1] Ark. R. Crim. P. 37.2(a) (1987); see also Munnerlyn v. State, 2018 Ark. 161, 545 S.W.3d 207. A petition filed under the Rule is untimely if not filed within three years of the date of commitment unless the petitioner states some ground for relief that, if found meritorious, would render the judgment of conviction absolutely void. Ark. R. Crim. P. 37.2(c) (adopted December 18, 1978, by In re Rules of Criminal Procedure Rule 37.2 Commencement of Proceedings ; Pleadings ; Permission of Supreme Court Following Appeal, 264 Ark. 967 (1978) (per curiam)).[2]

          A ground sufficient to void a conviction must be one so basic that the judgment is a complete nullity, such as a judgment obtained in a court without jurisdiction to try the accused or a judgment that imposes an illegal sentence when obtained in violation of the provisions against double jeopardy. See Travis v. State, 286 Ark. 26, 688 S.W.2d 935 (1985). Issues not sufficient to void the conviction are waived even though they are of constitutional dimension. Id. The burden is on the petitioner to demonstrate that the judgment entered was a nullity. Id. The presumption that a criminal judgment is final is at its strongest in collateral attacks on the judgment. Id.

Page 798

          Hallman alleges seven bases for grounds for Rule 37 relief, all framed as claims of ineffective assistance of counsel. Four of Hallman’s listed bases for postconviction relief concern the separate charge of kidnapping that this court previously declared void, in that Hallman alleges counsel failed to object to the separate charge of kidnapping, the jury instructions for a conviction on it, his sentencing, and the trial court’s lack of jurisdiction in that regard. While those claims incorporate a challenge to the separate kidnapping sentence alleging that the separate kidnapping conviction is void, Hallman has already received his relief for the illegal sentence. See Hallman, 2018 Ark. 336, 561 S.W.3d 305. Those issues are moot.

          Hallman proposes three additional bases for relief related to his murder conviction. He alleges that counsel was ineffective for failing to investigate a defense that challenged the kidnapping charge as the underlying foundation for the capital murder charge; for failing to obtain a statement from the victim’s brother, Raymond Polk, who provided an affidavit that Hallman attached to his Rule 37 petition; and for failing to object to the judgment not being signed by the judge.

          A claim of ineffective assistance of counsel alone is not a claim sufficient to void the judgment. SeeTravis, 286 Ark. 26, 688 S.W.2d 935. The prejudice required to support such claims need not rise to the level of voiding the judgment. SeeMaiden v. State,2019 Ark. 198, 575 S.W.3d 120 (recognizing that the standard for ineffective-assistance claims requires a showing that the petitioner was deprived of a fair trial). Hallman’s claims that counsel failed to investigate or obtain a statement from Polk would not void the judgment, and the appropriate remedy for the type of error that Hallman alleges in those two claims is a new trial.[3]SeeState v. Harrison,2012 Ark. 198, ...

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