Coleman v. State

Decision Date30 November 1984
Docket NumberNo. PC-84-391,PC-84-391
Citation693 P.2d 4
PartiesCharles Troy COLEMAN, Petitioner, v. The STATE of Oklahoma, Respondent.
CourtUnited States State Court of Criminal Appeals of Oklahoma. Court of Criminal Appeals of Oklahoma

Edward L. Munson, Tahlequah, for appellant.

Hugh Manning, Asst. Atty. Gen., Oklahoma City, William A. Edmondson, Dist. Atty., Muskogee, for appellee.


This is an appeal from the District Court of Muskogee County, Case No. CRF-79-76, wherein, after a hearing was held, the Honorable Hardy Summers entered extensive findings of fact and conclusions of law regarding each allegation of error raised by the petitioner in both his original and his amended applications for post-conviction relief, and denied same. 1

As one of his allegations of error, the petitioner complains of the trial court's failure to provide him with a court appointed investigator to assist in his defense. However, as the district court found, the doctrine of res judicata bars consideration in post-conviction proceedings of issues which have been or which could have been raised on direct appeal. See for instance, Harrel v. State, 493 P.2d 461 (Okl.Cr.1972), and cases cited therein. Moreover, even if this issue was properly before this Court it would be meritless. The argument sought to be raised has been previously addressed and rejected by this Court. See, Eddings v. State, 616 P.2d 1159 (Okl.Cr.1980), reversed on other grounds, 455 U.S. 104, 102 S.Ct. 869, 71 L.Ed.2d 1 (1982); and, Bills v. State, 585 P.2d 1366 (Okl.Cr.1978). These cases are dispositive of this issue. 2

In another assignment of error, the petitioner asserts that the procedure in the district court denied him an opportunity for a fair and impartial hearing. He claims that it was error for the district court not to grant his writ of habeas corpus ad testificandum and his motion to serve as co-counsel in the hearing. However, the petitioner has failed to set forth any authority to support this assertion. Moreover, the applicable statute, 22 O.S.1981, § 1084, states in pertinent part that: "... The Court may receive proof by affidavits, depositions, oral testimony, or other evidence and may order the applicant brought before it for the hearing." (Emphasis added). The statutory language is clearly permissive and not mandatory.

At the conclusion of his order, Judge Summers, in addressing this alleged error, stated:

... [T]he issue of whether the defendant should be present during his hearing was under continuous advisement and if the Court found, at any time, that his presence was necessary the proceedings would have been delayed until his presence could be secured. In each instance where counsel sought the defendant's testimony, that testimony was found to be either stipulated to by the State, not relevant to the issue or not admissable or competent testimony. On no occasion did the Court find that the presence of the defendant to be either necessary or The petitioner has failed to demonstrate that the district judge abused his discretion in this matter.

of benefit to the Court in determining the legal issues presented.

Petitioner also argues that the district court erred in conducting the hearing on his application while he had a petition for writ of mandamus pending in this Court, in which he prayed for this Court to order Judge Summers to disqualify and recuse in the matter. We do not agree.

This Court never issued any order staying proceedings in the district court; rather, we declined to assume original jurisdiction because the petitioner "... failed to allege sufficient facts [for us] to grant the relief [prayed for]," and his petition was not filed ten (10) days prior to the hearing date as required by Rule 3.17 of this Court. (Since the petition did not state the date that the hearing sought to be prohibited was docketed, a telephone call was necessarily made to the Court Clerk of Muskogee County, and this Court was informed that the matter was scheduled for that very day. An additional telephone call to the District Attorney's office confirmed that the proceeding was in progress). We are unable to say that Judge Summers erred in holding the hearing.

In several other assignments of error, the petitioner alleges that he was denied effective assistance of counsel at the guilt and sentencing stages of his trial and on appeal. He further maintains that Judge Summers did not apply the proper standards in making his determination that the petitioner had not been denied effective assistance of counsel.

Petitioner sets forth a plethora of actions and inactions which he now maintains were mistakes committed by his trial attorney, which his attorney on direct appeal should have raised, but did not. However, we do not deem it necessary to enumerate each of the allegations for purposes of this appeal.

In the landmark decision of Strickland v. Washington, 466 U.S. 668, 104 S.Ct. 2052, 80 L.Ed.2d 674 (1984), the Supreme Court of the United States set forth standards by which to judge a contention that a criminal judgment must be overturned because of actual ineffective assistance of counsel. Therein, that Court stated in pertinent part as follows:

The benchmark for judging any claim of ineffectiveness must be whether counsel's conduct so undermined the proper functioning of the adversarial process that the trial cannot be relied on as having produced a just result.

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A convicted defendant's claim that counsel's assistance was so defective as to require reversal of a conviction or death sentence has two components. First, the defendant must show that counsel's performance was deficient. This requires showing that counsel made errors so serious that counsel was not functioning as the 'counsel' guaranteed the defendant by the Sixth Amendment. Second, the defendant must show that the deficient performance prejudiced the defense. This requires showing that counsel's errors were so serious as to deprive the defendant of a fair trial, a trial whose result is reliable. Unless a defendant makes both showings, it cannot be said that the conviction or death sentence resulted from a breakdown in the adversary process that renders the result unreliable.

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Judicial scrutiny of counsel's performance must be highly deferential. It is all too tempting for a defendant to second-guess counsel's assistance after conviction or adverse sentence, and it is all too easy for a court, examining counsel's defense after it has proved unsuccessful, to conclude that a particular act or omission of counsel was unreasonable. Cf. Engle v. Isaac, 456 U.S. 107, 133-134 [102 S.Ct. 1558, 1574-1575, 71 L.Ed.2d 783] (1982). A fair assessment of attorney performance requires that every effort be made to eliminate the distorting effects of hindsight, to reconstruct the circumstances of counsel's challenged * * *

conduct, and to evaluate the conduct from counsel's perspective at the time. Because of the difficulties inherent in making the evaluation, a court must indulge a strong presumption that counsel's conduct falls within the wide range of reasonable professional assistance; that is, the defendant must overcome the presumption that, under the circumstances, the challenged action 'might be considered sound trial strategy.' (citation omitted).

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An error by counsel, even if professionally unreasonable, does not warrant setting aside the judgment of a criminal proceeding if the error had no effect on the judgment. Cf. United States v. Morrison, 449 U.S. 361, 364-365 [101 S.Ct. 665, 667-668, 66 L.Ed.2d 564] (1981). The purpose of the Sixth Amendment guarantee of counsel is to ensure that a defendant has the assistance necessary to justify reliance on the outcome of the proceeding. Accordingly, any deficiencies in counsel's performance must be prejudicial to the defense in order to constitute ineffective assistance under the Constitution.

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When a defendant challenges a conviction, the question is whether there is a reasonable probability that, absent the errors, the factfinder would have had a reasonable doubt respecting guilt. When a defendant challenges a death sentence such as the one at issue in this case, the question is whether there is a reasonable probability that, absent the errors, the sentencer--including an appellate court, to the extent it independently reweighs the evidence--would have concluded that the balance of aggravating and mitigating circumstances did not warrant death.

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... [A] court need not determine whether counsel's performance was deficient before examining the prejudice suffered by the defendant as a result of the alleged deficiencies. The object of an ineffectiveness claim is not to grade counsel's performance. If it is easier to dispose of an ineffectiveness claim on the ground of lack of sufficient prejudice, which we expect will often be so, that course should be followed. Courts should strive to ensure that ineffectiveness claims not become so burdensome to defense counsel that the entire criminal justice system suffers as a result. (Emphasis ours).

In the instant case, the petitioner has fallen to the temptation to second guess his trial counsel and now utilizes the benefit of hindsight, and this Court's opinion rendered on his direct appeal, styled Coleman v. State, 668 P.2d 1126 (Okl.Cr.1983), cert. den., 464 U.S. 1073, 104 S.Ct. 986, 79 L.Ed.2d 222 (1984), to assert inadequacies on the part of his trial counsel.

The evidence of the petitioner's guilt is overwhelming, as is the evidence supporting the jury's finding of the existence of all five (5) statutory aggravating circumstances. See, Coleman, supra. Moreover, the petitioner has made no showing that the justice of his sentence was rendered unreliable by a breakdown in the adversary process caused by deficiencies in counsel's assistance. See, United States v. Cronic, 466 U.S. 648, 104 S.Ct. 2039, 80 L.Ed.2d 657 (1984). The fact that trial counsel...

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