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Coram Nobis Claim Based on Judicial Misconduct Denied

A petition for a writ of error coram nobis is a post-trial petition seeking relief from a criminal conviction based upon newly discovered evidence relating to matters litigated at trial. It is an extraordinary procedural remedy available only where there is newly discovered evidence which was not available in prior proceedings, and which may have resulted in a different outcome if it had been previously available. It is not available to review previously determined issues or previously known issues. It is not available to simply raise different legal arguments about previously known evidence. There must be actually newly discovered evidence. It must relate to matters litigated at trial. And it must have the potential to have resulted in a more favorable outcome, if it had been available previously. In the recent case of Irick v. State, E2012-01326-CCA-R3-PD (Tenn.Crim.App. 3-18-2013), the Tennessee Court of Criminal Appeals affirmed the trial court's denial of coram nobis relief when a petitioner sought relief based upon discovery of alleged judicial misconduct.

The petitioner in the Irick case had been convicted of first degree felony murder and two counts of aggravated rape of a seven-year old child. After affirmation of his conviction on appeal, and denial of post-conviction relief, the petitioner filed his first coram nobis petition alleging new evidence of mental illness. That claim was dismissed on the merits and for being time-barred. The petitioner later filed a second petition alleging the newly discovered evidence of judicial misconduct by the trial judge who heard the first coram nobis claim. The misconduct related to abuse of prescription medication and official misconduct outside the courtroom.

The trial court hearing the second petition concluded that the claims relating to the misconduct of the trial judge hearing the first  petition did not relate to matters litigated at the petitioner's original trial, and therefore were not cognizable as a coram nobis claim. The Court of Criminal Appeals agreed. They also noted a recent decision by the Tennessee Supreme Court concluding that judicial misconduct outside the courtroom was not constitutional error unless there was a showing that it affected the trial proceedings. In addition, the original claim was statutorily time-barred, regardless of who the trial judge was at the time. So judicial misconduct could not have affected the outcome of that case. For a variety of reasons, the petitioner's claim was meritless.

For information on Tennessee post-trial relief from criminal convictions, contact Hindman & Associates.

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