By Ray King
The Arkansas Supreme Court on Thursday ruled Circuit Judge Jodi Raines Dennis was correct when she denied a petition filed by an inmate serving a life sentence at a prison in Jefferson County.
Douglas D. True, 28, pleaded guilty to two counts of capital murder in Sebastian County in 2014 and was sentenced to life without parole. He contended in his petition that the trial court failed to follow Arkansas rules and procedures because there is no record of the guilty plea proceedings and his judgment and commitment order was invalid. That rule requires the trial court to determine if a plea is entered voluntarily, and establish a basis for the plea
He also argued that his attorney was ineffective by failing to investigate and develop a defense and instead pressuring him to take a plea to avoid the death penalty. True also contended that his defense attorney did not order a mental evaluation.
Writing for the Supreme Court, Chief Justice John Dan Kemp said claims of an involuntary plea or plea procedures do not raise the question of an illegal sentence and claims of ineffectiveness of counsel are not acceptable in habeas corpus proceedings. Kemp wrote that if True had wanted to challenge his plea or the effectiveness of his attorney, the remedy would have been to ask for a Rule 37 hearing which was conducted, and the trial court denied the claims.