Circuit judge denies Tuck’s relief petition
Posted: Wednesday, January 19, 2011 9:06 pm
By: Chris Menees, Staff Reporter
By CHRIS MENEES
A judge has denied convicted rapist Bruce Tuck’s petition for post-conviction relief in Weakley County.
The order denying relief was handed down Tuesday by Circuit Judge William B. Acree.
Tuck, 37, of Gleason, was arrested Sept. 2, 2009, in connection with three home invasion sexual assaults that occurred in the summer of 2009 in Martin.
He was indicted Nov. 2, 2009, by a special session of the Weakley County grand jury for multiple felony charges — including aggravated rape — and was arraigned Nov. 5, with the public defender’s office appointed as his legal counsel.
Tuck pleaded guilty in all three cases Dec. 10, 2009, in Weakley County Circuit Court and, under a plea agreement between him and the state, was sentenced to 60 years in the Tennessee Department of Correction as a multiple rapist for the aggravated rape charges. He pled to three consecutive 20-year sentences.
The judge noted in his order that Tuck pled guilty to 19 separate counts in three cases, but the aggravated rape convictions were the controlling sentences.
Tuck filed a petition for post-conviction relief on May 19, 2010, alleging he was coerced into confessing by being denied food and that his public defender refused to allow him to enter a plea of not guilty by reason of mental disease or defect. He also raised issues of alleged physical and mental abuse at both the Middle Tennessee Mental Health Institute in Nashville, where he was sent for evaluation after arraignment, and the Weakley County Detention Facility.
Tuck was seeking to have his guilty plea set aside and to go to trial.
The court appointed attorney John Miles of Union City as Tuck’s legal counsel for the post-conviction relief matter and an evidentiary hearing was held Jan. 10 in Weakley County.
Tuck testified on his own behalf during the hearing and told the court he has a history of mental illness and is bipolar.
At the conclusion of the hearing, Miles told the court the issue was whether Tuck’s plea was made knowingly and voluntarily and with effective assistance of counsel.
District Attorney General Tommy Thomas told the court that in his 20 years of serving as district attorney, he’d never been involved in a plea bargain that had as much “detail and care” as in Tuck’s case.
According to the judge’s order dated Tuesday, the court found that Tuck’s testimony of alleged abuse was “not credible,” with no evidence in the record to corroborate his testimony other than the testimony of his mother, Marcia Tuck, who received her information from Tuck.
“In short, the court does not believe (Tuck’s) testimony of abuse or of a diet of lettuce,” the order stated.
Tuck had contended his guilty plea was not knowingly or voluntarily entered for several reasons, but the court found the evidence was not sufficient for the court to find that he was mentally incapable of understanding the plea.
“He had undergone a psychiatric evaluation and was found to be competent. This opinion has not been refuted by other evidence,” the judge wrote in his order.
Tuck claimed he was afraid not to plead guilty, but the judge said the court found the testimony not credible.
Tuck also claimed he did not know he could have judicial sentencing in lieu of a guilty plea or in lieu of a trial and said he did not know he would not be paroled. According to the order, that testimony was refuted by the testimony of Tuck’s trial counsel and the transcript of the guilty plea.
Finally, Tuck had argued it was ineffective assistance of counsel for his trial counsel to fail to advise him that he could move the court to set aside his plea of guilty, but, according to the order, he presented no authority for the proposition that post-conviction relief could be obtained for failure to advise a criminal defendant that he could move to set aside his guilty plea. The judge wrote that the court knows of no authority to substantiate his position and found it to be without merit.
“ … The court concludes (Tuck’s) guilty plea was knowingly and voluntarily made and that there is no evidence of ineffective assistance of counsel with respect to the guilty plea,” according to the judge’s order.
“The court recognizes that (Tuck) pled guilty to a life sentence and that there was little, if any, reason for him to accept the state’s offer other than to spare others the misery of a trial. However, the fact that a criminal defendant later regrets his decision to plead guilty does not entitle him to post-conviction relief.”
Staff Reporter Chris Menees may be contacted by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Published in The Messenger 1.19.11