Judge Denies Harvey’s Petition For Post-Conviction Relief

Huntsville, TN (2009-12-18) A criminal court judge has denied convicted murderer Charles Ray Harvey’s petition for post conviction relief, ending his effort to have his conviction overturned.

On Wednesday, 8th Judicial District Criminal Court Judge E. Shayne Sexton denied Charles Ray Harvey’s petition for post conviction relief, the latest attempt by the convicted murderer to have his conviction overturned and his sentence changed.

Harvey, now 54, appeared in Scott County Criminal Court on Wednesday, sitting through a two-hour hearing, where his new attorney, Bruce E. Poston of Knoxville, argued that his trial lawyers had failed to adequately discuss and disclose the details of three pre-trial offers made by the State to Harvey, and, given his lack of education, had possibly misrepresented his chances of winning his case in court.

In his argument, Poston claimed that Harvey’s battery of attorneys from the Murfreesboro law firm of Mitchell and Mitchell had misguided his client, resulting in him being sentenced to life in prison with the possibility for parole, while the State had offered three lesser sentences for an admission of guilt.

Given his client’s lack of comprehension, Poston contended that Harvey’s trial attorneys had an ethical obligation to make sure Harvey understood the ramifications of foregoing the State’s offers and putting his future in the hands of a jury of his peers.  During questioning, one of his former attorneys, Darwin K. Colton, then an associate lawyer at the firm, admitted he questioned whether Harvey fully understood; however, he testified that Harvey asserted his innocence and was adamant he would not plead guilty to a crime he had not committed.

On the stand Wednesday, Harvey claimed his trial attorneys, then led by senior partner John Mitchell, had spent little time discussing the State’s offers, assuring him he had a 50/50 chance of winning in court.

Ed Holt, who also represented Harvey at trial, testified Wednesday that Harvey never wavered from his claim of innocence.  Given the evidence against Harvey, including the so-called infamous hit man letters where Harvey allegedly wrote of hiring someone to kill his daughter (the person whom he claims pulled the trigger and killed her abusive husband), Holt admitted, “Circumstances were extremely bleak (for Mr. Harvey).”

Assistant District Attorney General John Galloway, quoting from letters written by Harvey in prison, argued he had expressed his desire to take his case to trial.  “I’ve chosen to go to trial,” read Galloway. “There are many good reasons on my behalf,” Harvey allegedly wrote.

Poston further charged that Mitchell, Colton and Holt had failed to adequately explain to Harvey, that even if he had been found innocent of killing his daughter’s husband, he could have still been found criminally responsible for his death; a verdict that could have also resulted in jail time.

At the end of the hearing, Judge Sexton denied Harvey’s petition, claiming he had failed to provide sufficient proof that his attorney had failed to adequate represent him.  “(This is) a most unusual post-conviction relief petition,” commented Sexton.  Most post-conviction relief petitions are filed by persons who have accepted plea agreements, not persons who had rejected offers and later been found guilty at trial.

Prior to his trial in July 2005, the State had offered Harvey three plea deals in exchange for his guilty plea: 1) second degree murder with a twenty-year sentence; 2) second degree murder with a sentencing hearing whereas the Judge would decide his fate (15 to 20 years); and 3) voluntary manslaughter (15 years) and theft of over $500 (10 years) with those terms served consecutively.  With the later, Harvey would have been eligible for parole after serving 45% of his sentence.

On July 27, 2005, a jury deliberated for just three hours before finding Harvey guilty of first-degree murder in the death of his son-in-law, Armando Loredo.  Judge Sexton sentenced Harvey to life in prison with the possibility of parole.

On July 18, 2003, fishermen discovered Loredo’s body floating in the waters of New River.  An autopsy showed Loredo was killed by a single gunshot to the head.  Harvey was arrested on July 23, 2003 and charged with his murder.  Four days later, Harvey’s daughter, Vanessa Loredo, was also charged in her husband’s death.

On July 29, 2005, Vanessa Loredo pleaded guilty to facilitation of second degree murder in his death.  She is already out of prison.