KNOXVILLE, TN. (WLAF)- Joseph Nance will be staying in prison despite his latest bid for legal relief. Last week, the Tennessee Court of Criminal Appeals denied his claim of ineffective assistance from his attorney during his 2009 trial.
Nance, now age 50, is serving 64 years in prison after a Campbell County jury convicted him on six counts of rape of a child and one count of aggravated sexual battery. Since that time, he made multiple attempts to have the jury’s verdict reversed; none have succeeded.
His most recent effort was an appeal to the state court of criminal appeals. The local criminal court ruled Nance’s attorney at trial did nothing, that if changed, would have resulted in a different verdict from the jury, according to the opinion drafted by Judge Robert W. Wedemeyer of the state court.
A jury determined that Nance was guilty of violently raping a young girl multiple times in her own home. He also threatened to kill her if she disclosed the rapes, court records said. Compounding his actions, Nance also forced the child to lie to other adults about events that could have revealed his crimes.
The crux of Nance’s latest legal maneuvering was to accuse his then attorney, Robert Scott, of failing to question the child victim adequately and not preparing for trial sufficiently, the opinion said.
Shortly after Nance’s arrest he was offered a plea that would have netted him 13 years in prison. His attorney at the time “encouraged” him to plead guilty and accept the 13 year sentence, the court record said. Nance rejected the offer.
After being convicted and failing to get a new trial, Nance hired a new attorney. In total, he has hired four attorneys to fight his conviction, according to court records.
As the case has made its way through the criminal justice system, it has been revealed that Nance has had complaints about each attorney he hired. One of those complaints was that Scott wouldn’t present a theory the victim’s mother had “concocted a conspiracy” against Nance to the jury. It was also revealed that Nance failed to keep three pre-trial appointments with Scott that were meant to help prepare the case. He “never showed up,” the opinion said.
The child victim was interviewed multiple times leading up to the trial. During the interviews, there were “inconsistencies” in her story, something that is common with child rape victims, Scott noted at the time. In one particular interview the victim was recorded as she talked about the rapes. She was “cowering in a dark room, obviously scared and upset,” court records said. Had Scott attempted to question her about the discrepancies in her stories, he would have had to show that tape to the jury and that was an “image he did not want to have in the jurors’ minds,” the opinion said he had testified to.
In a post-conviction order, Eight Judicial District Criminal Court Judge Shayne Sexton denied Nance any reprieve from his legal quagmire noting that Nance’s trial attorney “owned any particular mistake he made.” Sexton further noted the mistake owned by the attorney would not have changed the outcome of the trial and denied there had been an ineffective assistance of counsel.
“I have never seen a perfect trial, but he did his job,” Sexton said.
Following that ruling is when Nance launched another effort to get out of his sentence.
He alleged that ruling was an error and he wanted to have it corrected by a higher court.
Last week that higher court ruled against Nance. The evidence doesn’t outweigh Sexton’s ruling and the cross examination of the child victim fell “within the wide range of reasonable professional assistance,” Wedemeyer wrote.
Nance is currently housed at the South Central Correctional Facility in Clifton, southwest of Nashville. He is eligible for release in 2066, according to Tennessee Department of Corrections website. (WLAF NEWS PUBLISHED 04/27/2020- 6AM)