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LIZZIE MAE WILLIAMS v. STATE OF MISSISSIPPI

AUGUST 29, 1984

LIZZIE MAE WILLIAMS
v.
STATE OF MISSISSIPPI



BEFORE ROY NOBLE LEE, ROBERTSON, and SULLIVAN

ROY NOBLE LEE, PRESIDING JUSTICE, FOR THE COURT:

Lizzie Mae Williams, sixteen (16) years of age, was indicted in the Circuit Court of Coahoma County for the murder of one Albert Jones. She entered a guilty plea to manslaughter, which was accepted by the court, and was sentenced to serve ten (10) years in custody of the Mississippi Department of Corrections with the last five (5) years suspended. Upon acceptance of the guilty plea, Williams' attorney filed a motion to transfer the case as a delinquent child committing a delinquent act to the Coahoma County Youth Court. The lower court denied the motion, and, after a series of petitions were filed and heard, resulting in an appeal to this Court, which was dismissed, Williams filed a petition for writ of error in the lower court. That court entered an order September 6, 1983, denying the relief sought in the petition for writ of error, and Williams has appealed to this Court. The sole assignment of error follows:

The circuit court does not have jurisdiction to accept a juvenile's plea of guilty to manslaughter even if the cause of action was initiated by murder indictment.

 The Grand Jury of Coahoma County returned an

 indictment on June 28, 1983, charging appellant with the murder of Albert Jones, April 2, 1983. Albert Jones was appellant's boy friend. She stood mute upon arraignment, and the circuit judge entered a plea of not guilty for her.

 On July 21, 1983, the case was called for consideration of a guilty plea to manslaughter, the case having been set for trial during the term of court then in session. At such time, it was made known to the court that the appellant desired to enter a plea of guilty to manslaughter, and, in the event such a plea was accepted by the court, appellant's attorney would immediately file a motion with the court to transfer the case to the Youth Court of Coahoma County. The court then stated that it would not have to accept any plea and declared the hearing closed.

 Appellant was before the court again for consideration of the manslaughter plea, on July 25, 1983. The circuit judge indicated that he would set aside the not guilty plea to murder and accept her guilty plea to the lesser included offense of manslaughter, should he determine that the plea was voluntarily, knowingly, understandingly and freely entered.

 After an appropriate hearing, the circuit judge found that the plea of guilty to the crime of manslaughter should be accepted and he ordered a pre-sentence investigation before imposing sentence. On August 11, 1983, appellant filed a motion in the County County of Coahoma County, Mississippi, Youth Court Division, to transfer the case from the Coahoma County Circuit Court to the Youth Court and to enjoin the Circuit Court from sentencing appellant. That motion was overruled by the county court judge. Subsequently, the proceedings mentioned at the outset were had in the Circuit Court of Coahoma County finally resulting in the present appeal to this Court.

 Paragraph (4) of the petition for writ of error states the case for the appellant and her brief and argument follow that contention. Pertinent parts are stated:

 IV.

 It is your petitioner's position that when it was determined that the charge would be reduced from one of murder to one of manslaughter, the Circuit Court of Coahoma County, Mississippi, lost all jurisdiction to try the issues or accept a plea to the non-capital offense of manslaughter. Section 43-21-151 (1), Mississippi Code, Annotated (1972),

 states that the Youth Court shall have exclusive original jurisdiction in all proceedings concerning a delinquent child. Section 43-21-105 (i) states that a "`delinquent child' means a child who has reached his 10th birthday and who has committed a delinquent act." Section 43-21-105 (a) states that a "`delinquent act' is any act, which if committed by an adult, is designated as a crime . . . other than offenses punishable by life imprisonment or death."

 The appellant relies upon State, ex rel Johnson v. Blackburn, 384 So. 2d 402 (La. 1980); State, ex rel Moore v. Warden, 308 So. 2d 749 (La. 1975); Metcalf v. Commonwealth, 156 N.E.2d 649 (Mass. 1959); and People v. Murch, 263 N.Y. 285, 189 N.E. 220 (1934); which support her position. On the other hand, the appellee relies upon Dicus v. Second Judicial District Court, 625 P.2d 1175 (Nev. 1982); People v. Davenport, 602 P.2d 871 (Col. App. 1979); Gray v. State, 253 A.2d 395 (Md. App. 1969); Hinkle v. Skeen, 138 W.Va. 116, 75 S.E.2d 223 (1953); and Howland v. State, 151 Tenn. 47, 268 S.W. 115 (1925); which state the opposite view and support its position.

 In the Maryland case of Gray v. State, 253 A.2d 395 (Md. App. 1969), a similar question as here was before the Court. The appellant there conceded that the circuit court has exclusive jurisdiction when a delinquent child is indicted for first degree murder since the crime is punishable by death or life imprisonment, but contended that the court has no jurisdiction over a juvenile delinquent charged with second degree ...


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