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WILLIE HOUSTON, JR. v. STATE OF MISSISSIPPI

DECEMBER 12, 1984

WILLIE HOUSTON, JR.
v.
STATE OF MISSISSIPPI



BEFORE ROY NOBLE LEE, HAWKINS AND SULLIVAN

SULLIVAN, JUSTICE, FOR THE COURT:

The Circuit Court of Washington County, Mississippi, entered an order denying a petition for writ of habeas corpus filed on August 29, 1983, by appellant. From that order he appeals.

On December 2, 1982, appellant entered a plea of guilty to the crime of murder before the Circuit Court of Washington County, Mississippi, and was sentenced to life imprisonment. A second indictment of armed robbery against appellant was nol prossed by the state of Mississippi. On August 29, 1983, appellant filed a pro se petition for a writ of habeas corpus, alleging that his confessions and guilty plea were not knowingly and voluntarily made and that the circuit court of Washington County erred in not receiving a transfer of jurisdiction from the juvenile court before hearing his case. The Circuit Court of Washington County entered an order denying the petition for writ of habeas corpus, based upon a transcript in which Houston entered his guilty plea and upon our decision in Bougan v. State, 405 So.2d 101 (Miss. 1981), which states that the circuit court has exclusive jurisdiction to hear capital charges against a juvenile.

 Appellant assigns two errors:

 1. The failure of the trial court to hold that the appellant's confessions and guilty plea were not knowingly and voluntarily made.

 2. Failure of the circuit court to receive certification from the juvenile court to try the case prior to receiving appellant's guilty plea.

 Houston gave two confessions to the Greenville police on September 1, 1982, the day following the crime. Both confessions were signed on a voluntary statement form that acknowledged the reading and waiver of Houston's Miranda rights. The first statement given from 11:51 a.m. to 12:24 p.m. on September 1, 1982, recounts that Houston participated in the robbery but did not fire the shots that resulted in the death of the owner of Tom's Grocery. The second statement given by Houston was on the evening of September 1, 1982, from 6:20 to 6:34 p.m. and it reflects that in fact it was Houston who was carrying the gun.

 Houston originally pled not guilty to separate indictments for capital murder and armed robbery. On December 2, 1982, Houston went before the Circuit Court of Washington County to withdraw his not guilty plea and enter a plea of guilty to the charge of murder upon the state's recommendation as to sentence, life imprisonment. The state moved to nol prosse the armed robbery charge.

 The court asked Houston if he wanted to plead guilty to the lesser included charge of murder. He replied," Yes, sir, cause I was with the man who did it. "Houston, a 16-year-old in the tenth grade, agreed that he had discussed the case with his lawyer, was satisfied with his services and had no complaints about his lawyer. The district attorney stated that the state was prepared to prove that Houston, together with Brown, shot Tom Quan with a pistol while engaged in a robbery. Houston agreed that the district attorney's statement was substantially correct and the crime the D.A. described was that to which he was pleading guilty.

 The court then explained to Houston about the right to a trial by jury, the presumption of innocence, and the burden of proof on the state to prove his guilt beyond a reasonable doubt. The court explained to Houston that his lawyer would have the right to cross-examine the witnesses the state offered and that he could call any witnesses he had to testify before the jury. The

 court explained that under the law he had a choice as to whether he wanted to testify or not, and if he did not then the jury would not be allowed to presume, just from this fact alone, that he was guilty. The court also explained that he had the right to an appeal if he were convicted.

 Houston agreed that he understood what had been explained to him about the jury trial, and that by entering the plea of guilty he gives up his right to trial by jury. He understood that he would be sentenced to life imprisonment. He agreed that no promises or hopes of reward had been made to induce him to enter the guilty plea. He agreed that no threats, force, coercion or intimidation had forced or intimidated him into entering the guilty plea. He agreed that he was entering this guilty plea freely and voluntarily, and that he was in fact guilty of the crime of murder to which he was pleading guilty.

 Houston's parents agreed that they had conferred with their son and his lawyer about the plea and they understood what was happening.

 The court accepted Houston's guilty plea and sentenced him to the State Department of Corrections at Parchman for the rest of his life and ...


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