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STEPHEN A. SUTHERLAND v. STATE OF MISSISSIPPI

JANUARY 25, 1989

STEPHEN A. SUTHERLAND
v.
STATE OF MISSISSIPPI



BEFORE DAN LEE, P.J., PRATHER and SULLIVAN, JJ.

PRATHER, JUSTICE, FOR THE COURT:

Stephen Allen Sutherland was indicted in the Leflore County Circuit Court for the capital murder of Travis O. Biddle, a Rankin County peace officer while acting in his official capacity as deputy sheriff and with knowledge that the victim was a police officer under Miss. Code Ann. 97-3-19 (2) (a) (Supp. 1988). Additionally, Sutherland was indicted as an habitual criminal offender under Miss. Code Ann. 99-19-81 (Supp. 1988).

At the conclusion of the guilt/innocent phase of the bifurcated trial, the jury returned a verdict of guilty to the charge of capital murder. The jury, at the conclusion of the sentencing phase, returned a verdict of life imprisonment. From this conviction of capital murder and verdict of life imprisonment, there are no assigned errors raised on this appeal.

 Finally, the trial court conducted a sentencing hearing on the habitual offender portion of the indictment. Sutherland was found to be a recidivist under Miss. Code Ann. 99-19-81 (Supp. 1988) and sentenced to life imprisonment without parole in the Mississippi Department of Corrections.

 From this sentence, Sutherland appeals, assigning the

 following error:

 The court erred in sentencing the appellant to a term of life imprisonment without parole under 99-19-81 of the Mississippi Code of 1972, as amended.

 I.

 Stephen Allen Sutherland had been convicted of grand larceny in Rankin County on February 3, 1986, and sentenced to the Mississippi Department of Corrections for a term of five (5) years. From that conviction and sentence, on February 6, 1986, Stephen Allen Sutherland, together with Marvin Edward Hoover, and Mary J. Hitt, were being transported from the Rankin County Jail to the State Penitentiary at Parchman by Rankin County Deputy Sheriff, Travis O. Biddle, to serve these sentences.

 While enroute to Parchman on Highway 8, West of the town of Minter City in Leflore County, Mississippi, Deputy Biddle was strangled and shot, allegedly by Hoover and Sutherland, and all three men escaped in the Rankin County Sheriff's Office automobile. The three men were arrested a few hours later. Each was indicted for capital murder, grand larceny and escape in Leflore County Circuit Court.

 As indicated previously, Sutherland was convicted of capital murder, and received a life sentence from the jury. The habitual offender sentencing phase followed, and the State's proof followed the indictments.

 The indictment alleged that Stephen Allen Sutherland had been convicted of the crime of grand larceny in the Circuit Court of Hancock County, Mississippi, on October 15, 1980, and had been sentenced to serve a term of five (5) years, and further alleged that appellant had been convicted of the crime of grand larceny in the Circuit Court of Jones County, Mississippi, on January 24, 1984, and sentenced to serve a term of two (2) years.

 At the sentencing hearing on September 16, 1986, the State put on proof as to the convictions in Hancock County and Jones County. The State also put on proof as to a conviction for grand larceny in Rankin County, Mississippi, on February 3, 1986, for which appellant was sentenced to a term of five (5) years. After this hearing, the court determined that Sutherland was an habitual offender within the meaning of ...


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