Demetric Ratcliff, appellant, pro se.
Office of the Attorney General by Billy L. Gore, attorney for appellee.
Before GRIFFIS, P.J., BARNES, MAXWELL and JAMES, JJ.
¶ 1. Demetric Ratcliff waited nearly a decade before seeking post-conviction relief (PCR) from his 2003 guilty plea to selling cocaine. In 2012, he claimed for the first time that his indictment was defective and that a conflict of interest existed because the presiding judge, while previously serving as an assistant district attorney, had signed Ratcliff's indictment. After review, we find Ratcliff's failure to timely raise these challenges within three years, as mandated by statute, resulted in them being properly time-barred by the circuit judge.
¶ 2. And even had he not procedurally defaulted, we find his indictment was not defective for charging that he " wilfully" instead of " knowingly" sold cocaine, since both terms carry the same meaning. Further, Ratcliff explicitly waived, on the record, any potential conflict he may have had involving the former prosecutor presiding as judge in his case. We therefore affirm.
Facts and Procedural History
¶ 3. In 2001, a grand jury indicted Ratcliff for sale of cocaine. The indictment was signed by the assistant district attorney
at the time, Robert Helfrich, who later became circuit judge. On August 25, 2003, Ratcliff— after expressly waiving a potential conflict of interest regarding Helfrich presiding as judge in his case— pled guilty to selling cocaine. He was sentenced to serve fifteen years.
¶ 4. But almost nine years later, on May 18, 2012, Ratcliff filed a PCR motion. Ratcliff sought to vacate his conviction and sentence, urging his indictment was defective and that Judge Helfrich should not have handled his guilty plea. On December 10, 2012, Judge Helfrich entered an order summarily dismissing Ratcliff's PCR motion as time-barred. Ratcliff appealed.
Standard of Review
¶ 5. " We review the dismissal of a PCR motion under an abuse-of-discretion standard." Williams v. State,110 So.3d 840, 842 (¶ 11) (Miss.Ct.App.2013). Reversal is proper only " if the circuit court's decision was clearly ...