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Hammett v. State

Supreme Court of Mississippi

January 9, 2014

Larry HAMMETT
v.
STATE of Mississippi.

Larry Hammett, appellant, pro se.

Office of the Attorney General by John R. Henry, Jr., attorney for appellee.

Before DICKINSON, P.J., PIERCE and COLEMAN, JJ.

PIERCE, Justice.

¶ 1. Larry Hammett petitioned for statutory compensation under the legislative act for Compensation to Victims of Wrongful Conviction and Imprisonment. See generally Miss.Code Ann. §§ 11-44-1 to 11-44-15 (Rev.2012). The Adams County Circuit Court dismissed Hammett's claim on the ground it was time-barred. Hammett, pro se, appeals to this Court. We reverse the

Page 932

dismissal and remand this case to the trial court.

PROCEDURAL HISTORY

¶ 2. Hammett was found guilty of perjury by a jury trial on March 6, 1997, and was sentenced as a habitual offender to serve ten years in the custody of the Mississippi Department of Corrections (MDOC). On January 23, 2001, having found the State had failed to prove its perjury case against Hammett with sufficient evidence, the Mississippi Court of Appeals reversed and rendered Hammett's perjury conviction and vacated Hammett's sentence. Hammett v. State, 797 So.2d 258, 264 (Miss.Ct.App.2001).

¶ 3. In 2009, the Legislature enacted Mississippi Code Section 11-44-1 et seq. , which allows compensation for " innocent persons" wrongfully convicted " of one or more felonies and subsequently sentenced to a term of imprisonment," and who have " served all or any part of the sentence[.]" See Miss.Code Ann. §§ 11-44-1, 11-44-7 (Rev.2012). In 2012, Hammett petitioned for compensation under this provision on the claim that he had spent five years in prison for a wrongful conviction. The trial court found that Hammett had filed his claim on October 5, 2012, and dismissed the claim because it found the claim time-barred pursuant to Section 11-44-9(1), which states as follows:

An action for compensation brought by a wrongfully convicted person under the provisions of this chapter shall be commenced within three (3) years after either the grant of a pardon or the grant of judicial relief and satisfaction of other conditions described in Section 11-44-3(1); provided, however, that any action by the state challenging or appealing the grant of said judicial relief shall toll the three-year period. Persons convicted, incarcerated and released from custody prior to July 1, 2009, shall commence an action under this chapter not later than June 30, 2012.

Miss.Code Ann. § 11-44-9(1) (emphasis added). Having been released from custody prior to July 1, 2009, Hammett's deadline for filing a claim was June 30, 2012.

¶ 4. Hammett, who currently is back in the custody of the MDOC for another unrelated offense, thereafter filed a motion in the Adams County Circuit Court, entitled " Motion to Reinstate Claim." He therein contended that his claim was timely under the " prison mailbox rule." Hammett submitted that he had filed his suit on May 29, 2012, but the complaint was returned to him because he had failed to include the necessary filing fee. Hammett also claimed that he had refiled the complaint along with an application to proceed in forma pauperis (IFP) on June 19, 2012, eleven days before the deadline. Hammett attached three exhibits to his motion. " Exhibit A" contains a photo copy of an unsigned time stamp from the Adams County Circuit Clerk's office, on an unidentified piece of paper, which reads, " Received and Filed May 29, 2012." " Exhibit B" contains a notary log, denoting a notarized " appl. to proceed in forma pauperis," dated " 6/19/12." And " Exhibit C" contains a " State Offender Request Form," dated " 9/19/12," requesting from " ACA MANAGER: Ms. Pratt," all the dates that she mailed " legal paper(s)," to the Adams County Circuit Clerk. The request form has the following response: " Mr. Hammett[,] The date was Thursday [,] May 24th, 2012. Mrs. Pratt[,] 9/20/12."

¶ 5. In an order issued on October 29, 2012, the circuit court denied the motion, finding that Hammett was not entitled to any relief because it was clear from the record that Hammett did not ...


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