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Williams v. State

Supreme Court of Mississippi, En Banc

February 13, 2014

J.C. WILLIAMS
v.
STATE of Mississippi.

Page 1175

J.C. Williams, appellant, pro se.

Office of the Attorney General by Lisa L. Blount, attorney for appellee.

ON WRIT OF CERTIORARI

RANDOLPH, Presiding Justice.

¶ 1. J.C. Williams was convicted of the sale of cocaine in the Circuit Court of Jones County, Mississippi. Williams was adjudicated a habitual offender [1] and a subsequent drug offender.[2] Upon application of those recidivist statutes, his sentence was enhanced to forty years in the custody of the Mississippi Department of Corrections (MDOC), with thirty years to serve and ten years suspended. On appeal, Williams argued that the circuit court " erred in amending the indictment to charge him as a habitual offender." Williams v. State, 131 So.3d 1198, 1199 (Miss.Ct.App.2012). The Court of Appeals rejected that argument and unanimously

Page 1176

affirmed Williams's conviction and sentence. Id. Following the Court of Appeals' denial of Williams's motion for rehearing, he filed this pro se petition for writ of certiorari, which this Court granted. Williams v. State, 119 So.3d 328 (Miss.2013).

FACTS AND PROCEDURAL HISTORY

¶ 2. Williams was indicted by a grand jury of " willfully, unlawfully, feloniously and knowingly sell[ing] or transfer[ing][c]ocaine (less than .1 gram)...." See Miss. Code Ann. § 41-29-139 (Rev.2013). His indictment made no mention of habitual-offender status. Three days before trial, the State filed a motion to amend the indictment to charge Williams as a recidivist pursuant to Mississippi Code Section 99-19-81.[3] The motion was served on defense counsel the same day. The circuit court granted the State's motion to amend the indictment following jury selection.[4] Subsequently, Williams was found guilty of the sale of cocaine and sentenced on the same day, as a recidivist, to forty years in the custody of the MDOC, with thirty years to serve and ten years suspended.[5]

¶ 3. Williams appealed his sentence as a habitual offender, arguing that the circuit court " erred in amending the indictment to charge him as a habitual offender." Williams, 131 So.3d at 1199. In unanimously affirming Williams's conviction and sentence, the Court of Appeals held:

Williams has offered no evidence to show he was " unfairly surprised" by the amendment or that he was unable to present a defense. Furthermore, since an amendment charging a defendant as a habitual offender does not affect the substance of the crime charged, but only the sentencing, Williams's defense to the sale-of-cocaine charge was unaffected by the amendment.

Id. (citing Adams v. State, 772 So.2d 1010, 1020-21 (Miss.2000)).

¶ 4. Williams's motion for rehearing was denied by the Court of Appeals, and he filed his pro se petition for writ of certiorari, which we granted.

ISSUE

¶ 5. On writ of certiorari, we will address the following issue:

Whether the circuit court erred in granting the State's motion to amend the indictment to charge ...

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