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Rice v. State

Supreme Court of Mississippi

March 20, 2014

DAVID LEE RICE a/k/a DAVID L. RICE a/k/a DAVID RICE
v.
STATE OF MISSISSIPPI

Petition for certiorari filed at, 06/10/2014

Page 293

COURT FROM WHICH APPEALED: SUNFLOWER COUNTY CIRCUIT COURT. DATE OF JUDGMENT: 12/11/2012. TRIAL JUDGE: HON.W. ASHLEY HINES. TRIAL COURT ATTORNEYS: DAVID LEE RICE, PRO SE. JACQUELINE SMITH.

FOR APPELLANT: DAVID LEE RICE (Pro se).

FOR APPELLEE: OFFICE OF THE ATTORNEY GENERAL, BY: LISA L. BLOUNT, JOHN R. HENRY, JR.

BEFORE WALLER, C.J., KITCHENS AND COLEMAN, JJ. DICKINSON AND RANDOLPH, P.JJ., LAMAR, KITCHENS, CHANDLER, PIERCE, KING AND COLEMAN, JJ., CONCUR.

OPINION

Page 294

NATURE OF THE CASE: CIVIL - POST-CONVICTION RELIEF

WALLER, CHIEF JUSTICE

¶1. David Lee Rice filed a petition for post-conviction relief in the Sunflower County Circuit Court, arguing that he had been improperly sentenced to life without parole as a habitual offender after a 1996 conviction for auto burglary. Rice now appeals the denial of his petition, claiming (1) that the trial court erred in finding that he had been properly sentenced as a habitual offender, (2) that the trial judge abused his discretion in failing to recuse himself from considering the post-conviction petition, and (3) that his sentence is unconstitutionally disproportionate to the crime. Finding Rice's arguments to be without merit, we affirm the judgment of the trial court.

FACTS

¶2. On December 18, 1995, a Sunflower County grand jury indicted Rice for burglary of an automobile in Cause No. 95-0269 (" Cause 4" ). At the time of his indictment in Cause 4, Rice had three prior felony convictions on his criminal record. Rice was convicted of robbery in Cause No. 9231 (" Cause 1" ) in 1985. Rice was convicted of burglary of a dwelling in Cause No. 9717 (" Cause 2" ) in 1989. Rice pleaded guilty to burglary of a dwelling in

Page 295

Cause No. 10,103 (" Cause 3" ) in 1991. On February 6, 1996, the State moved to amend Rice's indictment to charge him as a habitual offender pursuant to Section 99-19-83 of the Mississippi Code. The trial court granted the State's motion on February 24, 1996, and Rice's indictment was amended to include a habitual-offender charge.

¶3. After a jury trial in Cause 4 on June 14, 1996, Rice was found guilty of auto burglary. Because Rice was charged as a habitual offender, the trial court held a separate hearing to determine his sentence. At the hearing, the State presented evidence of Rice's convictions and sentences in Cause 1 and Cause 3.[1] Ann Evans, a records supervisor for the Mississippi Department of Corrections (MDOC), testified that Rice had served one year and 315 days in prison in Cause 1. When asked whether Rice had served more than one year of his sentence in Cause 3, Evans responded, " Yes, he did."

¶4. On June 19, 1996, the trial court issued an order in Cause 4, sentencing Rice to life without parole as a habitual offender pursuant to Section 99-19-83. Rice then appealed his conviction and sentence, and the case was assigned to the Court of Appeals. Rice v. State , 723 So.2d 1239 (Miss. Ct. App. 1998). The Court of Appeals unanimously affirmed Rice's conviction and sentence. Relevant to the instant case, the Court of Appeals held that Rice's sentence did not constitute cruel and unusual punishment because it was within the limits set by the habitual-offender statute. Id . at 1245.

¶5. On June 19, 2012, Rice filed his second [2] petition for post-conviction relief, alleging for the first time that the trial court in Cause 4 had erred in sentencing him as a habitual offender. Specifically, Rice argued that the State had failed to prove that he had served at least one year in MDOC custody in Cause 3. This Court granted Rice leave to proceed with his petition in the trial ...


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