United States District Court, N.D. Mississippi, Oxford Division
MICHAEL P. MILLS, District Judge.
This matter comes before the court on the pro se petition of Albert Joiner, Jr. for a writ of habeas corpus under 28 U.S.C. § 2254. The State has responded to the petition, and Joiner has filed a traverse. The matter is ripe for resolution. For the reasons set forth below, the instant petition for a writ of habeas corpus will be denied.
Facts and Procedural Posture
Albert Joiner, Jr. is an inmate in the custody of the Mississippi Department of Corrections and is currently housed at the Holmes-Humphrey County Regional Correctional Facility. On July 3, 2007, in Lafayette County, Mississippi, Joiner, was arrested for fleeing an investigative police stop and for being a felon in possession of a deadly weapon (a butcher knife) in his car. As a result of that incident, Joiner was charged in a two-count indictment, alleging: Count I "Felony Flight, " and Count II, "Felon in Possession of a Deadly Weapon." Count II listed five felonies for which Joiner had been previously convicted - to show that Joiner was a convicted felon. Count I of the indictment made no reference to Joiner's prior convictions. Neither Count I nor Count II alleged that Joiner was a habitual offender.
At that time, Joiner had a separate pending indictment for armed robbery as a habitual offender under Miss. Code Ann. § 99-19-83 - an enhancement mandating a sentence of life without parole. ( Id., p. 29). Joiner's counsel negotiated an agreement with the State that included dismissal of Count II in the second indictment (felon-in-possession of a deadly weapon) and a reduction of his armed-robbery charge to strong-armed robbery - if Joiner pled guilty to felony flight and strongarmed robbery under the lesser habitual offender statute (Miss. Code Ann. § 99-19-81). The lesser habitual offender statute, Miss. Code Ann. § 99-19-81, reads:
Every person convicted in this state of a felony who shall have been convicted twice previously of any felony or federal crime upon charges separately brought and arising out of separate incidents at different times and who shall have been sentenced to separate terms of one (1) year or more in any state and/or federal penal institution, whether in this state or elsewhere, shall be sentenced to the maximum term of imprisonment prescribed for such felony, and such sentence shall not be reduced or suspended nor shall such person be eligible for parole or probation. On October 18, 2007, in accordance with the agreement, Joiner pled guilty in the Lafayette
County Circuit Court to felony fleeing from a law enforcement officer and strong-armed robbery. The court accepted Joiner's guilty plea as a lesser habitual offender under Miss. Code Ann. § 99-19-81 and sentenced him to four years for felony flight and fifteen years for strong-armed robbery to be served consecutively - a total of nineteen years without the possibility of early release, probation, or parole. The indictment in Joiner's case was not, however, amended to include the enhancement under Miss. Code Ann. § 99-19-81.
Following his guilty plea and sentence, Joiner filed a motion for post-conviction collateral relief in the Lafayette County Circuit Court, seeking to set aside the habitual offender portion of his sentence (as stated by Joiner pro se ):
The court erred in convicting and sentencing Petitioner as a habitual offender, upon his plea of guilty to count one of indictment charging him with the crime of felony flight, wherein count one of indictment fails to charge him as a habitual offender, nor was a proper bifurcated habitual offender sentencing hearing conducted by the court. Neither was the indictment amended to charge Petitioner as a habitual offender.
S.C.R., Vol. 1, pg. 27. Joiner then amended this petition to include a claim for ineffective assistance of counsel alleging:
Counsel failed to object to the Court conducting a sentencing hearing on Petitioner under the habitual offender statute, 99-19-81, in which he was not indicted for, and, finding him guilty and sentencing him as a habitual offender without sufficient evidence being presented to the Court by the State proving Petitioner met the qualifications to be sentenced as a habitual offender.
S.C.R., Vol. 1, pg. 32.
The trial court denied Joiner's petition and amended petition for post-conviction relief, and Joiner appealed that decision to the Mississippi Supreme Court, raising the following grounds for relief (as stated by Joiner through counsel):
I. Whether Albert Joiner, Jr. was properly charged under Mississippi's habitual offender statute.
II. Whether Albert Joiner, Jr. was properly sentenced under Mississippi's habitual offender statute.
III. Whether Albert Joiner, Jr. was denied effective assistance of counsel.
The Mississippi Court of Appeals affirmed the trial court's decision. Joiner v. State, 61 So.3d 171 (Miss. Ct. App. 2010), reh'g denied August 31, 2010 (Cause No. 2009-CA-00222-COA). Joiner then filed a petition for writ of certiorari, arguing the same issues in the trial court and Court of Appeals. The Mississippi Supreme ...