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Henderson v. State

Court of Appeals of Mississippi

September 2, 2014

MARTEZ C. HENDERSON A/K/A MARTEZ HENDERSON, APPELLANT
v.
STATE OF MISSISSIPPI, APPELLEE

COURT FROM WHICH APPEALED: MADISON COUNTY CIRCUIT COURT. DATE OF JUDGMENT: 02/08/2013. TRIAL JUDGE: HON. JOHN HUEY EMFINGER. TRIAL COURT DISPOSITION: DENIED MOTION FOR POST-CONVICTION RELIEF.

FOR APPELLANT: MICHAEL T. DAWKINS.

FOR APPELLEE: OFFICE OF THE ATTORNEY GENERAL, BY: BRAD SMITH.

BEFORE IRVING, P.J., ISHEE AND ROBERTS, JJ. LEE, C.J., GRIFFIS, P.J., BARNES, ISHEE, ROBERTS, CARLTON, MAXWELL, FAIR AND JAMES, JJ., CONCUR.

OPINION

Page 548

NATURE OF THE CASE: CIVIL - POST-CONVICTION RELIEF

IRVING, P.J.:

[¶1] Henderson pleaded guilty to kidnapping I.H., a four-year-old child, whom he was raising as his own and whom he believed to be his own daughter. By judgment entered on September 2, 2009, he was convicted and sentenced to a five-year term of imprisonment in the custody of the Mississippi Department of Corrections, with four years and four months suspended, and five years of supervised probation. On August 31, 2012, Henderson filed a motion to set aside his conviction. The trial court found that the motion was timely filed, but denied it as being procedurally barred because it raised a defense--in loco parentis--that could have been raised at Henderson's guilty-plea hearing. This timely appeal followed.

[¶2] We find the factual basis for the guilty plea insufficient and reverse the judgment of the circuit court denying Henderson's motion for post-conviction relief (PCR) and remand this case for further proceedings consistent with this opinion.

FACTS

[¶3] While Henderson was a freshman at Rust College in Holly Springs, Mississippi, a young lady he was dating became pregnant. Believing he was the father, Henderson dropped out of college and

Page 549

joined the United States Air Force to provide for his new family. Although they planned to marry before the child was born, the delivery occurred early while Henderson was still in basic training. He was unable to be present at the birth and, although I.H. was given his last name, no father's name was listed on the birth certificate. Henderson and I.H.'s mother were married on May 28, 2004.

[¶4] Henderson raised I.H. as his daughter, claiming her and I.H.'s mother as his dependents on his military-benefits paperwork, and lived with them on base in Louisiana. At one point, I.H.'s mother left her with Henderson and returned home to Canton, Mississippi, to live with her mother. During this period, Henderson's mother moved from Michigan to Louisiana to help him care for I.H. I.H.'s mother returned at some point and took I.H. back to Mississippi with her. Although Henderson and I.H.'s mother were having marital difficulties and living apart, no custody agreement was entered concerning I.H.

[¶5] In November 2008, Henderson visited I.H. in Canton, where they stayed at a local hotel. As he prepared to dress her for school the following day, he became upset when he discovered that she did not have any clean clothes. He then decided to take her back to his home in Louisiana. I.H.'s mother called the Madison County Sheriff's Office, and the sheriff's office contacted Henderson by phone. Henderson explained that he planned to seek a divorce and custody of I.H. and that he did not intend to return her to her mother. Upon learning that Henderson and I.H.'s mother were married and that there was no custody decree awarding sole physical custody to the mother, the sheriff's office took no further action.

[¶6] Shortly thereafter, however, United States marshals arrested Henderson for kidnapping. He was unable to make bond and remained in jail from the time of his arrest in November 2008 until August 31, 2009, when he pleaded guilty to kidnapping pursuant to a plea agreement. What transpired at the guilty-plea hearing will be discussed hereafter.

STANDARD OF REVIEW

[¶7] The Mississippi Supreme Court has announced the applicable standard of review when a circuit court denies a petitioner's PCR motion:

When reviewing a lower court's decision to deny a petition for post[-] conviction relief[,] [an appellate court] will not disturb the trial court's factual findings unless they are found to be clearly erroneous. However, where questions of ...

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