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Norris v. State

Court of Appeals of Mississippi

September 16, 2014

PAUL NORRIS A/K/A PAUL G. NORRIS A/K/A PAUL GABRIEL NORRIS APPELLANT
v.
STATE OF MISSISSIPPI APPELLEE

COURT FROM WHICH APPEALED: FORREST COUNTY CIRCUIT COURT. DATE OF JUDGMENT: 03/22/2013. TRIAL JUDGE: HON. ROBERT B. HELFRICH. TRIAL COURT DISPOSITION: DENIED MOTION FOR POSTCONVICTION RELIEF.

AFFIRMED.

FOR APPELLANT: ROSS R. BARNETT JR. JAMES F. NOBLE III.

FOR APPELLEE: OFFICE OF THE ATTORNEY GENERAL. BY: LADONNA C. HOLLAND.

BEFORE LEE, C.J., CARLTON AND MAXWELL, JJ.

OPINION

Page 834

NATURE OF THE CASE: CIVIL - POST-CONVICTION RELIEF

MAXWELL, J.

¶1. Mississippi's post-conviction-relief (PCR) statute is clear--it requires a petitioner who lodges a post-conviction challenge to give " [a] concise statement of the claims or grounds upon which the motion is based." [1] Petitioners do not have an unfettered right to present claims not alleged in their PCR motions.[2] But here,

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that is precisely what Norris is trying to do.

¶2. Norris, who had been convicted of four separate felonies--robbery, attempted robbery, and two counts of felony eluding--filed a PCR motion challenging the computation and proportionality of his separate sentences. His motion did not mention the voluntariness of any of his guilty pleas. But at his PCR hearing, Norris argued for the first time that his guilty pleas to the two felony-eluding convictions were involuntary. After hearing argument from Norris's attorney and the State, the circuit judge denied Norris's PCR motion.

¶3. On appeal, we find Norris's PCR motion did not plead a challenge to the voluntariness of his guilty pleas. So this issue was not properly before the circuit judge. Still, even assuming his PCR motion was implicitly amended to include an attack on his guilty pleas, we find the circuit judge did not clearly err in finding Norris's felony-eluding pleas were voluntary. We therefore affirm.

Background

¶4. Shortly after serving a stint in prison for attempted robbery and robbery, Norris had another run-in with the law. On January 22, 2009, a Hattiesburg, Mississippi police officer tried to question Norris about a home invasion he was suspected to have committed. But Norris, who was on probation for robbery and attempted robbery, fled from the officer. This flight formed the basis for his first felony-eluding guilty plea.

¶5. On August 29, 2009, Norris again eluded police--this time a Petal, Mississippi police officer who tried to stop Norris after he made an illegal U-turn. Norris ignored the officer's lights and sirens and was able to get away. This episode formed the basis of Norris's second guilty plea to felony eluding.

I. Felony-Eluding Guilty Pleas

¶6. A few months later, Norris was taken into custody on a warrant on November 9, 2009. When arrested, he was under indictment and awaiting trial for simple assault of a peace officer. Because Norris had previously been convicted of attempted robbery and robbery, he faced life imprisonment as a habitual offender on this assault count. See Miss. Code Ann. § 99-19-83 (Rev. 2007).[3]

¶7. While Norris was in custody, his attorney worked out a plea deal. It called for Norris to plead guilty to an information charging two counts of eluding a law enforcement officer as a habitual offender under the lesser enhancement in Mississippi Code Annotated section 99-19-81 (Rev. 2007).[4] So instead of mandatory life imprisonment

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for assault, under the proposed plea agreement Norris would serve a much lesser punishment--a mandatory five years on each eluding count.

¶8. On November 10, 2009, Norris was brought before the court to enter his guilty pleas. The State proffered facts supporting both guilty pleas, and Norris admitted he was guilty of both fleeing counts. He also admitted he had previously been convicted of robbery and attempted robbery. The court accepted his guilty pleas and sentenced Norris as a habitual offender under section 99-19-81 to five years' imprisonment on each felony-eluding count. The sentences were ordered to run consecutively.

¶9. A week later, on November 17, 2009, the court held a revocation hearing. Because Norris had pled guilty to two felonies while on supervised release, the court revoked five years of his supervised release on both his prior robbery and attempted-robbery sentences.

II. Norris's PCR Motion

¶10. On March 29, 2011, Norris's attorney filed what he titled " Petition for Clarification and Motion for Post Conviction Relief." The motion sought clarification on whether Norris's two consecutive five-year sentences for eluding law enforcement should run consecutively to the two concurrent five-year sentences Norris had been ordered to serve when his supervised release on the robbery convictions was revoked. If this was so, he felt his sentences, which totaled fifteen years, were disproportionate. He alternatively asked the court to go back and order each of the three sentences to run concurrently--for a total of " 5 years to serve." Norris hoped for " some leniency" since he claimed he was " under the influence of drugs and/or alcohol" when he ...


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