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Trotter v. State

Court of Appeals of Mississippi

November 4, 2014

MILTON TROTTER APPELLANT
v.
STATE OF MISSISSIPPI APPELLEE

DATE OF JUDGMENT: 02/27/2013

LAUDERDALE COUNTY CIRCUIT COURT HON. ROBERT WALTER BAILEY

ATTORNEY FOR APPELLANT: JAMES A. WILLIAMS

ATTORNEY FOR APPELLEE: OFFICE OF THE ATTORNEY GENERAL BY: STEPHANIE BRELAND WOOD

EN BANC.

MAXWELL, J.,

FOR THE COURT:

¶1. This case involves Milton Trotter's two separate life sentences—one imposed by a federal judge and the other by a Mississippi circuit judge. Trotter's first life sentence was handed down in federal district court after Trotter pled guilty to a federal kidnapping charge. Shortly after, Trotter waived indictment and pled guilty in a Mississippi circuit court to a murder committed by his accessories during the abduction. For the murder, the circuit judge imposed a life sentence, which he ordered to be served concurrently with Trotter's federal life sentence. The circuit judge's sentencing order says he "allowed" Trotter to serve the concurrent Mississippi life sentence in federal prison.

¶2. After the Mississippi sentencing hearing, Trotter was placed in federal custody and began serving his concurrent life sentences. Trotter had served thirty years in federal prison when the federal parole board granted him parole on the kidnapping conviction. But the Mississippi Parole Board denied him parole on his state murder conviction. So Trotter was transferred to a Mississippi prison to continue serving his life term.

¶3. Trotter filed a post-conviction-relief (PCR) motion, [1] complaining this was not the deal he struck with the state prosecutor. As he sees it, because he was paroled from federal custody, he had to be released by Mississippi. His more specific argument is that since his life sentence for murder was ordered to run concurrently with his federal sentence and because he was "allowed" to serve his time in federal prison, the State was bound to parole him upon his parole release from federal custody. We disagree.

¶4. On appeal, we find Trotter was serving two distinct life sentences, in two separate jurisdictions, for two different crimes. And nothing in the record suggests Trotter was promised state parole as part of his plea agreement on the murder charge. Furthermore, Mississippi prisoners have no constitutionally recognized liberty interest in parole. Instead, the sole discretion to grant or deny parole lies with the Parole Board, not the courts. We thus affirm the dismissal of his PCR motion.

Discussion

¶5. In reviewing the dismissal of a PCR motion, we "will not disturb the circuit court's factual findings unless they are clearly erroneous." Smith v. State, 118 So.3d 180, 182 (¶6) (Miss. Ct. App. 2013) (citing Holloway v. State, 31 So.3d 656, 657 (ΒΆ5) ...


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