DATE OF JUDGMENT: 02/21/2014
HON. LAWRENCE PAUL BOURGEOIS JR. COURT FROM WHICH APPEALED: HARRISON COUNTY CIRCUIT COURT
ATTORNEY FOR APPELLANT: THOMAS C. LEVIDIOTIS
ATTORNEY FOR APPELLEE: OFFICE OF THE ATTORNEY GENERAL BY: SCOTT STUART
BEFORE GRIFFIS, P.J., ROBERTS AND FAIR, JJ.
¶1. John Paul Anderson was convicted of the statutory rape and sexual battery of his eleven-year-old daughter. His convictions and sentences were affirmed on direct appeal. Anderson v. State, 62 So.3d 927 (Miss. 2011). Anderson requested and received leave of the Mississippi Supreme Court to file a motion for post-conviction relief to advance his claims that he lacked the mental capacity to commit the crimes or to assist in his own defense. Ultimately, on Anderson's own impetus, the circuit court considered the motion on the merits without an evidentiary hearing. It denied relief, and Anderson appeals from that judgment. We find no error and affirm.
1. Nature of the Judgment / Standard of Review
¶2. Anderson filed his motion for post-conviction relief with a number of supporting affidavits and other documents. He was granted an evidentiary hearing, but it was continued so he could be examined by Dr. Bethany Spiller, a psychologist of his choosing. The examination apparently was conducted, but then activity in the case ceased. After about a year had passed, Anderson's attorney filed a "Notice to Court Pursuant to [Mississippi Rule of Appellate Procedure] 15(a), " complaining of difficulty scheduling the evidentiary hearing and noting that the State had moved for summary judgment in its response to Anderson's motion. Anderson's "notice" stated that both parties were amenable to deciding the case on the record. He provided two orders, one granting and the other denying relief. The order denying relief, which was entered by the court, did not explicitly state that it was granting summary judgment, but it is apparent that this is what the circuit court did.
¶3. Post-conviction relief actions are civil proceedings, and summary judgment is explicitly provided for in the Mississippi Uniform Post-Conviction Collateral Relief Act. See Miss. Code Ann. § 99-39-19 (Supp. 2014); Milam v. State, 578 So.2d 272, 273 n.1 (Miss. 1991); Fox v. State, 129 So.3d 208, 213 (¶15) (Miss. Ct. App. 2013). The fact that the supreme court has granted leave to file a PCR motion in the trial court does not make the petition, once filed, immune to summary judgment. Porter v. State, 963 So.2d 1225, 1228 (¶9) (Miss. Ct. App. 2007).
¶4. "We employ a de novo standard of review of a trial court's grant or denial of summary judgment and examine all the evidentiary matters before it . . . ." Davis v. Hoss, 869 So.2d 397, 401 (¶10) (Miss. 2004). Summary judgment is proper when "the pleadings, depositions, answers to interrogatories and admissions on file, together with the affidavits, if any, show there is no genuine issue as to any material fact and that the moving party is entitled to a judgment as a matter of law." M.R.C.P. 56(c). In a PCR case, the court should also consider the record of the underlying judgment that is the subject of the PCR motion. See Miss. Code Ann. § 99-39-11(1) (Supp. 2014).
¶5. "The evidence is viewed in the light most favorable to the party opposing the motion." Davis, 869 So.2d at 401 (¶10). "[A]n adverse party may not rest upon the mere allegations or denials of his pleadings, but his response . . . must set forth specific facts showing that there is a genuine issue for trial." M.R.C.P. 56(e). Furthermore:
[W]hen a party, opposing summary judgment on a claim or defense as to which that party will bear the burden of proof at trial, fails to make a showing sufficient to establish an essential element of the claim or defense, then all other facts are immaterial, ...