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Wrenn v. State

Court of Appeals of Mississippi

January 10, 2017

JOHN E. WRENN A/K/A JOHN EDWARD WRENN A/K/A JOHN WRENN APPELLANT
v.
STATE OF MISSISSIPPI APPELLEE

          DATE OF JUDGMENT: 03/31/2015

         DESOTO COUNTY CIRCUIT COURT HON. GERALD W. CHATHAM SR. Judge

          ATTORNEY FOR APPELLANT: ANNA KATHERINE ROBBINS

          ATTORNEY FOR APPELLEE: OFFICE OF THE ATTORNEY GENERAL BY: BARBARA WAKELAND BYRD

         EN BANC.

          WILSON, J.

         ¶1. John Wrenn pled guilty to the charge of possession of a weapon by a convicted felon and was sentenced to ten years in the custody of the Mississippi Department of Corrections (MDOC). Wrenn pled guilty as a habitual offender under Mississippi Code Annotated section 99-19-81 (Rev. 2015), so his ten-year sentence was mandatory and without the possibility of parole or probation.

         ¶2. Wrenn subsequently filed a pro se petition for post-conviction relief (PCR) alleging, among other things, that his plea was involuntary because his attorney and the circuit court misinformed him of the applicable minimum sentence. After an evidentiary hearing, the circuit court denied Wrenn's petition. However, because Wrenn was misinformed of the applicable minimum sentence under the habitual offender statute, his guilty plea was involuntary as a matter of law. Therefore, we reverse and render the circuit court's judgment denying Wrenn's PCR petition and set aside Wrenn's conviction.

         FACTS AND PROCEDURAL HISTORY

         ¶3. In June 2011, Wrenn, a convicted felon, was indicted for unlawfully possessing a sawed-off shotgun in violation of Mississippi Code Annotated section 97-37-5 (Rev. 2014). He was indicted as a habitual offender under section 99-19-81. Jack Jones was appointed as counsel for Wrenn, and the circuit court set the case for trial in November 2011. Prior to trial, the State offered to allow Wrenn to plead guilty as a non-habitual offender with a sentencing recommendation of five years to serve, followed by five years of post-release supervision. Jones urged Wrenn to accept the State's offer, but Wrenn declined.

         ¶4. On November 8, 2011-the day before his trial was scheduled to begin-Wrenn filed a petition to enter a guilty plea. The petition stated: "I plead guilty to the charge(s) of felon in possession of a firearm in violation of Miss. Code Ann. § 97-37-5 [and] § 99-19-81, as set forth in . . . the indictment . . . ." The petition also stated:

My lawyer has informed me as to the maximum and minimum punishment which the law provides for the offense charged in the indictment. The maximum punishment which the Court may impose for this crime that I am charged with is 10 years imprisonment and $5, 000 fine. The minimum punishment is 1 years imprisonment and/or $0 fine.

         The words "without parole" were handwritten above the words "10 years imprisonment" on the petition. A handwritten entry in the petition described the terms of the plea as follows: "open to charge in indictment"; "continued for sentencing"; "State makes no offer."

         ¶5. At Wrenn's plea hearing on November 9, 2011, the judge specifically asked Wrenn whether Jones had "been over with [him] the implications . . . of offering a plea under the habitual criminal statute" and whether Wrenn understood that the statute "provides for enhanced punishment." Wrenn answered both questions, "Yes, sir." Moments later, the court again asked Wrenn, "Do you understand that by signing this petition, you're offering a plea of guilty to a felon in possession of a firearm, and that, of course, carries enhanced punishment under Section 99-19-81?" Wrenn again answered, "Yes, sir."

         ¶6. However, later in the hearing, the court advised Wrenn of the applicable maximum and minimum penalties as follows:

Q. The maximum penalty to which you could be sentenced by offering a plea of guilty to these charges is ten years in prison and a five thousand dollar fine. That ten years is without parole or shortening or any credit for good time or anything like that.
A. Yes, sir.
Q. And the minimum punishment is one year in prison and zero fine. Hasthat been ...

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