OF JUDGMENT: 10/14/2015.
COUNTY CIRCUIT COURT, HON. JOHN HUEY EMFINGER, TRIAL JUDGE.
ATTORNEY FOR APPELLANT: CYNTHIA ANN STEWART.
ATTORNEY FOR APPELLEE: OFFICE OF THE ATTORNEY GENERAL BY:
KAYLYN HAVRILLA MCCLINTON.
IRVING, P.J., FAIR AND WILSON, JJ.
Derrick Dortch was convicted by the Madison County Circuit
Court after pleading guilty to shooting into an occupied
dwelling and to aggravated assault. Pursuant to the
firearm-enhancement statute, the circuit court enhanced
Dortch's sentences. Dortch later filed a petition for
post-conviction relief (PCR), alleging that the circuit court
erred in enhancing his sentences. After the circuit court
denied Dortch's PCR petition, he filed this appeal. We
After Dortch's guilty pleas, the circuit court sentenced
him to two ten-year concurrent terms of imprisonment in the
custody of the Mississippi Department of Corrections (MDOC),
with five years suspended from each sentence, five years of
supervised probation for each sentence, and an additional
five-year enhancement term to run consecutively to each
ten-year term, for a total to ten years to serve.
As stated, Dortch filed a PCR petition, arguing that the
circuit court erred in enhancing his sentences pursuant to
Mississippi Code Annotated section 97-37-37 (Rev. 2014). His
argument before the circuit court, as it is here, was that
the circuit court erred because he "was not given notice
that the court was seeking the enhancement."
Specifically, Dortch contends that the court erred when it
enhanced his sentence despite the fact that the State had
failed to include the enhancements in his two indictments,
and never mentioned the enhancements during plea negotiations
or in its plea offer. Further, Dortch maintains that he did
not receive "any notice of the enhancement[s] until the
original plea date of November 1, 2014,  and only then, by
the trial judge. " Additional facts, as necessary, will
be related during our discussion of this matter.
"Whether a defendant received fair notice of a sentence
enhancement is a question of law that [appellate courts]
review de novo." Sallie v. State, 155 So.3d
760, 762 (¶7) (Miss. 2015).
Dortch's initial plea hearing took place on November 17,
2014, during which Dortch stated that he wished to plead
guilty to both offenses for which he was charged. The
November 17, 2014 plea-hearing transcript is void of any
on-the-record mention of the two sentence
enhancements. However, the court did not accept his
guilty plea at that time.
Dortch's plea hearing was continued until December 8,
2014, during which the first on-the-record mention of the two
sentence enhancements took place:
[BY THE COURT]: Do you also understand that both of these
cases involve the use of a firearm in the commission of the
crime, and under 97-37-37, I'm mandated to impose a
separate sentence in each case of five years. That would be
in addition to any ...