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Williams v. State

Supreme Court of Mississippi, En Banc

May 11, 2017

DILLON WILLIAMS a/k/a DILLON D. WILLIAMS a/k/a DILLON DEWAYNE WILLIAMS a/k/a DILLION WILLIAMS a/k/a DILLION DEWAYNE WILLIAMS
v.
STATE OF MISSISSIPPI

          DATE OF JUDGMENT: 07/11/2014

         MARSHALL COUNTY CIRCUIT COURT TRIAL JUDGE: HON. ROBERT WILLIAM ELLIOTT

          ATTORNEYS FOR APPELLANT: DAVID G. HILL TIFFANY LEIGH KILPATRICK

          ATTORNEY FOR APPELLEE: OFFICE OF THE ATTORNEY GENERAL BY: JEFFREY A. KLINGFUSS

          ON WRIT OF CERTIORARI

          WALLER, CHIEF JUSTICE

         ¶1. Dillon Williams pleaded guilty to burglary and aggravated assault, and the Marshall County Circuit Court sentenced him to twenty years' imprisonment for the aggravated assault and twenty-five years' imprisonment for the burglary. In addition, pursuant to Mississippi Code Section 99-19-355, the circuit court applied a twenty-year enhancement to the aggravated-assault charge because Williams's victim was an elderly woman. Dillon filed a petition for post-conviction relief (PCR) in which he contends that he was deprived of his right to be sentenced by a jury to the twenty-year enhancement. We hold that Williams waived his right to sentencing by a jury when he pleaded guilty. Accordingly, his claims have no merit. We affirm the judgment of the trial court that denied Williams's request for post-conviction relief, and we the affirm the judgment of the Court of Appeals. See Williams v. State, 2016 WL 1117659 (Miss. Ct. App. March 22, 2016).

         I. Williams's petition has no merit, because he waived his right to a jury at sentencing by knowingly and intelligently entering a plea of guilty.

         ¶2. As noted above, Williams pleaded guilty. In the instant petition for post-conviction relief, he contends that the trial court erred in failing to convene a jury for purposes of sentencing him to the twenty-year enhancement codified in Mississippi Code Section 99-19-355, which provides, in pertinent part:

(1)Upon conviction or adjudication of guilt of a defendant where notice has been duly given that an enhanced penalty will be sought . . ., the court shall conduct a separate sentencing proceeding to determine the sentence. The proceeding shall be conducted by the trial judge before the trial jury as soon as practicable. . . . If trial by jury has been waived, or if the defendant pleaded guilty, the sentencing proceeding shall be conducted before a jury impaneled for that purpose. If the defendant enters a plea of guilty and waives trial by jury for the sentencing proceeding, the sentencing proceeding shall be conducted before the trial judge sitting without a jury. In the proceeding, evidence may be presented as to any matter that the court deems relevant to sentence. . . .
(2)In order to impose an enhanced penalty under the provisions of Sections 99-19-351 through 99-19-357, the jury must find beyond a reasonable doubt:
(a) That the defendant perceived, knew, or had reasonable grounds to know or perceive that the victim was within the class delineated; and
(b) That the defendant maliciously and with specific intent committed the offense to any victim who is sixty-five (65) years of age or older or who is disabled as described in 42 USCS 12102.

Miss. Code Ann. § 99-19-355 (Rev. 2015). Williams's contention that the trial judge erred in denying him a jury at sentencing is wholly without merit, as he explicitly waived a jury and admitted to the facts necessary to prove the enhancement.

         ¶3. The grand jury included the Section 99-19-355 enhancement in the indictment against Williams. See Miss. Code Ann. § 99-19-351 (Rev. 2015). According to Williams's Plea of Guilty, entered by the trial court on November 10, 2010, Williams pleaded guilty not only to the burglary charge but also to the Section 99-19-355 enhancement. During the plea colloquy, the trial judge said the following:

Q. . . . If I accept your plea, it's with the understanding that you are telling me that you are guilty under your oath and that gives me the power and the authority to sentence you to the maximum penalty or anything less. Whatever I think you deserve and your crime warrants. . . . Now, before you could be found guilty, the State would have to prove each and every element of the indictment or the information. . . . [T]he State has got to prove what they have got you charged ...

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