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Washington v. State

Court of Appeals of Mississippi

May 30, 2017

JOHNNY LEWIS WASHINGTON A/K/A JOHNNY L. WASHINGTON A/K/A JOHNNY WASHINGTON A/K/A JOHN LEWIS WASHINGTON APPELLANT
v.
STATE OF MISSISSIPPI APPELLEE

          DATE OF JUDGMENT: 12/21/2015

         LOWNDES COUNTY CIRCUIT COURT HON. JAMES T. KITCHENS JR., Judge

          ATTORNEY FOR APPELLANT: DAVID S. VAN EVERY SR.

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

          BEFORE GRIFFIS, P.J., CARLTON AND GREENLEE, JJ.

          CARLTON, J.

         ¶1. On May 25, 1977, Johnny Washington was convicted of capital murder and sentenced to death. Washington then filed an unsuccessful direct appeal of his conviction and sentence to the Mississippi Supreme Court. He next filed a successful petition in federal court for habeas review. In accordance with the federal court's ruling, the Lowndes County Circuit Court resentenced Washington on February 25, 1983, to life in the custody of the Mississippi Department of Corrections (MDOC). On July 21, 2015, Washington filed a motion for postconviction relief (PCR). On December 21, 2015, the circuit court entered an order denying Washington's PCR motion after finding that Washington's claims lacked merit. ¶2. Washington now appeals the circuit court's denial of his PCR motion, and he asserts the following assignments of error: (1) the sentencing court lacked authority pursuant to Mississippi Code Annotated section 99-19-101 (Rev. 2015) to resentence him; (2) the sentencing court exceeded its authority and went outside the district court's order; (3) he did not knowingly, intelligently, and voluntarily waive his constitutional right to a trial by jury for sentencing purposes; and (4) these errors constitute cumulative and plain error. ¶3. Upon review, we find the record reflects that Washington failed to obtain permission from the supreme court to file the instant PCR motion.[1] We therefore affirm the circuit court's denial of Washington's PCR motion, although we do so due to Washington's failure to obtain leave from the supreme court to proceed with his PCR motion.[2]

         FACTS

         ¶4. On May 25, 1977, a Lowndes County jury convicted Washington of capital murder for the shooting death of a man during the armed robbery of a convenience store. The jury subsequently sentenced Washington to death. On July 12, 1978, the supreme court affirmed Washington's conviction and sentence. Washington v. State, 361 So.2d 61, 68 (Miss. 1978). Washington eventually petitioned the United States District Court for the Northern District of Mississippi for a writ of habeas corpus. After conducting an evidentiary hearing on the matter, the district court denied habeas relief. Washington then appealed to the United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit, requesting habeas relief.

         ¶5. Upon review, the Fifth Circuit found:

Washington was not denied effective assistance of counsel in the guilt phase of his trial. . . . [H]owever, we conclude that the process by which the State secured a death sentence for Washington's crime was constitutionally flawed because the jury was precluded from considering nonstatutory mitigating factors in violation of the [United States] Supreme Court's Lockett [v. Ohio, 438 U.S. 586 (1978), ] decision.

Washington v. Watkins, 655 F.2d 1346, 1377-78 (5th Cir. 1981). As a result, the Fifth Circuit reversed the district court's judgment denying Washington habeas relief, and the Fifth Circuit remanded the case "with instructions that the district court shall enter judgment granting appropriate habeas relief in accordance with this opinion[;] we leave it to the district court to determine, after briefing and argument by the parties, the precise form of such relief." Id. at 1378.

         ¶6. In response to the Fifth Circuit's mandate regarding Washington's capital-murder conviction and sentence, the district court entered an order on May 18, 1982, and directed the circuit court to resentence Washington. The district court stated:

After briefing and argument by the parties, we determine that the precise form of habeas relief required under these circumstances is to vacate [Washington's] death sentence, which will result in the imposition of a life sentence under Mississippi law[, ] unless the State chooses to resentence [Washington] in accordance with state law. [Mississippi Code Annotated section] 99-19-101 (Supp. 1981) provides that[, ] in the usual case of conviction of a capital offense, the separate sentencing proceeding is to be determined by the same trial jury which determined guilt, but that in cases, as here, where it is impossible or the trial court is unable to ...

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