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Watts v. State

Court of Appeals of Mississippi

April 10, 2018

ALBERT LEWIS WATTS A/K/A ALBERT L. WATTS A/K/A ALBERT WATTS APPELLANT
v.
STATE OF MISSISSIPPI APPELLEE

          DATE OF JUDGMENT: 12/12/2016

          LEAKE COUNTY CIRCUIT COURT HON. CHRISTOPHER A. COLLINS, TRIAL JUDGE

          ATTORNEY FOR APPELLANT: ALBERT LEWIS WATTS (PRO SE)

          ATTORNEY FOR APPELLEE: OFFICE OF THE ATTORNEY GENERAL, LISA L. BLOUNT

          BEFORE GRIFFIS, P.J., WESTBROOKS AND TINDELL, JJ.

          GRIFFIS, P.J.

         ¶1. Albert Lewis Watts filed a petition for post-conviction collateral relief (PCCR) in the Circuit Court of Leake County. The circuit court found it lacked jurisdiction to entertain the petition due to Watts's failure to obtain leave from the Mississippi Supreme Court to proceed in the circuit court. Because we find the circuit court had jurisdiction to consider the petition for PCCR, we reverse and remand.

         FACTS AND PROCEDURAL HISTORY

         ¶2. In 2012, Watts was convicted of armed robbery and sentenced to life imprisonment as a habitual offender pursuant to Mississippi Code Annotated section 99-19-83 (Rev. 2007). Watts v. State, 132 So.3d 1062, 1063-64 (¶¶1, 4) (Miss. Ct. App. 2014). On appeal, we found the State failed to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that Watts had served a term of at least one year on each sentence, as required under section 99-19-83. Id. at 1065 (¶9). As a result, we affirmed Watts's conviction but reversed and remanded for resentencing under Mississippi Code Annotated section 99-19-81 (Rev. 2007). Id.

         ¶3. On remand, Watts was resentenced as a habitual offender under section 99-19-81 to serve twenty-three years in the custody of the Mississippi Department of Corrections. A new sentencing order was entered by the circuit court. Watts did not appeal from that order.

         ¶4. On April 22, 2016, Watts filed the subject petition for PCCR in the circuit court. On December 12, 2016, the circuit court found it was without jurisdiction to entertain the petition since Watts failed to obtain leave from the Mississippi Supreme Court prior to filing his petition in the circuit court. As a result, the circuit court dismissed Watts's petition for PCCR. Watts timely appealed.

         ¶5. In addition to this appeal, Watts also filed with the Mississippi Supreme Court an "application for leave to proceed in [the] trial court with petition for PCCR." In his application, Watts sought permission to file his petition for PCCR in the circuit court. On February 8, 2017, the Mississippi Supreme Court found "that Watts's current sentence has not been appealed and that the request for post-conviction relief should be dismissed without prejudice to be filed in the [circuit] court."

         STANDARD OF REVIEW

          ¶6. We will not disturb a circuit court's denial of a petition for PCCR unless the factual findings are clearly erroneous. Kennedy v. State, 179 So.3d 82, 83 (ΒΆ5) (Miss. Ct. App. ...


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