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Turner v. State

Court of Appeals of Mississippi

May 8, 2018

JULIUS SCOTT TURNER A/K/A JULIUS S. TURNER A/K/A JULIUS TURNER APPELLANT
v.
STATE OF MISSISSIPPI APPELLEE

          DATE OF JUDGMENT: 11/28/2016

          HARRISON COUNTY CIRCUIT COURT, FIRST JUDICIAL DISTRICT, HON. LAWRENCE PAUL BOURGEOIS JR., TRIAL JUDGE

          ATTORNEY FOR APPELLANT: JULIUS SCOTT TURNER (PRO SE).

          ATTORNEY FOR APPELLEE: ALICIA MARIE AINSWORTH.

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

          GRIFFIS, P.J.

         ¶1. Julius Scott Turner appeals the denial of his motion for post-conviction collateral relief (PCCR). We find no error and affirm.

         FACTS AND PROCEDURAL HISTORY

         ¶2. On February 11, 2014, Turner entered a guilty plea to Count I, possession of a controlled substance with intent, and Count II, unlawful possession of a firearm or weapon by a convicted felon. He was subsequently sentenced as a habitual offender under Mississippi Code Annotated section 99-19-81 (Rev. 2014) to twelve years for Count I and ten years for Count II, to run concurrently, for a total of twelve years to serve in the custody of the Mississippi Department of Corrections.

         ¶3. On February 13, 2015, Turner filed a motion for PCCR, which the trial court denied. Turner now appeals and argues: (1) his guilty plea was involuntarily entered, (2) he received ineffective assistance of counsel, (3) his sentence as a habitual offender is illegal, and (4) his constitutional rights were violated.

         STANDARD OF REVIEW

         ¶4. We will not disturb a circuit court's denial of a motion for PCCR unless the factual findings are clearly erroneous. Kennedy v. State, 179 So.3d 82, 83 (¶5) (Miss. Ct. App. 2015). However, questions of law are reviewed de novo. Id.

         ANALYSIS

         I. Voluntariness of Guilty Plea

         5. Turner first argues his guilty plea was involuntarily entered. Turner claims he pled guilty due to constant pressure from his attorney and family. "When a PC[C]R movant tries to get out of an already entered guilty plea, it is the movant, not the State, who bears the burden of proving by a preponderance of evidence that the guilty plea was involuntary." Watkins v. State, 170 So.3d 582, 585 (¶11) (Miss. Ct. App. 2014).

         ¶6. "A guilty plea is not binding upon a criminal defendant unless it is entered voluntarily and intelligently." Holland v. State, 956 So.2d 322, 327 (¶11) (Miss. Ct. App. 2007). "A plea is deemed 'voluntary and intelligent' only where the defendant is advised concerning the nature of the charge against him and the consequences of the plea." Id. "[T]he defendant must be advised that his guilty plea waives multiple constitutional rights." Hill v. State, 60 So.3d 824, 828 (¶11) (Miss. Ct. App. 2011). However, "[a] lawyer's 'persuading' a defendant to plead guilty by 'every means at his disposal' does not render the plea involuntary if that persuasion does not result from fear, violence, deception, or improper inducements." Brasington v. State, 760 So.2d 18, 26 (¶38) (Miss. Ct. App. 1999).

         ¶7. "[T]he most significant indicator of the voluntariness of a defendant's guilty plea is the thoroughness with which the defendant was interrogated by the lower court." Watkins, 170 So.3d at 585-86 (¶12) (internal quotation marks omitted). "The Court can place great weight on the sworn testimony of a defendant given at a plea hearing leaving the defendant with a high hurdle in recanting that testimony." Pevey v. State, 914 So.2d 1287, 1290 (¶8) (Miss. Ct. App. 2005).

         ¶8. During Turner's plea hearing, the following exchange occurred:

THE COURT: Before you should be a petition to enter a plea of guilty.
Is there one?
[TURNER]: Yes, sir.
THE COURT: Have you read that ...

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