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Peterson v. State

Court of Appeals of Mississippi

July 31, 2018

JUSTIN PETERSON A/K/A JUSTIN DALE PETERSON A/K/A JUSTIN D. PETERSON APPELLANT
v.
STATE OF MISSISSIPPI APPELLEE

          DATE OF JUDGMENT: 12/26/2014

          PEARL RIVER COUNTY CIRCUIT COURT TRIAL HON. PRENTISS GREENE HARRELL JUDGE

          ATTORNEY FOR APPELLANT: JUSTIN PETERSON (PRO SE)

          ATTORNEY FOR APPELLEE: OFFICE OF THE ATTORNEY GENERAL BY: BILLY L. GORE

         EN BANC.

          FAIR, J.

         ¶1. Justin Peterson pled guilty to armed robbery and was sentenced to twenty-five years in the custody of the Mississippi Department of Corrections, with twenty years to serve and five years' post-release supervision. Peterson timely filed a motion for post-conviction relief claiming his plea was involuntary because his defense attorney had guaranteed he would be sentenced to only eight years if he pled guilty. In support, Peterson attached affidavits from himself, his mother, and his aunt to that effect. The circuit court gave Peterson an evidentiary hearing on his PCR motion, but at the hearing Peterson admitted that he had known eight years was only a recommendation and that his sentence would be up to the court. The circuit court denied Peterson's PCR motion, and on appeal we affirm that court's judgment.[1]

         STANDARD OF REVIEW

         ¶2. "When reviewing a trial court's denial or dismissal of a motion for PCR, we will only disturb the trial court's factual findings if they are clearly erroneous; however, we review legal conclusions under a de novo standard of review." Chapman v. State, 167 So.3d 1170, 1172 (¶3) (Miss. 2015). A PCR movant bears the burden of showing he is entitled to relief by a preponderance of the evidence. Wilkerson v. State, 89 So.3d 610, 613 (¶7) (Miss. Ct. App. 2011).

         DISCUSSION

         1. Guilty Plea

         ¶3. Peterson claims that his attorney "guaranteed" he would only be sentenced to eight years. Peterson contends he would not have pled guilty had he known his sentence could be longer.

         ¶4. When determining the voluntariness of a guilty plea, "[a]n appellate court will not set aside findings of a trial court sitting without a jury unless such findings are clearly erroneous." Walton v. State, 16 So.3d 66, 70 (¶8) (Miss. Ct. App. 2009). "The burden of proving a guilty plea is involuntary is on the defendant and must be proven by a preponderance of the evidence." Id. "To determine whether the plea is voluntarily and intelligently given, the trial court must advise the defendant of his rights, the nature of the charge against him, as well as the consequences of the plea." Burrough v. State, 9 So.3d 368, 373 (¶11) (Miss. 2009).

         ¶5. In his PCR motion, Peterson claimed his attorney "improperly induced a guilty plea by his assurances that if Peterson pled guilty to the offense, the court would follow the State's recommendation and impose a sentence of no more than [eight] years, to serve." Interestingly, Peterson recanted this statement at the evidentiary hearing. When asked whether he was promised eight years, Peterson said "there were no promises." He also admitted he understood an eight-year sentence was not "concrete," but ...


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