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Kennedy v. State

Supreme Court of Mississippi, En Banc

September 27, 2018

ERIC DENORRIS KENNEDY a/k/a ERIC D. KENNEDY a/k/a ERIC KENNEDY
v.
STATE OF MISSISSIPPI

          DATE OF JUDGMENT: 03/15/2016

          HINDS COUNTY CIRCUIT COURT, HON. WINSTON L. KIDD JUDGE.

         ON WRIT OF CERTIORARI

          ATTORNEY FOR APPELLANT: ERIC DENORRIS KENNEDY (PRO SE)

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

          WALLER, CHIEF JUSTICE.

         ¶ 1. The Court of Appeals of the State of Mississippi affirmed the Hinds County Circuit Court's order denying Eric Kennedy's motion for an out-of-time appeal. Kennedy's petition for a writ of certiorari was granted. Because the Mississippi Supreme Court previously found Kennedy's appeal to have been timely, we reverse the Court of Appeals' decision and remand the case to that court for an appeal on the merits.

         FACTS

         ¶ 2. In 1997, Kennedy and Nakiea Sutton were indicted in Hinds County for capital murder in violation of Mississippi Code Section 97-3-19(2) (1997). The charges stemmed from the burglary and subsequent murder of Thomas Ward.

         ¶ 3. On June 10, 1998, Kennedy entered a guilty plea to the lesser-included offense of murder. At his plea hearing, Kennedy testified that he had reviewed his plea petition with his attorney and that he understood it. Kennedy testified that he also understood the allegations set forth against him, and he admitted that he did commit the alleged crime.

         ¶ 4. On December 16, 2013, Kennedy filed a second motion for post-conviction relief (PCR) in the circuit court, arguing that the statute under which he had pleaded guilty was unconstitutional; that his co-indictee's "recanted testimony" showed that Kennedy was not guilty; and that the evidence that had been collected in the original investigation showed that he was not guilty.

         ¶ 5. On June 25, 2014, Kennedy filed a petition for a writ of mandamus in this Court, requesting that we compel the circuit court to rule on his PCR motion. The mandamus case was assigned case number 2014-M-00851-SCT. After calling for a response, the Supreme Court Clerk received a copy of the circuit court's Order Denying Motion for Post-Conviction Collateral Relief, which had been signed August 29, 2014.[1] The circuit court's order stated that Kennedy's "motion has no merit." Finding that the circuit court had ruled, a panel of this Court entered an order on November 5, 2014, dismissing Kennedy's mandamus petition as moot.

         ¶ 6. On November 18, 2014, Kennedy filed a motion in this Court seeking sanctions against the circuit court for having not provided him a copy of the August 29, 2014, order denying his PCR motion. Kennedy claimed this had prevented his filing a timely appeal. Kennedy also asked this Court either to treat his June 25, 2014, petition for a writ of mandamus as a notice of appeal or to mandate that the circuit court reopen his time to appeal. In dismissing that motion, this Court explained that Rule 4(h) of the Mississippi Rules of Appellate Procedure directs a party such as Kennedy to request an out-of-time appeal directly from the circuit court.

         ¶ 7. Also on November 18, 2014, Kennedy filed a notice of appeal in the circuit court, as well as a motion for an out-of-time appeal, claiming he never received a copy of the circuit court's August 29, 2014, order denying his PCR motion. When the trial court failed to rule on his motion for an out-of-time appeal, Kennedy filed another petition for a writ of mandamus with this Court, seeking to compel a ruling. On March 15, 2016, the circuit court entered an order denying ...


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