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Jones v. State

Court of Appeals of Mississippi

November 27, 2018

VICTOR D. JONES A/K/A VICTOR DEWAYNE JONES A/K/A VICTOR JONES APPELLANT
v.
STATE OF MISSISSIPPI APPELLEE

          DATE OF JUDGMENT: 07/13/2017

          COURT FROM WHICH APPEALED HON. DAVID H. STRONG JR. PIKE COUNTY CIRCUIT COURT TRIAL JUDGE

          ATTORNEY FOR APPELLANT: VICTOR D. JONES (PRO SE).

          ATTORNEY FOR APPELLEE: OFFICE OF THE ATTORNEY GENERAL BY: LAURA HOGAN TEDDER.

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

          BARNES, J.

         ¶1. This appeal relates to Victor Jones's fourth pro-se motion for post-conviction relief (PCR), [1] challenging his 2004 guilty plea on two counts of sexual battery. The Circuit Court of Pike County dismissed Jones's motion with prejudice, finding it time barred and barred as a successive writ. Additionally, the circuit court ruled that it lacked jurisdiction because the underlying criminal action had been directly appealed to the Mississippi Supreme Court. We affirm the circuit court's dismissal for the same reasons set out in Jones III. However, we reverse as to the jurisdictional issue for the reasons set out by the supreme court in Jones II-MSC.

         FACTS AND PROCEDURAL HISTORY

         ¶2. On June 29, 2004, Jones pleaded guilty in the Pike County Circuit Court to two counts of sexual battery. The State recommended a sentence of twenty years, with ten years to serve, ten years suspended, and five years of probation for each count, to be served concurrently. The circuit-court judge, however, did not accept the State's recommendation and sentenced Jones to serve twenty years on each count to run consecutively. Jones filed a direct appeal which was dismissed for failure to pay the costs of appeal. See Jones II-COA, 119 So.3d at 351 (¶3).

         ¶3. Jones filed his first PCR motion at the end of 2004, including claims of a faulty indictment, an involuntary guilty plea, and ineffective assistance of counsel. Jones I, 962 So.2d at 572 (¶2). This Court affirmed the circuit court's dismissal of his PCR motion, agreeing that Jones's guilty pleas were voluntary and his counsel effective. Id. at 572-73 (¶¶3, 6).

         ¶4. Jones filed his second PCR motion in April 2011, and again, it was summarily dismissed. The circuit court found that it lacked jurisdiction, and the PCR motion was time barred and barred as a successive writ. Jones II-COA, 119 So.3d at 351 (¶5). On appeal, Jones argued the dismissal was error because his sentence was illegal. Also, Jones claimed he should have had a mental-health evaluation before he was allowed to enter his plea. Id. at 351 (¶2). However, we noted he had not raised his mental health in his previous PCR motion, where his guilty plea had been found voluntary. Id. at 352 (¶10). This Court affirmed, finding the issues without merit, and also agreeing that the circuit court lacked jurisdiction because Jones failed to seek permission from the Mississippi Supreme Court to file his PCR motion. Id. at (¶¶12-13).

         ¶5. The Mississippi Supreme Court granted certiorari review and reversed as to the jurisdictional issue. The supreme court explained that Mississippi Code Annotated section 99-39-7 (Supp. 2012) requires a petitioner to seek leave of the supreme court to file a motion for PCR only "where the conviction and sentence have been affirmed on appeal or the appeal has been dismissed." Jones II-MSC, 119 So.3d at 325 (¶5) (emphasis added by the supreme court) (quoting Miss. Code Ann. § 99-39-7 (Supp. 2012)). And because Jones was only allowed to appeal the sentence from his guilty plea under Trotter v. State, 554 So.2d 313, 315 (Miss. 1989), abrogated on other grounds by Betterman v. Montana, 136 S.Ct. 1609 (2016), this statute was not applicable. Jones II-MSC, 119 So.3d at 325 (¶5). The supreme court affirmed that the PCR was time barred and barred by res judicata. Id. at 326 (¶9). The supreme court also found Jones's argument that he was "legally incompetent" to plead guilty without merit. The supreme court stated that in the order denying the first PCR motion, the circuit court found it had "personally observed the defendant's demeanor, appearance and manner in answering the court's questions and it appeared to the court that the defendant was competent to understand and did understand the circumstances surrounding his guilty plea." Id. at (¶7). The supreme court also noted: "In support of his second PCR filing, Jones submitted some of his medical records, but none appears responsive to his mental competency, in general, or at the time of his plea." Id.

         ¶6. On August 30, 2013, fifteen days after the supreme court handed down Jones II-MSC, Jones filed his third PCR motion. He again argued that he received ineffective assistance of counsel, his guilty plea was involuntary, he should have received a competency hearing, and he was incompetent when he was coerced into pleading guilty. Jones III, 174 So.3d at 904 (¶6). He again filed numerous mental-health records with his PCR motion, and again, none of them related to his competency at the time of his guilty plea in 2004. Id. at 908 (¶15). Further, he complained that the circuit court did not honor the plea agreement. Id. at 904 (¶6). The circuit court summarily dismissed Jones's motion, finding it procedurally barred as a successive writ and time barred, noting: "The motion is substantively identical to three previously filed motions which have all been denied." Id. at 904-05 (¶6).

         ¶7. Jones appealed, focusing solely on his lack of competency to enter a guilty plea- again arguing that his attorney was ineffective and his plea was involuntary. This Court noted these two issues had been raised before in his prior PCR motions and typically would be procedurally barred by time and successive. Id. at 906-07 (¶10). However, because Rowland v. State, 42 So.3d 503, 507 (¶12) (Miss. 2010), excepts from the procedural bars errors affecting fundamental constitutional rights, this Court found Jones's claims of mental incompetency were not subject to procedural bars.[2] Nonetheless, we found the issue without merit because it had already been determined in Jones II-MSC. Id. at 907 (¶¶11, 13). There, the supreme court found no evidence that Jones was incompetent at the time he submitted his guilty plea. Id. at 907-08 (¶13). Accordingly, this Court affirmed the dismissal of the third PCR motion, and the supreme court denied certiorari review. Id. at 908 (¶15).

         ¶8. In January 2016, Jones filed his fourth PCR motion-the subject of the instant case. He attached numerous documents, including general articles about mental-health disorders, the prior opinions on his appeals, his defense counsel's response to a bar complaint in 2010, a letter from the Pike County district attorney in 2005 explaining that the judge is not under an obligation to follow their sentence recommendation, mental-health records from a stay at the Whitfield State Hospital (Whitfield)[3] from January 20, 1993 until February 12, 1993, and records from prison.[4] He also included an affidavit from his mother ...


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