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Gray v. State

Court of Appeals of Mississippi

March 26, 2019

MAURICE GRAY APPELLANT
v.
STATE OF MISSISSIPPI APPELLEE

          DATE OF JUDGMENT: 05/19/2017

          BOLIVAR COUNTY CIRCUIT COURT, SECOND JUDICIAL DISTRICT HON. ALBERT B. SMITH III

          ATTORNEY FOR APPELLANT: MAURICE GRAY (PRO SE)

          ATTORNEY FOR APPELLEE: OFFICE OF THE ATTORNEY GENERAL BY: KAYLYN HAVRILLA MCCLINTON

         EN BANC.

          TINDELL, J.

         ¶1. Maurice Gray appeals the judgment of the Bolivar County Circuit Court, Second Judicial District, which denied his "Petition for Conditional Release." Finding no error, we affirm.

         FACTS

         ¶2. In June 1999, a jury convicted Gray, who was then eighteen years old, of murder and aggravated assault. Gray v. State, 846 So.2d 260, 261 (¶1) (Miss. Ct. App. 2002). The circuit court sentenced Gray to concurrent sentences of life imprisonment for murder and twenty years for aggravated assault, both in the custody of the Mississippi Department of Corrections (MDOC). Id. In November 2002, this Court affirmed Gray's convictions and sentences on direct appeal. Id. After receiving permission from the Mississippi Supreme Court, Gray filed a motion for postconviction relief (PCR) and asserted an ineffective-assistance-of-counsel claim. Gray v. State, 13 So.3d 307, 308 (¶1) (Miss. Ct. App. 2008). After an evidentiary hearing, the circuit court denied Gray's motion. Id. On appeal, this Court affirmed the denial of Gray's PCR motion. Id.

         ¶3. In 2011, Gray sought leave from the supreme court to file a second PCR motion. The supreme court entered an order dismissing Gray's application as successive-writ barred. The supreme court further warned Gray that "any future frivolous filings" might subject him to sanctions under Mississippi Rule of Appellate Procedure 22(a).

         ¶4. On January 20, 2017, Gray filed a "Petition for Conditional Release" in the circuit court. Relying on Mississippi Code Annotated section 47-5-139(1)(a) (Rev. 2015), Gray argued he should be eligible for conditional release on his sentence of life imprisonment. Section 47-5-139(1)(a) provides that an inmate is ineligible for earned-time allowance if "[t]he inmate was sentenced to life imprisonment . . . ." The statute further states, however, that "an inmate, except an inmate sentenced to life imprisonment for capital murder, who has reached the age of sixty-five (65) or older and who has served at least fifteen (15) years may petition the sentencing court for conditional release . . . ." Id. Although acknowledging he failed to meet section 47-5-139(1)(a)'s age requirement, Gray claimed that he should still be eligible for conditional release because he had served eighteen years of his life sentence. Gray further asserted that to deny him conditional release because he was not yet sixty-five years old violated his right to equal protection under the law without a rational relationship to a legitimate state interest.

         ¶5. On May 18, 2017, the circuit court entered an order denying Gray's petition. Despite the title of Gray's petition, the circuit court treated his filing as a PCR petition. Acknowledging Gray's own admission that he failed to meet section 47-5-139(1)(a)'s age requirement for conditional release, the circuit court concluded that Gray's petition lacked any basis under the statute. The circuit court also cited Mississippi Code Annotated section 99-39-27(9) (Rev. 2015) and found that Gray's petition failed to meet any of the statute's identified exceptions to a successive writ. Although the circuit court concluded Gray's filing was frivolous, the court withheld sanctions "in the hope that [Gray would] . . . heed this warning . . . and refrain from wasting" further judicial resources.

         ¶6. Aggrieved by the circuit court's denial of his petition, Gray appeals. Following Gray's filing of his appeal, the State moved to dismiss for lack of jurisdiction. The State argued the circuit court lacked jurisdiction to consider Gray's petition because Gray failed to first obtain the supreme court's leave to file the petition under Mississippi Code Annotated section 99-39-7 (Rev. 2015). The State further contended that the circuit court's lack of jurisdiction over Gray's petition deprived this Court of jurisdiction over Gray's appeal. The supreme court ordered that the State's motion be passed for consideration along with the merits of Gray's appeal.

         STANDARD ...


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