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
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.
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.
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).
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
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
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.