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Gaston v. State

Court of Appeals of Mississippi

April 30, 2019

AUTRAVIOUS GASTON A/K/A TRE A/K/A AUTRAVIOUS TIYON GASTON A/K/A OG APPELLANT
v.
STATE OF MISSISSIPPI APPELLEE

          DATE OF JUDGMENT: 02/16/2018

          LOWNDES COUNTY CIRCUIT COURT TRIAL JUDGE: HON. JAMES T. KITCHENS JR.

          ATTORNEY FOR APPELLANT: OFFICE OF STATE PUBLIC DEFENDER GEORGE T. HOLMES

          ATTORNEY FOR APPELLEE: OFFICE OF THE ATTORNEY GENERAL JOSEPH SCOTT HEMLEBEN

          DISTRICT ATTORNEY: SCOTT WINSTON COLOM

         EN BANC.

          TINDELL, J.

         ¶1. Autravious Gaston ("Gaston") appeals his sentence of life imprisonment for kidnapping from the Lowndes County Circuit Court. His sole argument is the legality of the sentence, pursuant to Mississippi Code Annotated section 97-3-53 (Rev. 2014), whereby a trial court may only sentence a defendant to life imprisonment for kidnapping if a jury prefixes that sentence in its verdict. Because the jury did not authorize this sentence, we find that the trial court exceeded its statutory sentencing authority, and we reverse and remand this case for re-sentencing.

         FACTS AND PROCEDURAL HISTORY

         ¶2. On February 16, 2018, a jury convicted Autravious Gaston ("Gaston") of one count of grand larceny (Count I), two counts of kidnapping (Counts II and III), two counts of armed robbery (Counts IV and V), two counts of sexual battery (Counts VI and VII), and one count of possession of a firearm by a felon (Count VIII). The trial court held a sentencing hearing the same day and sentenced Gaston as follows: five years in the custody of the Mississippi Department of Corrections for Count I; life imprisonment for Count II; thirty years for Count III; life imprisonment for Counts IV and V; thirty years for Count VI and VII; and ten years for Counts VIII-all to be served consecutively except for Counts IV and V, which were to be served concurrently.

         ¶3. Gaston now appeals the trial court's sentence of life imprisonment for kidnapping in Count II, arguing that the sentence was illegal pursuant to Mississippi Code Annotated section 97-3-53. In its responsive brief, the State acknowledged that the trial court erred by sentencing Gaston beyond the statutory maximum without proper authority.

         STANDARD OF REVIEW

         ¶4. Generally, this Court applies "a highly deferential standard of review for sentencing matters, leaving the imposition of the sentence to the trial court's discretion." Perryman v. State, 120 So.3d 1048, 1052 (ΒΆ10) (Miss. Ct. App. 2013). A trial court's sentence will not be disturbed unless it exceeds the statutory ...


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