OF JUDGMENT: 05/03/2018
FORREST COUNTY CIRCUIT COURT HON. ROBERT B. HELFRICH JUDGE
ATTORNEY FOR APPELLANT: HERBERT H. KLEIN
ATTORNEY FOR APPELLEE: OFFICE OF THE ATTORNEY GENERAL BY:
JEFFREY A. KLINGFUSS
J. WILSON, P.J., WESTBROOKS AND McDONALD, JJ.
In April 2017, Samuel Earl Easterling pled guilty and was
sentenced on three counts of selling methamphetamine. The
circuit court sentenced Easterling to serve consecutive terms
of ten years, ten years, and thirty years with twenty-five
years suspended, all in the custody of the Mississippi
Department of Corrections (MDOC). In January 2018, Easterling
filed a motion for post-conviction relief (PCR). Easterling
alleges that MDOC failed to credit him for 311 days served
prior to his plea and sentencing. See Miss. Code
Ann. § 99-19-23 (Rev. 2015). He also alleges that MDOC
failed to grant him thirty days credit for every thirty days
served from September 1, 2016, to June 8, 2017. We assume
that this is a reference to trusty earned time under
Mississippi Code Annotated section 47-5-138.1 (Rev. 2015).
Easterling's PCR motion includes a conclusory allegation
that he "has exhausted his administrative appeals within
the MDOC, Administrative Remedy Program [(ARP)] and his
appeal to obtain credit for time served was denied."
However, Easterling failed to attach any ARP decision or any
other evidence to support this allegation.
The circuit court dismissed Easterling's PCR motion
pursuant to Mississippi Code Annotated subsection 99-39-9(2)
(Rev. 2015), which provides: "A motion shall be limited
to the assertion of a claim for relief against one (1)
judgment only. If a petitioner desires to attack the validity
of other judgments under which he is in custody, he shall do
so by separate motions." The circuit court found that
Easterling's PCR motion improperly sought to attack three
different sentences. Easterling appealed.
The circuit court erred by dismissing Easterling's PCR
motion based on subsection 99-39-9(2). In Ashwell v.
State, 226 So.3d 69, 71-72 (¶¶6-9) (Miss.
2017), the Supreme Court held that subsection 99-39-9(2) was
an unconstitutional procedural rule.
However, we can affirm the circuit court on other grounds.
See Carey v. State, No. 2018-CP-00303-COA, 2019 WL
192330, at *1 n.2 (Miss. Ct. App. Jan. 15, 2019) (holding
that we may affirm the dismissal of a PCR motion even if the
circuit court dismissed the motion for the wrong reason). As
this Court has held on a number of occasions, a PCR motion is
not a proper vehicle for challenging MDOC's denial of
credit for time served:
This Court has held that "a post-conviction relief
pleading is not the proper means to calculate and receive
credit for . . . time served." Gable v. State,
919 So.2d 1075, 1077 (¶¶6-8) (Miss. Ct. App. 2005)
(quoting Murphy v. State, 800 So.2d 525, 527-28
(¶10) (Miss. Ct. App. 2001)). If [an inmate] is
aggrieved by the calculation of credit for time served, he
should send a request to the proper authorities within
[MDOC's] administrative system. Id. If [he] is
denied credit for time served, he may then seek redress from
the courts. Id. This issue is not a proper subject
for a motion for post-conviction relief. Id.
Melton v. State, 930 So.2d 452, 456 (¶14)
(Miss. Ct. App. 2006). An inmate must challenge MDOC's
calculation of credit for time served by obtaining a final
ARP decision and then seeking judicial review-not by filing a
freestanding PCR motion. Stokes v. State, 984 So.2d
1089, 1090-91 (¶7) (Miss. Ct. App. 2008). Likewise,
"a challenge to MDOC's earned-time calculation is
cognizable under the [ARP]," followed by judicial review
of the final ARP decision. Putnam v. Epps, 63 So.3d
547, 550 (¶7) (Miss. 2011); see generally Miss.
Code Ann. §§ 47-5-801 to -807 (Rev. 2015). A
challenge to such a calculation by MDOC cannot be asserted in
a PCR motion. Putnam, 63 So.3d at 550 (¶7).
Because a PCR motion is not a proper vehicle for Easterling
to challenge MDOC's calculations, the circuit court
correctly dismissed his PCR motion, albeit for the wrong
reason. Therefore, the judgment of the circuit
court is AFFIRMED.
BARNES, C.J., CARLTON, P.J., GREENLEE, WESTBROOKS, TINDELL,
McDONALD, LAWRENCE, ...