OF JUDGMENT: 11/16/2017
WASHINGTON COUNTY CIRCUIT COURT, HON. W. ASHLEY HINES JUDGE.
ATTORNEY FOR APPELLANT: DARIUS DENNIS (PRO SE).
ATTORNEY FOR APPELLEE: OFFICE OF THE ATTORNEY GENERAL BY:
ALICIA MARIE AINSWORTH.
BARNES, C.J., McDONALD AND C. WILSON, JJ.
Darius Dennis, appearing pro se, appeals the judgment of the
Washington County Circuit Court, which denied his motion for
post-conviction relief (PCR). Finding no error, we affirm.
AND PROCEDURAL HISTORY
In May 2004, a Washington County grand jury returned a
five-count indictment against Dennis and a co-defendant for
one count of armed robbery, one count of conspiracy, and
three counts of aggravated assault in connection with the
December 2003 armed robbery of the McCormick Book Inn in
Greenville, Mississippi. According to the owner of the
bookstore, who was one of the aggravated-assault victims,
during the robbery, Dennis put his firearm to the head of two
elderly patrons in the bookstore but did not shoot them.
After robbing the store, Dennis then fired at the owner of
the bookstore, without provocation, missing the owner's
head by a short distance. When leaving the scene, Dennis also
shot at a vehicle driven by a bystander who was trying to
block the robbers.
On October 1, 2004, Dennis pleaded guilty to armed robbery,
one count of aggravated assault, and
manslaughter. At the plea hearing, the prosecutor
explained that after robbing the bookstore, the robbers went
to the home of Dennis's co-defendant, where several
individuals were present. Dennis got into an altercation with
one of their friends, who thought the robbers owed him money.
Dennis claimed another individual shot and killed the friend
but pleaded guilty to the charge anyway because it was in his
best interest-if he were convicted of the charge at trial, he
could possibly receive life in prison for the crime.
At the plea hearing, Dennis was represented by counsel and
had already signed the plea petition. However, because Dennis
had just been made aware of a new offer that morning, the
trial judge determined it would be best to continue the
hearing, especially given Dennis had a learning disability,
was only twenty years old, and had a seventh-grade education.
The continuance would give Dennis time to consider fully the
plea offer and discuss it with family members.
On October 6, 2004, Dennis came back before the court, and
the court accepted his guilty plea. The trial court sentenced
Dennis to twenty-five years for the armed-robbery charge,
twenty years for the aggravated-assault charge, and twenty
years for the manslaughter charge-all in the custody of the
Mississippi Department of Corrections with the sentences
Over twelve years later, on April 18, 2017, Dennis filed a
PCR motion claiming ineffective assistance of counsel and
judicial misconduct because the trial court and Dennis's
attorney refused to require him to undergo a competency
examination. Dennis claims he did not understand the plea
proceedings and was coerced to plead guilty. A letter from
the Director of Special Education dating from November 2016,
which was attached to the PCR motion, stated that Dennis was
a special education student in the Leflore County School
District at some point in time.
In a detailed order, the trial court denied his PCR motion.
The trial court found his motion was excepted from the
three-year time limit under Rowland v. State, 42
So.3d 503, 507 (¶12) (Miss. 2010), because Dennis
claimed his due process rights were violated at sentencing.
However, on the merits, the trial court found Dennis failed
to present substantial evidence that he was mentally
incompetent at the time he entered his guilty plea, and there
was no evidence of his incompetency in the record.
Accordingly, the trial court found Dennis's counsel was
not ineffective for failing to request a competency