OF JUDGMENT: 05/18/2018
COUNTY CIRCUIT COURT HON. DAVID H. STRONG JR.TRIAL JUDGE:
BARNES, C.J., McDONALD AND C. WILSON, JJ.
In 1994, Benjamin Cook was convicted of murder and armed
robbery by a Pike County Circuit Court jury. The circuit
court sentenced him to life in the custody of the Mississippi
Department of Corrections for murder; for armed robbery, he
received a twenty-year sentence.
Cook became eligible for parole in 2013. He was denied parole
on three occasions between 2013 and 2017. On July 19, 2017,
the Mississippi Parole Board granted Cook parole but
subsequently rescinded it on September 19, 2017, due to the
serious nature of the offense and community response in
opposition to parole.
On January 19, 2018, Cook filed a "Motion to Correct the
Judgment of Parole" as a petition for post-conviction
relief (PCR) under the Uniform Post-Conviction Collateral
Relief Act (UPCCRA) in Pike County. He argued that the Parole
Board unlawfully revoked his parole, and he requested that
his parole be reinstated. The circuit court dismissed the
motion, finding that it had "no jurisdiction over the
action or inaction of the Mississippi Parole Board."
Cook appeals, and finding no error, we affirm.
Whether the circuit court erred in dismissing
Cook challenges the circuit court's dismissal of his
motion, arguing that (1) the Parole Board "overstepped
its statutory authority by deciding to grant parole and two
months later[, ] denying that parole"; and (2) the
circuit court had jurisdiction over the unlawful revocation
of his parole.
We find no merit to Cook's claims. "By statute, the
Parole Board is given 'absolute discretion' to
determine who is entitled to parole within the boundaries of
factors set forth in Miss[issippi] Code Ann[otated section]
47-7-3." Cotton v. Miss. Parole Bd., 863 So.2d
917, 921 (¶11) (Miss. 2003). Thus, "the grant or
denial of parole is entirely within the Parole Board's
discretion, and the denial of parole is not subject to a
statutory right of appeal." Willard v. Miss. State
Parole Bd., 212 So.3d 80, 86 (¶19) (Miss. Ct. App.
Regarding the circuit court's jurisdiction, we find it
important to emphasize that Cook's parole was not
revoked. As the circuit court aptly notes, the
Parole Board "revoked [its] decision
and den[ied] his parole." (Emphasis added). In
Cotton, the Mississippi Supreme Court upheld a
circuit court's dismissal of a prisoner's petition
for lack of jurisdiction because there was no statute
"granting circuit courts jurisdiction over appeals
concerning the denial of parole." Cotton, 863
So.2d at 921 (¶10). Even though a "constitutional
challenge can justify the assertion of jurisdiction, . . .
that duty only arises when certain criteria are met."
Id. at 921 (¶11). Because a defendant has
"no liberty interest in obtaining parole in Mississippi,
he cannot complain of the denial of parole based on an
allegation of a denial of due process, abuse of discretion,
or consideration of false or improper factors."
Mangum v. Miss. Parole Bd., 76 So.3d 762 768-69
(¶17) (Miss. Ct. App. 2011). Here, Cook was never
released on parole; the Parole Board changed its decision and
denied Cook parole. Accordingly, this case is not one of
unlawful revocation of parole. Therefore, Cook failed to
state a claim upon which the circuit court could assert
jurisdiction, and we affirm the dismissal of the
Whether the circuit court should have denied
Cook's motion to proceed in forma
pauperis on appeal.
Cook filed his motion as a PCR petition under the UPCCRA,
challenging the "unlawful revocation" of his
parole. The State asserts that Cook's motion was not a
PCR motion but a purely civil action; therefore, the circuit