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Bester v. State

Court of Appeals of Mississippi

September 10, 2019

CHARLES BESTER APPELLANT
v.
STATE OF MISSISSIPPI APPELLEE

          DATE OF JUDGMENT: 02/23/2018

          COURT FROM WHICH APPEALED: JONES COUNTY CIRCUIT COURT, SECOND JUDICIAL DISTRICT TRIAL JUDGE: HON. DAL WILLIAMSON

          ATTORNEY FOR APPELLANT: CHARLES BESTER (PRO SE)

          ATTORNEY FOR APPELLEE: OFFICE OF THE ATTORNEY GENERAL BY: SCOTT STUART

          BEFORE BARNES, C.J., GREENLEE AND TINDELL, JJ.

          TINDELL, J.

         ¶1. On August 31, 1992, Charles Bester pled guilty to robbery and rape, and the Jones County Circuit Court sentenced him to life imprisonment in the custody of the Mississippi Department of Corrections (MDOC). Bester filed his third post-conviction-relief (PCR) petition, in the form of a motion to vacate judgment, on January 30, 2018, again challenging the legality of his life-imprisonment sentence for rape. The circuit court dismissed Bester's motion on February 23, 2018, finding the motion to be an attempt to relitigate issues properly decided by the Mississippi Supreme Court in its April 14, 2016 opinion. Aggrieved, Bester now appeals the circuit court's denial of his motion. We agree with the circuit court and find that Bester's third PCR petition was properly dismissed. We, therefore, affirm the circuit court's decision.

         FACTS AND PROCEDURAL HISTORY

         ¶2. On August 31, 1992, Bester pled guilty to robbery and rape. The circuit court found that Bester's plea was "freely, voluntarily, and intelligently" made. As a part of Bester's plea bargain, the circuit court sentenced him to serve seven years for robbery and to life imprisonment for rape, with both sentences to run concurrently in MDOC's custody.

         ¶3. On May 2, 2006, almost fourteen years after entering his guilty plea, Bester filed an unsuccessful PCR petition to vacate, set aside, or correct his sentence. In that motion, Bester argued that he was not properly advised of his "right to testify or not to testify, that he had the right to exercise the act of self-incrimination if need be, and the right to be informed of the maximum and minimum penalties of the alleged crimes against him" prior to his plea hearing. Bester v. State, 976 So.2d 939, 941 (¶2) (Miss. Ct. App. 2007). Bester further argued that, had he been properly advised of these rights, he would not have entered a guilty plea. Id. On September 11, 2007, this Court upheld the circuit court's dismissal of Bester's motion, finding the PCR petition to be time-barred under Mississippi Code Annotated section 99-39-5(2) (Rev. 2006) with no applicable exception to overcome the time-bar.[1] Id. at 941-42 (¶¶4-5).

         ¶4. Bester filed a PCR petition to "correct [an] illegal sentence" on September 14, 2012, arguing that the circuit court unlawfully sentenced him to life imprisonment for rape because that sentence had not been recommended by a jury. Bester v. State, 188 So.3d 576, 577 (¶5) (Miss. Ct. App. 2014). Additionally, Bester argued that his illegal sentence constituted an exception to the time-bar under section 99-39-5(2). Id. The circuit court again denied Bester's PCR petition. Id. This Court affirmed the circuit court's decision, finding that because Bester knowingly and voluntarily agreed to enter a guilty plea, he effectively waived his right to empanel a jury for trial and sentencing. Id. at 580 (¶15). Therefore, Bester's second PCR petition still remained time-barred with no applicable exceptions. Id.

         ¶5. On April 14, 2016, the Supreme Court affirmed this Court's decision. Bester v. State, 188 So.3d 526, 529-30 (¶¶10-11) (Miss. 2016). In its opinion, the Supreme Court found that the language of Mississippi Code Annotated section 97-3-65(4)(a) (1991)[2] granted the circuit court the right to sentence defendants to imprisonment "for any term as the court, in its discretion, may determine," which included life imprisonment. Id. at 528-29 (¶6). Therefore, the Supreme Court found that Bester's sentence was not illegal. Id. at 529 (¶6).

         ¶6. On January 30, 2018, Bester filed a third PCR petition to vacate the circuit court's judgment. The circuit court denied the motion on February 23, 2018, finding that the motion was an attempt to relitigate issues that had properly been decided by the Supreme Court in its April 14, 2016 opinion. Aggrieved by the circuit court's denial of this current motion, Bester appeals.

         STANDARD ...


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