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Pipkin v. State

Court of Appeals of Mississippi

October 1, 2019

DEVONTA PIPKIN APPELLANT
v.
STATE OF MISSISSIPPI APPELLEE

          DATE OF JUDGMENT: 03/14/2018

          COURT FROM WHICH APPEALED: TATE COUNTY CIRCUIT COURT TRIAL JUDGE: HON. SMITH MURPHEY

          ATTORNEY FOR APPELLANT: IMHOTEP ALKEBU-LAN

          ATTORNEY FOR APPELLEE: OFFICE OF THE ATTORNEY GENERAL BY: BARBARA WAKELAND BYRD

          BEFORE J. WILSON, P.J., McDONALD AND McCARTY, JJ.

          MCCARTY, J.

         ¶1. Devonta Pipkin pleaded guilty to deliberate-design murder and was sentenced to life in the custody of the Mississippi Department of Corrections. He filed a petition for post-conviction relief (PCR), which the trial court denied. Pipkin now appeals, arguing that there was no factual basis to support his guilty plea and that his trial counsel was ineffective. Finding no error, we affirm.

         STANDARD OF REVIEW

         ¶2. "When reviewing a trial court's denial or dismissal of a PCR [petition], we will only disturb the trial court's factual findings if they are clearly erroneous; however, we review the trial court's legal conclusions under a de novo standard of review." Bass v. State, 237 So.3d 172, 173 (¶4) (Miss. Ct. App. 2017).

         DISCUSSION

         I. The factual basis supported the guilty plea.

         ¶3. Pipkin first challenges the factual basis for his guilty plea. Before accepting a guilty plea, the trial court must determine there is a factual basis supporting the plea. Pegues v. State, 65 So.3d 351, 358 (¶25) (Miss. Ct. App. 2011). The trial court must also have before it "substantial evidence that the accused [committed] the legally defined offense to which he is offering the plea." Burrough v. State, 9 So.3d 368, 373 (¶14) (Miss. 2009). Ultimately, "there must be enough that the court may say with confidence the prosecution could prove the accused guilty of the crime charged . . . ." Corley v. State, 585 So.2d 765, 767 (Miss. 1991).

         ¶4. Pipkin pleaded guilty to deliberate-design murder, which is defined as the "killing of a human being without the authority of law . . . [w]hen done with deliberate design to effect the death of the person killed, or of any human being . . . ." Miss. Code Ann. § 97-3-19(1)(a) (Supp. 2018).[1] During the plea colloquy, the State recited the facts and circumstances under which Pipkin committed the murder. The State was prepared to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that Pipkin and four others killed Emanuel Gomez while robbing him. Most importantly, Pipkin agreed under oath to the factual basis recited by the State. He was given the opportunity to disagree with the factual basis but did not. Pipkin stated, "I'm sorry for the way it happened. . . . I guess I was at the wrong place at the wrong time. It wasn't supposed to happen like that is all I got to say." The trial court found that a factual basis supported Pipkin's guilty plea. We agree and find no error.[2]

         II.Trial counsel was not ...


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