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Lawrence v. State

Court of Appeals of Mississippi

October 22, 2019

BRUCE LAWRENCE APPELLANT
v.
STATE OF MISSISSIPPI APPELLEE

          DATE OF JUDGMENT: 10/19/2018

          OKTIBBEHA COUNTY CIRCUIT COURT HON. LEE J. HOWARD TRIAL JUDGE

          ATTORNEY FOR APPELLANT: BRUCE LAWRENCE (PRO SE)

          ATTORNEY FOR APPELLEE: OFFICE OF THE ATTORNEY GENERAL BY: JEFFREY A. KLINGFUSS

          BEFORE BARNES, C.J., McDONALD, McCARTY AND C. WILSON, JJ.

          McDONALD, J.

         ¶1. In 2003, an Oktibbeha County grand jury indicted Bruce Lawrence for the murder of Lillian Ingram and for felony driving-under-the-influence (DUI) because he had been convicted of DUI on two prior occasions. His trial began in April 2004. After the State presented its case-in-chief, Lawrence decided to plead guilty to murder. After the court accepted his plea, the felony DUI charge was retired to the file, and the court sentenced Lawrence to life imprisonment. On October 2, 2018, Lawrence filed his second motion for post-conviction relief (PCR), which the Oktibbeha County Circuit Court summarily denied. From the court's judgment, Lawrence appeals. Finding that Lawrence's PCR motion is time-barred and successive-writ-barred, we affirm.

         Facts

         ¶2. The relevant facts are found in our opinion in which we affirmed the denial of Lawrence's first PCR motion. Lawrence v. State, 970 So.2d 1291 (Miss. Ct. App. 2007). Lawrence was indicted on January 28, 2003, for murder and felony DUI. The two offenses were charged in a single indictment, with each offense detailed with statutory references and ending with the words "contrary to the form of the statute in such cases and made and provided, and against the peace and dignity of the State of Mississippi."

         ¶3. Lawrence was appointed counsel who advised him throughout the pre-trial process and at trial. After the State presented its case-in-chief, Lawrence and his attorney conferred and Lawrence decided to plead guilty to murder. Lawrence later sought in his first PCR motion to have his guilty plea set aside. He said he only pleaded guilty because his lawyer told him he would be sentenced to serve twenty years. He reasoned that his guilty plea was involuntary and his attorney was ineffective. But at his plea hearing on April 27, 2004, prior to accepting the plea, the court thoroughly questioned Lawrence regarding knowledge of the consequences of pleading guilty. In his petition to plead guilty, Lawrence attested that he was pleading guilty freely and voluntarily. He acknowledged that his counsel had done everything he could to assist him and that if counsel told him that he might receive a lighter sentence, counsel's prediction was not binding on the court. The court's questions to Lawrence covered, among other things, the rights Lawrence was waiving. Lawrence testified that he understood that there was only one sentence for the crime of murder-life imprisonment. He also said he was satisfied with the advice and assistance of his attorney. We affirmed the circuit court's judgment summarily denying Lawrence's first PCR motion.

         ¶4. On October 2, 2018, Lawrence filed his second PCR motion. He claimed that the indictment was defective and his attorney was ineffective for not challenging it. On October 19, 2018, the court found that the PCR motion was filed past the three-year statute of limitations provided in Mississippi Code Annotated section 99-39-5(2) (Rev. 2015). In addition the court found that the PCR motion met none of the exceptions to the statute of limitations and denied relief.

         ¶5. Lawrence appeals the court's order, arguing that the indictment was defective and that he was not afforded effective counsel. We find no error by the circuit court and affirm its denial of Lawrence's PCR motion.

         Standard of Review

         ¶6. "When reviewing a trial court's denial or dismissal of a PCR motion, we will only disturb the trial court's decision if the trial court abused its discretion and the decision is clearly erroneous; however, we review the trial court's legal conclusions under a de novo standard of ...


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