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Crawford v. State

Court of Appeals of Mississippi

December 3, 2019

JULIUS CRAWFORD APPELLANT
v.
STATE OF MISSISSIPPI APPELLEE

          DATE OF JUDGMENT: 06/13/2018

          COURT FROM WHICH APPEALED: WASHINGTON COUNTY CIRCUIT COURT TRIAL JUDGE: HON. RICHARD A. SMITH

          ATTORNEY FOR APPELLANT: JULIUS CRAWFORD (PRO SE)

          ATTORNEY FOR APPELLEE: OFFICE OF THE ATTORNEY GENERAL BY: MATTHEW WYATT WALTON

          BEFORE CARLTON, P.J., TINDELL AND C. WILSON, JJ.

          TINDELL, J.

         ¶1. On October 10, 2016, Julius Crawford pled guilty to burglary of a dwelling. On April 18, 2018, Crawford filed an unsuccessful motion for post-conviction relief (PCR) in the circuit court, arguing that (1) the facts surrounding his case did not support a charge of burglary of a dwelling, (2) his plea was not voluntary, and (3) he received ineffective assistance of counsel. Crawford now appeals the circuit court's dismissal of his PCR motion. Finding no error, we affirm.

         FACTS AND PROCEDURAL HISTORY

         ¶2. On February 26, 2016, a grand jury indicted Crawford for burglary of a dwelling- house. Crawford was also indicted as a habitual offender under Mississippi Code Annotated section 99-19-81 (Rev. 2014). On October 10, 2016, Crawford entered an Alford[1]or best-interest plea, and the circuit court found Crawford's plea was knowingly and voluntarily made. The circuit court accepted Crawford's guilty plea and sentenced him to fifteen years in the custody of the Mississippi Department of Corrections, with twelve years to serve, followed by three years of post-release supervision.

         ¶3. On April 18, 2018, Crawford filed a PCR motion with the circuit court, arguing as follows: (1) there was no factual basis to support his guilty plea; (2) his plea was not voluntary; and (3) he received ineffective assistance of counsel. The circuit court found that an evidentiary hearing was unnecessary in the matter, and finding no merit to Crawford's arguments, the circuit court denied relief and dismissed his PCR motion. Aggrieved, Crawford now appeals the circuit court's ruling on his PCR motion and further argues on appeal that the circuit court erred by ruling on his PCR motion without first holding an evidentiary hearing.

         STANDARD OF REVIEW

         ¶4. This Court reviews the denial or dismissal of a PCR motion for abuse of discretion, and "we will only disturb the circuit court's decision if it is clearly erroneous." West v. State, 226 So.3d 1238, 1239 (¶3) (Miss. Ct. App. 2017). The circuit court's legal conclusions, however, are reviewed de novo. Id.

         ANALYSIS

         I. Factual Basis

         ¶5. Crawford argues that his guilty plea was involuntary because there was an insufficient factual basis to support his plea. "Before the trial court may accept a guilty plea, the court must determine that the plea is voluntarily and intelligently made and that there is a factual basis for the plea." Venezia v. State, 203 So.3d 1, 2 (¶6) (Miss. Ct. App. 2016). The burglary conviction here required evidentiary grounds of:

breaking and entering the dwelling house or inner door of such dwelling house of another, whether armed with a deadly weapon or not, and whether there shall be at the time some human being in such dwelling house or not, with intent to commit some crime therein . . . .

Miss. Code Ann. § 97-17-23(1) (Supp. 2008). Crawford argues that no factual basis existed to satisfy the "breaking" element, which is defined as "any act of force, however slight, employed to effect an entrance through any usual or unusual place of ingress, whether open, partly open or closed." Naylor v. State, 248 So.3d 793, 796 (¶10) (Miss. 2018) (internal quotation marks omitted) (quoting Johnson v. State, 235 So.3d 1404, 1410 (¶14) (Miss. 2017)).

         ¶6. When determining whether a sufficient factual basis existed at the trial-court level, we review the entire record. Smith v. State, 86 So.3d 276, 280-81 (¶11) (Miss. Ct. App. 2012). "[A]n admission of guilt is not essential for a constitutionally valid guilty plea" so long as some factual basis for each requisite element exists for the plea. Id. at 280 (¶10). "A sufficient factual basis requires 'an evidentiary foundation in the record which is sufficiently specific to allow the court to determine that the defendant's conduct was within the ambit of that defined as criminal.'" Id. at (¶11) (quoting Lott v. State, 597 So.2d 627, 628 (Miss. 1992)). Furthermore, "[t]he factual basis must show each essential element of the offense." Id. (quoting Carter v. State, 775 So.2d 91, 99 (¶35) (Miss. 1999)).

         ¶7. We find that a factual basis existed for Crawford's plea for several reasons. First, when the circuit court asked for a factual basis for the plea, the State read a statement aloud that mirrored ...


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