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Harris v. State

Court of Appeals of Mississippi

January 7, 2020

ANTONIO DEMARAO HARRIS A/K/A ANTONIO HARRIS APPELLANT
v.
STATE OF MISSISSIPPI APPELLEE

          DATE OF JUDGMENT: 10/01/2018

          LAUDERDALE COUNTY CIRCUIT COURT HON. LESTER F. WILLIAMSON JR. TRIAL JUDGE.

          ATTORNEY FOR APPELLANT: JAMES A. WILLIAMS

          ATTORNEY FOR APPELLEE: OFFICE OF THE ATTORNEY GENERAL BY: BILLY L. GORE

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

          McCARTY, J.

         ¶1. Antonio Harris filed a petition for postconviction collateral relief (PCR) in the Circuit Court of Lauderdale County. The circuit court dismissed Harris' petition as being time-barred with no applicable exception. We agree and affirm.

         FACTS

         ¶2. One day during summer break, Harris and his half-brother drove to the Bonita Lakes Mall, where they broke into a car in broad daylight. The pair ransacked the car, ultimately absconding with four dollars and a Nintendo Game Boy. The car's owner saw them and called the police. Harris and his half-brother were arrested and charged with burglary of an automobile.

         ¶3. Four months later, while out on bond for his burglary charge, Harris began a sexual "relationship" with a twelve-year-old girl (herein referred to by the initials "T.C.").[1] He saw T.C. while visiting his aunt at the Eastern Gardens apartment complex-the same apartments where the child lived. Harris drove T.C. from the complex to the Salvation Army, where they had sexual intercourse. Harris maintained that they only had intercourse twice, but T.C. told a judge that it had been seven or eight times. T.C.'s mother discovered the relationship and took her to the hospital for a rape examination; Harris was subsequently arrested.

         ¶4. Harris was again released on bond, during which time he was charged with yet another automobile burglary. This time, he and his cousin went to the Cedar Bend Apartments around 3:45 a.m. and broke into a car. Witnesses at the apartment complex saw Harris and chased him down the street with stolen speakers in his hands. Harris admitted he was present during the burglary but denied being the person whom witnesses saw running away with the speakers.

         ¶5. Harris entered into a plea agreement for which he would receive a recommendation for the minimum sentence of twenty years to be served day-for-day on the statutory rape charge. He subsequently withdrew his plea. He later accepted a new plea offer, which stipulated: the State would recommend concurrent sentences for the statutory rape and auto burglaries, and the State would not object or appeal if the circuit court sentenced Harris to a term below the minimum. The plea agreement explicitly provided that the State was not agreeing to any particular sentence and would not remain silent at sentencing.

         ¶6. Harris agreed to the new plea agreement terms, which the circuit court accepted on September 23, 2004. He was sentenced to twenty years to be served day-for-day for the statutory rape and three years for each of the burglary convictions. The circuit court set the sentences to be served concurrently in the custody of the Mississippi Department of Corrections.

         ¶7. Over thirteen years later, on December 1, 2017, Harris filed his PCR petition. Affidavits of Harris and his mother, Zelda, were included. Harris insisted in his affidavit that the circuit court "really came down on [him], making it look like [he] was out committing crimes . . . then the 'statutory rape,' which was really having sex with an under-age girl, who was all wanting me."[2] Without holding an evidentiary hearing, the circuit court signed an order summarily dismissing Harris' motion as being time-barred.

         ¶8. Harris now appeals the circuit court's dismissal and argues that his claims were excepted from any procedural bars because his fundamental right to due process was violated. On appeal, Harris challenges his sentence as not only being violative of his plea deal, but also "fundamentally unfair and [a violation of] his right to due process." He maintains he was denied due process at sentencing when the State and the circuit court inquired into his juvenile record.

         STANDARD OF REVIEW

         ¶9. This Court reviews the dismissal of a PCR petition for an abuse of discretion. Williams v. State, 110 So.3d 840, 842 (¶11) (Miss. Ct. App. 2013). We will not reverse a dismissal absent a finding that the lower court's decision was clearly erroneous; however, we review issues of law under a de novo standard. Salter v. State, 184 So.3d 944, 948 (¶10) (Miss. Ct. App. 2015). The issue of whether Harris' petition is procedurally barred is a question of law and is therefore reviewed de novo. Shields v. State, 130 So.3d 160, 162 (¶8) (Miss. Ct. App. 2014).

         DISCUSSION

         ¶10. Harris challenges the circuit court's dismissal of his PCR petition as being time-barred. He argues that the dismissal was erroneous and that his ...


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