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Matheny v. State

Court of Appeals of Mississippi

January 14, 2020

RANSOM LEVI MATHENY APPELLANT
v.
STATE OF MISSISSIPPI APPELLEE

          DATE OF JUDGMENT: 04/23/2018

          MARION COUNTY CIRCUIT COURT, HON. PRENTISS GREENE HARRELL JUDGE.

          ATTORNEY FOR APPELLANT: RANSOM LEVI MATHENY (PRO SE).

          ATTORNEY FOR APPELLEE: OFFICE OF THE ATTORNEY GENERAL BY: LAURA HOGAN TEDDER.

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

          McDONALD, J.

         ¶1. On April 19, 2013, a Marion County grand jury indicted Ransom Levi Matheny on three counts of child exploitation under Mississippi Code Annotated section 97-5-33(6) (Supp. 2007). On September 30, 2013, Matheny pleaded guilty to two counts of child exploitation under section 97-5-33(6). The court sentenced Matheny to two concurrent forty-year terms, with twenty years to serve in the custody of the Mississippi Department of Corrections and twenty years' post-release supervision. Matheny filed a motion for post-conviction collateral relief (PCR), which the trial court denied. Matheny appeals, arguing that section 97-5-33(6) was unconstitutional and that his indictment was defective. Finding no error, we affirm.

         FACTS AND PROCEDURAL HISTORY

         ¶2. On April 19, 2013, a Marion County grand jury indicted Matheny on three counts of child exploitation under section 97-5-33(6). Count One involved a child, R.C.M., [1] who was fourteen years of age at the time; Count Two involved W.W., who was also fourteen years of age at the time; and Count Three involved C.W., who was thirteen years of age at the time. On September 30, 2013, Matheny executed a sworn "Petition to Enter Plea of Guilty" to Counts One and Two of the indictment against him. The State caused the entry of nolle prosequi for the charge in Count Three with the court's consent. The court ordered a pre-sentence investigation report and set a hearing date for Matheny's sentencing. The hearing was held on October 21, 2013. The court reviewed the pre-sentence investigation report and the twenty-six letters submitted on behalf of and in support of Matheny, and the court held conferences with representatives of the victims, Matheny's family members, the district attorney, and defense counsel. Following the conferences, the court sentenced Matheny to two concurrent forty-year terms, with twenty years to serve in the custody of the Mississippi Department of Corrections and twenty years' post-release supervision.

         ¶3. On September 16, 2016, Matheny timely filed a PCR motion, claiming that his indictment was defective, that he received ineffective assistance of counsel, and that his sentence was disproportionate in violation of the Eighth Amendment.[2] On April 23, 2018, the trial court entered its judgment denying and dismissing Matheny's PCR motion. On May 21, 2018, Matheny filed his notice of appeal. On appeal, Matheny does not raise or brief the issue of ineffective assistance of counsel; therefore, this Court will not address that issue. M.R.A.P. 28(a).

         STANDARD OF REVIEW

         ¶4. "We review the dismissal or denial of a PCR motion for abuse of discretion. We will only reverse if the circuit court's decision is clearly erroneous. When reviewing questions of law, our standard is de novo." Kennedy v. State, No. 2016-CP-00755-COA, 2019 WL 1349682, at *2 (¶12) (Miss. Ct. App. Mar. 26, 2019), cert. denied, 279 So.3d 1087 (Miss. 2019). "The PCR movant bears the burden of showing he is entitled to relief by a preponderance of the evidence." Webster v. State, 152 So.3d 1200, 1203 (¶5) (Miss. Ct. App. 2014).

         ANALYSIS

         I. Whether Mississippi Code Annotated section 97-5-33(6) was unconstitutional as applied.

         ¶5. Matheny argues that Mississippi Code Annotated section 97-5-33(6) is unconstitutional. Matheny was indicted and pleaded guilty to two counts of child exploitation pursuant to section 97-5-33(6), which provides that "[n]o person shall, by any means including computer, knowingly entice, induce, persuade, seduce, solicit, advise, coerce, or order a child to meet with the defendant or any other person for the purpose of engaging in sexually explicit conduct." (Emphasis added). Matheny argues that the statute is unconstitutional because (1) it violated his Fourteenth Amendment right to equal protection, [3] (2) it is vague and therefore void, and (3) it provides for a grossly disproportionate sentence. Each issue is addressed separately below:

         A. Whether Matheny's prosecution under section 97-5-33(6) violated his Fourteenth Amendment right to equal protection under the law.

         ¶6. Matheny argues that he was denied equal protection under the law because police and prosecutors selectively enforce section 97-5-33 against adult offenders but not against juveniles. Matheny contends that W.W. sent a sexually explicit photograph of ...


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