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Mayes v. State

Court of Criminal Appeals of Tennessee, Nashville

October 10, 2019


          Assigned on Briefs August 27, 2019

          Appeal from the Circuit Court for Wayne County No. 16364 Robert L. Jones, Judge

         The Petitioner, acting pro se, appeals from the denial of his petition for writ of habeas corpus relief. Upon our review, we affirm.

         Tenn. R. App. P. 3 Appeal as of Right; Judgment of the Circuit Court Affirmed

          Stephen Richard Mayes, Clifton, Tennessee, Pro Se.

          Herbert H. Slatery III, Attorney General and Reporter; Sophia S. Lee, Senior Assistant Attorney General; Brent A. Cooper, District Attorney General; for the Appellee, State of Tennessee.

          Camille R. McMullen, J., delivered the opinion of the court, in which Timothy L. Easter, and J. Ross Dyer, JJ., joined.



         On May 21, 2014, the Petitioner entered a guilty plea to aggravated kidnapping. State v. Stephen Richard Mayes, No. E2018-00612-CCA-R3-CD, 2019 WL 1011979, at *1 (Tenn. Crim. App. Mar. 4, 2019), perm. app. denied (Tenn. June 19, 2019). As part of the plea agreement, the State dismissed four other counts of especially aggravated kidnapping, aggravated robbery, and two counts of aggravated assault. "Handwritten on the waiver of jury trial and acceptance of guilty plea form signed by [the Petitioner] in the recommended sentence section [was]: '15 years to serve sentence being outside of Range I 100% with possible 15% off for Good Behavior And sentencing credits costs. All other counts dismissed.'" Id. at *1. During the plea colloquy, the State informed the trial court that the Petitioner was pleading to aggravated kidnapping, that the recommended sentence was fifteen years, and that the Petitioner, a Range II offender, was "obviously, pleading out of range[, ]" and that as the crime was a violent offense, service of the sentence was going to be at one hundred percent. The parties agreed that the Petitioner could potentially be entitled to fifteen percent credit for good behavior. The trial court ensured that the Petitioner understood the rights that he was waiving by pleading guilty to the charged offense. The trial court informed the Petitioner that he was entering his guilty plea as a Range II offender, which had a sentencing range of twelve to twenty years. The trial court informed the Petitioner that the service of the sentence would be 100% less any time for good behavior. The Petitioner informed the trial court that he had not taken any medication in the last 24 hours and that he was "technically" married. The Petitioner said that he was homeless and that he was the father of six minor children. The Petitioner said that he understood his rights and that he wanted to plead guilty. Id. The trial court entered the agreed upon out-of-range sentence of fifteen years of incarceration, to be served as a Range II offender.

         Nearly four years later, on March 12, 2018, the Petitioner filed a motion to correct an illegal sentence pursuant to Rule 36.1 of the Tennessee Rules of Criminal Procedure, contending that his sentence directly contravenes the applicable statute because "he was pleading guilty as a Range I offender but sentenced outside the applicable range at fifteen years." He argued further that he was "suffering 'serious mental illness' that rendered him incompetent at the time of his guilty plea." Id. The trial court summarily dismissed his motion, and this court affirmed, reasoning as follows:

Generally, a trial court's error "in offender classification" will not "render the sentence illegal so long as the classification falls with the purview of the Sentencing Act." Cantrell v. Easterling, 346 S.W.3d 445, 458 (Tenn. 2011). The only time an error in the classification of an offender would ever rise to the level of an illegal sentence would be if a trial court, somehow, classified a defendant in a category not available under the Sentencing Act. Id. at 458-59. Put another way, an offender classification would create an illegal sentence only if the trial court classified the defendant in a category for which it did "not have the authority or the jurisdiction to classify a defendant." Id. at 458. Otherwise, "[c]orrection of an alleged error in offender classification must be sought on direct appeal." Id.
Furthermore, our courts have long recognized "the ability of the State and defendants to use offender classification and release eligibility as subjects of plea bargain negotiations" which "are properly characterized as non-jurisdictional." McConnell v. State, 12 S.W.3d 795, 798 (Tenn. 2000). That appears to be just what occurred here. The [Petitioner] pleaded guilty to one count of a five-count indictment. In exchange, the State agreed to a fifteen-year sentence, which was within the range for a Class B felony but above the range for a Range I offender. The [Petitioner] acknowledged at the guilty plea hearing that he understood his sentence, the classification, and the applicable range. The [Petitioner] is not entitled to relief on this issue.

Stephen Richard Mayes, 2019 WL 1011979, at *3.

         On June 14, 2018, the Petitioner filed a petition for writ of habeas corpus, arguing, yet again, that his agreed upon sentence is illegal. On July 19, 2018, the State filed a motion to dismiss the petition for writ of habeas corpus, which was granted by order of the habeas corpus court on August 3, 2018. On August 6, 2018, the Petitioner filed a motion for relief from judgment or order, alleging that he was not served with the State's motion to dismiss, which denied him due process by not having the opportunity to respond. The Petitioner filed a notice of appeal with this court on August 10, 2018. On September 12, 2018, the habeas corpus court filed an order granting the Petitioner an additional 30 days to respond to the State's motion to ...

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