Court of Criminal Appeals of Tennessee, Nashville
Assigned on Briefs August 27, 2019
from the Circuit Court for Wayne County No. 16364 Robert L.
Petitioner, acting pro se, appeals from the denial of his
petition for writ of habeas corpus relief. Upon our review,
R. App. P. 3 Appeal as of Right; Judgment of the Circuit
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
Camille R. McMullen, J., delivered the opinion of the court,
in which Timothy L. Easter, and J. Ross Dyer, JJ., joined.
CAMILLE R. McMULLEN, JUDGE
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
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."
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.
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 ...