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State v. Wise

Court of Appeals of Louisiana, Second Circuit

September 25, 2019

STATE OF LOUISIANA Appellee
v.
JOZA L. WISE Appellant

          Appealed from the First Judicial District Court for the Parish of Caddo, Louisiana Trial Court No. 200044A Honorable John Mosely, Jr., Judge

          LOUISIANA APPELLATE PROJECT By: Peggy J. Sullivan Counsel for Appellant

          JOZA L. WISE Pro Se

          JAMES E. STEWART, SR. District Attorney TRENEISHA J. HILL CHARLES K. PARR Assistant District Attorneys Counsel for Appellee

          Before MOORE, STEPHENS, and THOMPSON, JJ.

          MOORE, J.

         Joza L. Wise appeals a judgment that sentenced him to life in prison at hard labor, with the eligibility for parole, for second degree murder, and denied his motion to withdraw his guilty plea. We affirm.

         PROCEDURAL HISTORY

         This spare record contains very little in the way of background facts. In January 1999, the victim, Timothy Hall, was killed. A grand jury indicted Wise and a codefendant, Boston, for the first degree murder of Hall. The state filed a notice of intent to seek the death penalty. Pursuant to a plea bargain that avoided the death penalty, Wise pled guilty to second degree murder and, in January 2000, received the mandatory sentence of life in prison at hard labor, without benefit of parole, probation or suspension of sentence. He did not appeal. Apparently, Wise was under the age of 18 at the time of the offense.

         In 2012, the U.S. Supreme Court held that the Eighth Amendment forbids a sentencing scheme that mandates life in prison without the possibility of parole for juvenile homicide offenders. Miller v. Alabama, 567 U.S. 460, 132 S.Ct. 2455, 183 L.Ed.2d 407 (2012). The same court later held that Miller applied retroactively. Montgomery v. Louisiana, 577 U.S.____, 136 S.Ct. 718, 193 L.Ed.2d 599 (2016).

         At some point, Wise filed a motion to vacate his sentence and to withdraw his guilty plea. In 2016, the district court resentenced him to life in prison at hard labor, but this court vacated it because Wise was not represented by counsel at the resentencing. State v. Wise, 52, 382 (La.App. 2 Cir. 8/2/18) (unpub. writ order).

         ACTION IN THE DISTRICT COURT

         Wise appeared for resentencing on December 6, 2018, with appointed counsel, Ms. AndrePont. He made a pro se oral motion to withdraw his guilty plea; Ms. AndrePont declined to adopt it, saying it was not in her client's best interest. Wise argued he was entitled to withdraw his plea because the new sentence was a "breach of contract": because he pled guilty to second degree murder with a sentence of life without the possibility of parole, he felt the state could not "undo" the agreed sentence. The court advised Wise that the decision to resentence him was made by the United States Supreme Court, not by the district attorney, and that the only action available was to set aside the mandatory sentence, not to set aside the guilty plea. The court then resentenced Wise to life in prison at hard labor, without benefit of probation or suspension or sentence, but with eligibility for parole. Wise made a pro se objection to the sentence.

         Ms. AndrePont filed a motion to reconsider, urging that the sentence imposed was excessive and that the court erred in not considering a downward deviation from the mandatory sentence, under the principles of State v. Dorthey, 623 So.2d 1276 ...


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