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State v. Clemons

Court of Appeals of Louisiana, Second Circuit

January 15, 2020

STATE OF LOUISIANA Appellee
v.
CHARLES CLEMONS Appellant

          Appealed from the Third Judicial District Court for the Parish of Lincoln, Louisiana Trial Court No. 24119 Honorable Thomas Wynn Rogers, Judge

          CAREY J. ELLIS, III Counsel for Appellant

          CHARLES CLEMONS Pro Se

          JEFFREY M. LANDRY Attorney General Counsel for Appellee

          JOHN MICHAEL RUDDICK JOHN TAYLOR GRAY Assistant Attorney Generals

          Before GARRETT, STONE, and THOMPSON, JJ.

          STONE, J.

         This criminal appeal arises from the Third Judicial District Court, Lincoln Parish, the Honorable Thomas W. Rogers presiding. In November of 1976, Charles Clemons ("Clemons") pled guilty to second degree murder and was sentenced to life imprisonment at hard labor without benefit of parole, probation or suspension of sentence for the first 40 years. In accordance with Miller v. Alabama, 567 U.S. 460, 132 S.Ct. 2455, 183 L.Ed.2d 407 (2012), and Montgomery v. Louisiana, U.S., 136 S.Ct. 718, 193 L.Ed.2d 599 (2016), Clemons was resentenced to life with parole eligibility. Clemons was granted an out-of-time appeal, and seeks review of his sentence. For the following reasons, we affirm.

         FACTS

         The record shows that Clemons was indicted for the August 26, 1976, first degree murder of J.W. Sandifer ("Sandifer"), committed when Clemons was 17 years old.[1] Clemons was charged with killing Sandifer after robbing and shooting him while the two were alone in rural Lincoln Parish. A sanity commission was ordered by the trial court, and Clemons was found competent to stand trial and to assist counsel in his defense. On November 19, 1976, Clemons pled guilty to second degree murder as charged by amended indictment. He was sentenced as a first-felony offender by the trial Court "in accordance with the statute to life imprisonment."[2] The case minutes show that on the day of his guilty plea, Clemons was sentenced to life and was not "eligible for parole, probation or pardon for a period of 40 years."

         On October 31, 2016, Clemons filed a "Motion Pursuant to C. Cr. P. art. 882(A) To Correct An Illegal Sentence," pursuant to Miller/Montgomery.[3] Clemons argued that his sentence was illegal and that under Miller/Montgomery he should be sentenced to a term less than life. Specifically, Clemons argued that he should be sentenced to a term of years specified for manslaughter, the next lesser included offense, which in 1976 carried a maximum sentence of 21 years at hard labor, and that he should be released.

         Clemons' motion to correct illegal sentence was heard on January 17, 2017. Clemons was present and represented by counsel. Following a "meeting in chambers," the trial court noted that the state and defense had "come to an agreement on this," and that the state had provided the defense "with an order of the Court." The defense indicated its agreement to the sentence "with that stipulation based on this order," but "with certain amendments." The state addressed the trial court as follows:

We're here today for a Re-Sentencing of Mr. Clemons who is presently serving a life sentence for a homicide committed when he was a-when he was a juvenile. And under the U.S. Supreme Court decision in Miller versus Alabama, he is entitled to be re-sentenced. And I believe we're going to stipulate to the Court pursuant to 878.1 of Code of Criminal Procedure that Mr. Clemons be re-sentenced to life imprisonment with the eligibility of parole pursuant to 15:574.4(E) and that the Court is going to sign a judgment to the affect with the additional language that the Court ...

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