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Knight v. State

Alabama Court of Criminal Appeals

October 13, 2017

Solomon Makil Knight
v.
State of Alabama

         Appeal from Houston Circuit Court (CV-17-13)

          KELLUM, JUDGE

         Solomon Makil Knight appeals the circuit court's summary dismissal of what he styled as a "Petition for Writ of Habeas Corpus Incomplete Jury Instruction(s), " but which was, in fact, a Rule 32, Ala. R. Crim. P., petition for postconviction relief. (C. 2.) In his petition, Knight challenged his 2008 conviction for reckless manslaughter and his resulting sentence of 17 years' imprisonment. This Court affirmed Knight's conviction and sentence on direct appeal in an unpublished memorandum issued on June 19, 2009. Knight v. State (No. CR-07-1657), 51 So.3d 405 (Ala.Crim.App.2009) (table). The Alabama Supreme Court denied certiorari review, and this Court issued a certificate of judgment on November 13, 2009.

         On January 30, 2017, Knight filed the instant petition, what appears to be at least his second petition challenging his 2008 conviction and sentence. As best we can discern, Knight alleged in his petition: (1) that his trial counsel was ineffective for not objecting to the trial court's jury instruction on manslaughter as a lesser-included offense of intentional murder as charged in the indictment, and (2) that his 17-year sentence is illegal because, he said, he is entitled to be resentenced under the presumptive sentencing standards, which took effect on October 1, 2013. On January 31, 2017, the circuit court issued an order instructing Knight either to pay the filing fee associated with his petition or to submit a request to proceed in forma pauperis. On March 2, 2017, Knight submitted a request to proceed in forma pauperis; the circuit court granted the request on March 3, 2017.

         On March 23, 2017, the State filed a response to Knight's petition, in which it requested that the circuit court summarily dismiss the petition. The State argued that claim (1), as set out above, was precluded because it should have been, but was not, raised in Knight's first Rule 32 petition, and that claim (2), as set out above, was meritless because the presumptive sentencing standards, which took effect on October 1, 2013, do not apply retroactively, and, even if the standards did apply retroactively, manslaughter fell under the voluntary sentencing standards, not the presumptive sentencing standards. The State also argued that claim (2) was "not properly filed in that it should be filed with the nearest Circuit Court to where the Petitioner resides and not the Trial Court which heard his case." (C. 15.) On March 24, 2017, the circuit court issued an order granting the State's request for summary dismissal and dismissing Knight's petition.

         On appeal, Knight's sole argument is that the circuit court erred in summarily dismissing his petition, which he now concedes was a Rule 32 petition and not a habeas corpus petition, instead of returning the petition to him so that he could file the petition in the proper form for a Rule 32 petition, and he requests that we reverse the circuit court's judgment and remand this cause for the circuit court to return the petition to him to be refiled in the proper form under Rule 32.6(a), Ala. R. Crim. P. The State agrees with Knight and also requests that we reverse the circuit court's judgment and remand this cause for the circuit court to return the petition to Knight so that Knight may refile the petition in the proper form under Rule 32.6(a). We reject both Knight's and the State's requests.

         In the early 1990s, this Court consistently reversed judgments dismissing Rule 32 petitions that were styled as habeas corpus petitions and remanded the cases with instructions that the petitions be returned so that they could be refiled in the proper form under Rule 32.6(a). See, e.g., Williams v. State, 642 So.2d 491 (Ala.Crim.App.1993); Wheeler v. State, 615 So.2d 1330 (Ala.Crim.App.1993); O'Neal v. State, 601 So.2d 1155 (Ala.Crim.App.1992); Wright v. State, 597 So.2d 761 (Ala.Crim.App.1992); and Drayton v. State, 600 So.2d 1088 (Ala.Crim.App.1992). However, in 1995, the Alabama Supreme Court overruled that line of cases in Maddox v. State, 662 So.2d 915 (Ala. 1995), which we quote in its entirety:

"Jimmy Lee Maddox was convicted in 1972 of forgery in the first degree. He filed a post-conviction petition for writ of habeas corpus and/or writ of error coram nobis 21 years after his conviction. The Court of Criminal Appeals remanded the case to the circuit court with directions to return the petition to Maddox so that he could file it in the court of original conviction, as required by Rule 32, Ala. R. Crim. P. See Maddox v. State, 662 So.2d 914 (Ala.Crim.App.1993).
"Judge Bowen dissented from the majority opinion, stating:
"'Rule 32.5 [, Ala. R. Crim. P., ] requires that post-conviction petitions "shall be filed in and decided by the court in which the petitioner was convicted." This petition was filed in the court of original conviction.
"'Rule 32.4 mandates that any "post-conviction petition seeking relief from a conviction or sentence shall be treated as a proceeding under ... [R]ule [32]." This petition, styled as one for a writ of habeas corpus and/or error coram nobis, was so treated.
"'Rule 32.7(d) provides that "[i]f the court determines that the petition is ... precluded, ... and that no purpose would be served by any further proceedings, the court may dismiss the petition or grant leave to file an amended petition." This petition was summarily dismissed because, as a collateral attack on a 21-year-old conviction for which the statute of limitations had long since run, it showed on its face that it was precluded. The appellant did not request leave to amend his petition.
"'Apparently this Court believes that the foregoing provisions of Rule 32 are less important than the following directive of Rule 32.6(a):
"'"The petition should be filed by using or following the form accompanying this rule. If that form is not used or followed, the court shall return the petition to the petitioner to be ...

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