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State v. Stallings

Alabama Court of Criminal Appeals

October 12, 2018

State of Alabama
v.
Harold Vincent Stallings

          Appeal from Russell Circuit Court (CC-98-511.61)

          WINDOM, PRESIDING JUDGE.

         This is an appeal by the State of Alabama from an order of the circuit court granting postconviction relief to Harold Vincent Stallings pursuant to Rule 32, Ala. R. Crim. P. Stallings's Rule 32 petition attacked his December 1999 sentence of life in prison without the possibility of parole, which was enhanced with eight prior felony convictions from the State of Georgia. On August 18, 2000, this Court affirmed, by unpublished memorandum, Stallings's conviction for first-degree robbery and his resulting sentence. Stallings v. State, (No. CR-99-0219).[1] The certificate of judgment was issued on February 9, 2001.

         On June 16, 2017, Stallings filed this, his second, Rule 32 petition in which he asserted that the trial court lacked jurisdiction to render a judgment or to impose a sentence because the Alabama Constitution of 1901 was enacted with discriminatory intent, thereby rendering the Alabama Criminal Code void. On July 31, 2017, the State filed a motion to dismiss, arguing that the claim was precluded pursuant to Rules 32.2(a)(3) and 32.2(a)(5), Ala. R. Crim. P., was insufficiently pleaded, and was without merit. The circuit court appointed counsel for Stallings, and, on October 23, 2017, Stallings filed a response to the State's motion. In that filing, Stallings claimed that his sentence of life in prison without the possibility of parole is illegal. Specifically, Stallings argued that the trial court was without jurisdiction to sentence him under the Habitual Felony Offender Act ("the HFOA"). Stallings contended that the State did not prove that his prior convictions in Georgia used to enhance his sentence were felony convictions or that the convictions had been commenced by an indictment signed by a grand-jury foreman as required by Rule 12.8, Ala. R. Crim. P. The circuit court set the matter for a hearing.

         Following a hearing, the circuit court granted Stallings's Rule 32 petition. In its order granting the petition, the circuit court stated:

"A. Mr. Harold Stallings was convicted of Robbery 1st Degree by a jury of his peers and sentenced to a term of imprisonment for life without the possibility of parole.
"B. At sentencing the State produced three certified copies of previous convictions. State's Exhibit A was a conviction from Muscogee County, Georgia for shoplifting whereby the certified copy of said exhibit indicated that the value of the property was $159.00. Said exhibit failed to provide or produce any evidence of the grand jury's finding that said conviction was a true bill and signed by the foreman of the grand jury.
"C. State's Exhibit B was a conviction from Muscogee County, Georgia for Possession of a Controlled Substance. The certified copy included information that the controlled substance was cocaine, a Schedule II controlled substance. Said exhibit contained a listing of the grand jurors who returned said indictment.
"D. State's Exhibit C was a conviction from Muscogee County, Georgia for a 6 count indictment for Forgery First Degree. Said exhibit failed to contain any listing of the grand jurors who returned said indictment or the signature of the foreman of the grand jury who returned said indictment.
"....
"Rule 12.8(a), Ala.[R].Crim.P. states that an indictment shall not be returned without the concurrence of at least twelve (12) grand jurors and Rule 12.8(b) further requires that when an indictment is found, it must be endorsed 'A True Bill,' and the indictment must be signed by the foreman. The indictment shall be returned and filed in open court by the foreman in the presence of at least eleven (11) other members of the grand jury.
"BASED upon the foregoing, it is hereby;
"ORDERED, ADJUDGED AND DECREED:
"1. The trial Court was without jurisdiction to impose a life sentence without the possibility of parole in this case. The Court finds that the Petitioner's conviction for shoplifting, pursuant to State's Exhibit A, would not be a felony if convicted in Alabama. Alabama Code [1975, §] 13A-8-5[, ] requires that the theft of the property involved does not exceed $500 and said offense is a misdemeanor. Therefore, said offense cannot be used under [the HFOA].
"2. State's Exhibit B supports that the Petitioner was convicted of possession of a controlled substance and said offense would be a felony if committed in Alabama. Said exhibit also contains evidence by certification of the grand jurors of Muscogee County, Georgia and the name of the foreman who returned said indictment. As such, said conviction can be used under [the HFOA].
"3. State's Exhibit C does not support that said conviction should be used under [the HFOA]. The Petitioner was convicted of forgery 1st degree in Georgia. Alabama Code Section 13A-9-2 states:
"A person commits the crime of forgery in the first degree if, with intent to defraud, he falsely makes, completes or alters a written instrument which is or purports to be, or which is calculated to become or to represent if completed:
"(1) Part of an issue or series of stamps, securities or other valuable instruments issued by a government or ...

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