from Tuscaloosa Circuit Court (CC-89-1382). James H. Roberts,
Zackery Wedgeworth, appellant, pro se.
Marshall, atty. gen., and Tracy M. Daniel, asst. atty. gen.,
Wedgeworth appeals the Tuscaloosa Circuit Courts summary
dismissal of his pro se petition for postconviction relief.
The petition was a standard form styled as a "Petition
for Relief From Conviction or Sentence (pursuant to Temporary
Rule 20, Alabama Rules of Criminal
Procedure)." The petition challenged Wedgeworths
1991 convictions for capital murder and his resulting
sentence of life in prison without the possibility of parole.
This Court affirmed Wedgeworths convictions and sentence on
direct appeal. Wedgeworth v. State, 610 So.2d 1244
(Ala.Crim.App. 1992). The certificate of judgment was issued
on December 11, 1992.
instant petition was filed in May 2018. On the form,
Wedgeworth marked the general allegation that the trial court
was without jurisdiction to render the judgment or to impose
sentence. In an attached supplement, Wedgeworth made the
specific argument that "the trial court record revealed
that the victims death was caused in a separate and
different act by Mr. Frye when he ran over her with his
pickup truck which occurred on Friday the next day after
petitioner kidnapped, robbed, and left her alive." Thus,
Wedgeworth appeared to argue that the evidence was
insufficient to prove that he killed the victim. Without
receiving a response from
the State, the circuit court summarily dismissed Wedgeworths
petition on July 31, 2018. However, the circuit courts order
shows that the court treated Wedgeworths petition as a
motion for a judgment of acquittal under Rule 20, Ala. R.
Crim. P., rather than a petition for postconviction relief
under Rule 32, Ala. R. Crim. P.:
"Petitioner was sentenced on August 28,1991. [The
Alabama Court of Criminal Appeals] and the Alabama Supreme
Court have consistently held that a trial court retains
jurisdiction to modify a sentence for 30 days after the
sentence is pronounced. Moore v. State, 814 So.2d
308, 309 (Ala.Crim.App. 2001). Beyond the 30th day, the trial
court only retains jurisdiction upon the timely filing of
certain post-judgement motions. See Moore, at 309 (listing
motion for a new trial and requests to amend sentence as such
motions). Motions for judgment of acquittal may be made
post-conviction but no later than thirty (30) days after the
pronouncement of sentence. Ala. R. Crim. P. 20.3 (b)(1). A
Rule 20 motion in this case must have been filed before
September 27, 1991, for the Court to have retained
jurisdiction over the sentence. As such, this petition is due
to be and is hereby DISMISSED."
(C. 71; Capitalization in original.)
substance of a motion and not its style determines what kind
of motion it is." Ex parte Deramus, 882 So.2d
875, 876 (Ala. 2002). "A proceeding under [Rule 32]
displaces all post-trial remedies except post-trial motions
under Rule 24 and appeal. Any other post-conviction petition
seeking relief from a conviction or sentence shall be treated
as a proceeding under this rule." Rule 32.4, Ala. R.
Crim. P. Our Supreme Court stated long ago: "[P]etitions
for post-conviction remedies, presently governed by Temporary
Rule 20, will be governed by Rule 32, Ala. R. Crim. P.,
beginning January 1, 1991, the effective date of the new
Rules." Ex parte Rice, 565 So.2d 606 n.1 (Ala.
present case, we conclude that Wedgeworths petition should
have been treated as a Rule 32 petition and that the
appropriate course of action is for this Court to reverse the
circuit courts judgment and remand the case for that court
to treat the petition according to its substance rather than
its form. See, e.g., Shapley v.
State, 260 So.3d 69 (Ala.Crim.App. 2018)(reversing the
circuit courts order improperly treating the defendants
motion as a motion to correct a clerical error pursuant to
Rule 29, Ala. R. Crim. P., rather than a Rule 32 petition).
on the foregoing, we direct the circuit court to set aside
its earlier ruling and to treat Wedgeworths petition as a
petition for postconviction relief under Rule 32, Ala. R.
Crim. P. Accordingly, we reverse the circuit courts ...