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Lanier v. State

Alabama Court of Criminal Appeals

May 24, 2019

Samuel Lanier
v.
State of Alabama

          Appeal from Montgomery Circuit Court (CC-10-1558.61)

          KELLUM, JUDGE.

         Samuel Lanier appeals the circuit court's summary dismissal of his petition for postconviction relief filed pursuant to Rule 32, Ala. R. Crim. P., in which he attacked his sentences, as a habitual felony offender, of life imprisonment without the possibility of parole for his 2011 convictions for five counts of first-degree robbery. This Court affirmed Lanier's convictions and sentences in an unpublished memorandum issued on December 12, 2011. Lanier v. State (No. CR-10-0646), 120 So.3d 1241 (Ala.Crim.App.2011) (table).[1] The Alabama Supreme Court denied certiorari review, and this Court issued a certificate of judgment on May 11, 2012.

         On January 18, 2019, Lanier filed this, his second, Rule 32 petition.[2] In his petition, Lanier alleged that his sentences of life imprisonment without the possibility of parole were illegal because, he said, one of the three prior convictions used to enhance his sentences under the Habitual Felony Offender Act, § 13A-5-9, Ala. Code 1975 ("the HFOA"), was invalid for purposes of sentence enhancement. Specifically, Lanier argued that his 1996 guilty-plea conviction for first-degree robbery could not be used to enhance his 2011 sentences because, he said, the sentence for his 1996 conviction was subsequently determined to be illegal. See Lanier v. State, [Ms. CR-17-0429, July 13, 2018]__So. 3d __(Ala.Crim.App.2018). According to Lanier, an illegal sentence renders the conviction for which the sentence was imposed invalid for purposes of sentence enhancement under the HFOA. On January 22, 2019, without receiving a response from the State, the circuit court summarily dismissed Lanier's petition.

         On appeal, Lanier reasserts the claim he raised in his petition and argues that the circuit court erred in summarily dismissing his petition. We disagree.

         Lanier's claim is meritless on its face. It is true that, in our opinion in Lanier, supra, this Court recognized that Lanier's sentence for his 1996 robbery conviction was illegal.[3] It is equally true that "'"[a] conviction that has been set aside or reversed may not be used to enhance [a] penalty."'" Crenshaw v. State, 740 So.2d 478, 479 (Ala.Crim.App.1998) (quoting Prock v. State, 471 So.2d 519, 521 (Ala.Crim.App.1985), quoting in turn 24B C.J.S. Criminal Law § 1960(6) (1962)). See also McClintock v. State, 773 So.2d 1057, 1059 (Ala.Crim.App.2000). However, Lanier's 1996 conviction has not been set aside or reversed, and this Court did not hold in our opinion in Lanier, supra, that the 1996 conviction was invalid in any way. Rather, we simply recognized that the sentence imposed for the 1996 conviction was illegal, and we addressed whether that sentence could be corrected after it had expired. Contrary to Lanier's apparent belief, the legality or illegality of a sentence has no bearing whatsoever on the validity of the underlying conviction. Because Lanier's 1996 conviction has not been set aside or reversed, it was properly used to enhance his sentences for his 2011 convictions, and Lanier's claim to the contrary is meritless.

         Rule 32.7(d), Ala. R. Crim. P., authorizes the circuit court to summarily dismiss a petitioner's Rule 32 petition

"[i]f the court determines that the petition is not sufficiently specific, or is precluded, or fails to state a claim, or that no material issue of fact or law exists which would entitle the petitioner to relief under this rule and that no purpose would be served by any further proceedings ...."

See also Hannon v. State, 861 So.2d 426, 427 (Ala.Crim.App.2003); Cogman v. State, 852 So.2d 191, 193 (Ala.Crim.App.2002); Tatum v. State, 607 So.2d 383, 384 (Ala.Crim.App.1992). Summary disposition is also appropriate when the petition is obviously without merit or where the record directly refutes a Rule 32 petitioner's claim. See Shaw v. State, 148 So.3d 745, 765 (Ala.Crim.App.2013). Because Lanier's claim is clearly meritless, summary disposition of his Rule 32 petition was appropriate.

         Based on the foregoing, the judgment of the circuit court is affirmed.

         AFFIRMED.

          Windom, P.J., and McCool, Cole, and Minor, JJ., concur.

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