John Edward WRENN v. STATE of Mississippi.
-- September 19, 2013
Sidney F. Beck, Jr., Attorney for Appellant.Office of the Attorney General by: Stephanie B. Wood, Attorney for Appellee.
¶ 1. John Edward Wrenn pleaded guilty to possession of a firearm by a convicted felon. Wrenn appeals from his conviction, alleging that: 1) Mississippi's concealed-weapon statute, Section 97–37–1, precludes his conviction; and 2) he was denied effective assistance of counsel. Because Wrenn's conviction is the result of a guilty plea, we dismiss this appeal.
¶ 2. John Edward Wrenn became a convicted felon on February 28, 1992.1 On April 4, 2011, a Horn Lake police officer found a sawed-off shotgun in Wrenn's truck during a traffic stop.2 A grand jury indicted Wrenn for violating Section 97–37–5 of the Mississippi Code, which prohibits a convicted felon from possessing a firearm.3 Wrenn pleaded guilty to the charge on November 9, 2011, and the case was continued for sentencing at a later date. Prior to his sentencing hearing, Wrenn filed a motion to set aside his guilty plea. The trial court denied Wrenn's motion and sentenced him to serve ten years as an habitual offender.4 Wrenn appeals from his conviction, alleging that Mississippi's concealed-weapon statute, Section 97–37–1, made his gun possession legal and claiming he did not receive effective assistance of counsel. The State responds that Wrenn's appeal should be dismissed because “entering a guilty plea waives the right to directly appeal a conviction.”
LAW AND ANALYSIS
¶ 3. This Court has long recognized that “a litigant's right to an appeal is statutory and ‘not based on any inherent common law or constitutional right.’ “5 Our “well-established caselaw supports that a party has no right to appeal unless the Legislature gives such right by statute.”6 Section 99–35–101 of the Mississippi Code provides that “any person convicted of an offense in a circuit court may appeal to the Supreme Court” with the exception that, “where the defendant enters a plea of guilty and is sentenced, then no appeal from the circuit court to the Supreme Court shall be allowed.”7 A criminal defendant may challenge a conviction in two ways: “(1) a direct appeal from a conviction, or (2) a proceeding under the Post Conviction Relief Act.”8 Because the right to appeal is a matter of legislative discretion, and no such right has been established when a conviction is the result of a guilty plea, a defendant challenging a conviction entered as result of guilty plea can do so only under the Post Conviction Relief Act.9
¶ 4. It is undisputed that Wrenn pleaded guilty to violating Section 97–37–5. As such, Wrenn cannot appeal his conviction directly. Therefore, we dismiss this appeal without reaching the merits of Wrenn's claims.
¶ 5. APPEAL DISMISSED.
¶ 6. Justice Lamar is correct that Wrenn has no right to file a direct appeal. But all agree that Wrenn is entitled to appellate review of his claim that his guilty plea was the result of ineffective assistance of counsel. So I share Justice Kitchens's view that—in the interests of judicial economy and timely administration of justice—we should follow the Court of Appeals' lead in Ducote v. State,10 by simply treating Wrenn's appellate filing as a petition for post-conviction relief, rather than requiring him to refile the same papers with a different title. All the majority accomplishes today is to create unnecessary work for the Supreme Court Clerk, the circuit clerk, the defendant, and this Court.
¶ 7. I respectfully disagree with the majority's dismissal of the appeal based on a rigid adherence to the legislature's limitation of our appellate jurisdiction. Miss. Const. art. 6 § 146 (vesting this Court with “such jurisdiction as properly belongs to a court of appeals”); Miss.Code Ann. § 99–35–101 (Supp.2012) (prohibiting appeals “where the defendant enters a plea of guilty and is sentenced”).11 The issue before us is the trial court's denial of Wrenn's motion to withdraw his guilty plea, which unquestionably is a post-conviction matter. See Miss.Code Ann. § 99–39–5(1)(g) (Supp.2012) (listing as grounds for post-conviction relief a claim that the petitioner's plea was made involuntarily). Yet, the majority refuses to entertain the merits because Wrenn filed his motion before the formal judgment of conviction was entered by the trial court. The issue was presented to the trial judge, and the claim has been thoroughly considered and correctly rejected; thus, to dismiss the claim at this point, after an appellate record has been compiled and briefing has been completed, wastes judicial resources and creates unnecessary delay. In this instance, the majority allows Section 99–35–101 to become a procedural obstacle to a prompt resolution of issues properly before us. See Jones v. City of Ridgeland, 48 So.3d 530, 537 (Miss.2010) (finding the “three-court rule” in Mississippi Code Section 11–51–81 an unconstitutional infringement on this Court's power to promulgate rules of procedure and not a permissible legislative grant of jurisdiction). Accordingly, I would treat the motion to withdraw as a petition for post-conviction relief and affirm the trial court. See Ducote v. State, 970 So.2d 1309, 1315 (Miss.Ct.App.2007) (holding that the trial court did not err in treating post-plea motion as a petition for post-conviction relief).
LAMAR, Justice, for the Court:
hWALLER, C.J., RANDOLPH, P.J., PIERCE AND COLEMAN, JJ., CONCUR. DICKINSON, P.J., DISSENTS WITH SEPARATE WRITTEN OPINION JOINED BY CHANDLER AND KING, JJ.; KITCHENS, J., JOINS IN PART. KITCHENS, J., DISSENTS WITH SEPARATE WRITTEN OPINION JOINED BY CHANDLER AND KING, JJ.; DICKINSON, P.J., JOINS IN PART.CHANDLER AND KING, JJ., JOIN THIS OPINION. KITCHENS, J., JOINS THIS OPINION IN PART.CHANDLER AND KING, JJ., JOIN THIS OPINION. DICKINSON, P.J., JOINS THIS OPINION IN PART.