Halfacre v. State , 2015 Ark. 105 ( 2015 )

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    2015 Ark. 105
                         SUPREME COURT OF ARKANSAS
                                               No.   CR-14-702
                                                          Opinion Delivered March   12, 2015
                                      APPELLANT           PRO SE APPEAL FROM THE PULASKI
                                                          COUNTY CIRCUIT COURT
    V.                                                    [NOS. 60CR-85-1577, 60CR-85-1579]
                                                          HONORABLE JAMES LEON
    STATE OF ARKANSAS                                     JOHNSON, JUDGE
                                              PER CURIAM
              In 1985, appellant Kenny Halfacre was found guilty in the Pulaski County Circuit Court
    of aggravated robbery and sentenced as a habitual offender to forty years’ imprisonment in case
    number 60CR-85-1577. We affirmed. Halfacre v. State, 
    292 Ark. 331
    731 S.W.2d 179
    Subsequently, pursuant to Arkansas Rule of Criminal Procedure 37.1 (1987), we reduced the
    sentence to twenty years’ imprisonment because one of the prior judgments used to establish
    that appellant was a habitual offender had been reversed on appeal by the Arkansas Court of
    Appeals. Halfacre v. State, CR-86-183 (Ark. Nov. 9, 1987) (unpublished per curiam).
          In 1986, appellant was found guilty in the Pulaski County Circuit Court in case number
    60CR-85-1579 of a separate robbery for which he was sentenced as a habitual offender to life
    imprisonment. We also affirmed that judgment. Halfacre v. State, 
    292 Ark. 329
    731 S.W.2d 182
              In 2014, appellant filed in the trial court a pro se petition to correct sentence pursuant
    to Arkansas Code Annotated section 16-90-111 (Repl. 2006), alleging that the sentence of life
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    imprisonment was illegal on its face.1 Noting that life imprisonment under Arkansas law does
    not allow for release on parole, appellant argued that the applicable sentencing statutes did not
    provide for a life sentence with no possibility of parole for aggravated robbery. He further
    alleged that the life sentence should not have been imposed because one of the prior offenses
    used to establish his habitual-offender status should not have been considered because it was
    not committed with a deadly weapon.             With respect to the sentence of forty years’
    imprisonment, appellant argued that the sentence was facially invalid because the sentence was
    later reduced to twenty years’ imprisonment, but the judgment was never modified to reflect the
    reduction in sentence. The trial court denied the petition, and appellant brings this appeal.
    Appellant repeats the claims raised in the petition in his brief-in-chief. A trial court’s decision
    to deny relief under section 16-90-111 will not be overturned unless that decision is clearly
    erroneous. Gilliland v. State, 
    2014 Ark. 149
           The trial court denied the petition on the ground that it was not timely filed, and the State
    urges this court to affirm the order for that reason. We affirm the order, not because the
    petition was untimely, but because appellant did not demonstrate in the petition that the
    sentence in either case was illegal. A claim that a sentence is illegal on its face presents an issue
    of subject-matter jurisdiction that can be addressed at any time under section 16-90-111(a).
    Atkins v. State, 
    2014 Ark. 393
    441 S.W.3d 19
     (per curiam). While the time limitations on filing
    a petition under section 16-90-111(a)(b)(1) on the grounds that the sentence was imposed in an
            At the time appellant was convicted in 1987, the statute was codified at Arkansas
    Statutes Annotated section 43-2314 (Supp. 1985).
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    illegal manner were superseded by Arkansas Rule of Criminal Procedure 37.2(c), the portion of
    section 16-90-111 that provides a means to challenge a sentence at any time on the ground that
    the sentence is illegal on its face remains in effect. See Reeves v. State, 
    339 Ark. 304
    5 S.W.3d 41
    (1999). For that reason, the trial court had authority to grant relief under the statute if a sentence
    imposed on appellant was indeed illegal. Hill v. State, 
    2013 Ark. 291
     (per curiam).
            In both cases, appellant was found guilty of violating Arkansas Statutes Annotated
    section 41-2102 (Supp. 1985), which is now codified at Arkansas Code Annotated section 5-12-
    103 (Repl. 2013). At the time appellant committed the offenses, aggravated robbery was a Class
    Y felony under Arkansas Statutes Annotated section 41-2102(2) (Supp. 1985) and was
    punishable by a term of imprisonment of not less than ten years nor more than forty years, or
    life. See Ark. Stat. Ann. § 41-901 (Supp. 1985). Accordingly, the life sentence and the forty-year
    sentence imposed on appellant in 1987 were within the range allowed by statute and were not
    facially illegal. Sentencing in Arkansas is entirely a matter of statute. Gray v. State, 
    2014 Ark. 417
    443 S.W.3d 417
     (per curiam). No sentence shall be imposed other than as prescribed by statute.
    2014 Ark. 393
    441 S.W.3d 19
    . A void or illegal sentence is one that is illegal on its face.
    Lovelace v. State, 
    301 Ark. 519
    785 S.W.2d 212
     (1990); Fritts v. State, 
    298 Ark. 533
    768 S.W.2d 541
     (1989). A sentence is illegal on its face when it exceeds the statutory maximum for the
    offense for which the defendant was convicted. Atkins, 
    2014 Ark. 393
    441 S.W.3d 19
    . If a
    sentence is within the limits set by statute, it is legal. Grissom v. State, 
    2013 Ark. 417
     (per curiam).
             The parole-eligibility statute then in effect stated that “[i]ndividuals sentenced to life
    imprisonment prior to March 1, 1968, and those sentenced to life imprisonment after the
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    effective date [February 12, 1969] of this Act, shall not be eligible for release on parole unless
    such sentence is commuted to a term of years by executive clemency.” Id. § 43-2807(b)(1).
    Recently, in Hobbs v. Turner, 
    2014 Ark. 19
    , at 7, 
    431 S.W.3d 283
    , 287, we explained that
    “[g]enerally, in Arkansas, life means life,” and with few exceptions, “the legislature has not
    provided for a sentence of life with the possibility of parole in over forty years.” Thus, the court
    lacked the authority to sentence appellant to a term of life with the possibility of parole. See Hale
    v. Hobbs, 
    2014 Ark. 405
    443 S.W.3d 533
    ; see also Mayfield v. State, 
    293 Ark. 216
    736 S.W.2d 12
              As to whether appellant was properly determined to be a habitual offender at the time
    of trial, any claim appellant desired to raise concerning his status as a habitual offender could
    have been addressed at trial and on direct appeal or, if applicable, in a timely petition for
    postconviction relief. Whether a particular prior judgment of conviction was correctly
    considered for the purposes of determining whether appellant was a habitual offender was not
    an issue sufficient to render the sentence in either case facially illegal. Peterson v. State, 
    317 Ark. 151
    876 S.W.2d 261
              With respect to the forty-year sentence imposed on appellant that was reduced under
    Rule 37.1, even if there had been some failure to amend the judgment in the case, appellant did
    not establish that the sentence was subject to challenge under section 16-90-111 on the basis of
    facial invalidity.
              Inasmuch as appellant did not state a ground for relief under the statute, we affirm the
    trial court’s order. While the court erred in its reasoning, the court’s judgment should be
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    affirmed as reaching the right result for the wrong reason. Davis v. State, 
    367 Ark. 330
    , 338, 
    240 S.W.3d 115
    , 122 (2006) (citing Harris v. City of Fort Smith, 
    366 Ark. 277
    234 S.W.3d 875
           Kenny Halfacre, pro se appellant.
           Dustin McDaniel, Att’y Gen., by: Ashley Priest, Ass’t Att’y Gen., for appellee.