APPEAL FROM THE JEFFERSON COUNTY CIRCUIT COURT NO. CV-2013-315-5. HONORABLE JODI RAINES DENNIS, JUDGE.
Jeff Rosenzweig, for appellant.
Dustin McDaniel, Att'y Gen., by: Rachel Kemp, Ass't Att'y Gen., for appellee.
JOSEPHINE LINKER HART, Associate Justice. DANIELSON, J., dissents.
JOSEPHINE LINKER HART, Associate Justice
Appellant, Thernell Hundley, appeals from the Jefferson County Circuit Court's order dismissing his petition for writ of habeas corpus. In the order, the circuit
court found that because Hundley, who was convicted of capital-felony murder in Arkansas, is currently incarcerated in a correctional facility in New Jersey, the court lacked jurisdiction to issue a writ and make it returnable in Jefferson County. Hundley argues that because he was incarcerated in New Jersey under the terms of the Interstate Corrections Compact (ICC), he remained in the custody of Ray Hobbs, the Director of the Arkansas Department of Correction (ADC), which is headquartered in Jefferson County, for the purpose of the state's habeas corpus statutes. He concludes that the court thus had jurisdiction to issue the writ to Hobbs as the Director of the ADC and make it returnable in Jefferson County. We hold that the circuit court has jurisdiction and accordingly reverse and remand.
Hundley's petition for writ of habeas corpus alleged that he is an inmate in the ADC who is incarcerated in New Jersey under the terms of the ICC. According the petition, Hundley pleaded guilty to and is currently serving a sentence of life imprisonment without the possibility of parole for the crime of capital-felony murder. Hundley alleged that the offense occurred on or about September 17, 1979; that a judgment of conviction was entered in Clark County Circuit Court on July 16, 1980; and that he was born on May 14, 1962, making him seventeen years old at the time of the crime. Citing Miller v. Alabama, __ U.S. __, 132 S.Ct. 2455, 183 L.Ed.2d 407 (2012), and Graham v. Florida, 560 U.S. 48, 130 S.Ct. 2011, 176 L.Ed.2d 825 (2010), Hundley argued that the imposition of a mandatory sentence of life imprisonment without the possibility of parole on a juvenile offender for capital-felony murder or the imposition of a life sentence on a juvenile offender for the felony of rape violated the Eighth Amendment's prohibition against cruel and unusual punishments. Hundley further argued that he had properly brought his petition in Jefferson County because he was incarcerated in New Jersey under the terms of the ICC, and the ADC, which is headquartered in Jefferson County, controlled his own location.
At the request of the circuit court, Hobbs filed a responsive memorandum. Hobbs argued that because Hundley was incarcerated in a New Jersey correctional facility, the circuit court lacked jurisdiction to issue a writ of habeas corpus make it returnable in Jefferson County. In response, Hundley argued that under the ICC, the contract entered into between Arkansas and New Jersey, and Arkansas habeas statutes, the circuit court had jurisdiction to issue the writ and make it returnable in Jefferson County. Appended to his response was the " Contract for Services Between the State of Arkansas and the State of New Jersey for the Implementation of the Interstate Corrections Compact" (Contract). In its order dismissing the petition for writ of habeas corpus, the circuit court concluded that because Hundley was physically located in New Jersey, it lacked jurisdiction to issue a writ and make it returnable in Jefferson County.
Hundley appeals from the dismissal. On appeal, Hundley relies on the provisions of the ICC and the Contract and contends that because Hobbs, as the Director of the ADC, retains control over Hundley, and under the terms of the ICC and the Contract, may request that he be returned from New Jersey to Jefferson County, the circuit court had jurisdiction to issue the writ to Hobbs as the Director of the ADC and make the writ returnable in Jefferson County, where the ADC is headquartered.
Under our habeas statutes, the power of the " circuit court to issue writs of habeas
corpus shall be coextensive with the state." Ark. Code Ann. § 16-112-102 (a)(1) (Repl. 2006). While a court may have jurisdiction to issue the writ, however, the question arises as to whether a writ may be made returnable. Our statutes provide, " The writ shall be directed to the person in whose custody the prisoner is detained, and made returnable as soon as may be . . . before the circuit judges of the county in which it may be served, if either are within the county." Ark. Code Ann. § 16-112-105(b)(1) (Repl. 2006). We have construed " the person in whose custody the prisoner is detained" to mean the " person . . . ...