LONNIE E. MITCHELL, APPELLANT
WENDY KELLEY, DIRECTOR, ARKANSAS DEPARTMENT OF CORRECTION, APPELLEE
FROM THE LINCOLN COUNTY CIRCUIT COURT AND MOTION FOR
APPOINTMENT OF COUNSEL. NO. 40CV-15-43. HONORABLE JODI RAINES
E. Mitchell, Pro se, appellant.
Rutledge, Att'y Gen., by: Kent G. Holt, Ass't
Att'y Gen., for appellee.
1988, appellant Lonnie E. Mitchell was found guilty by a jury
of kidnapping, rape, and first-degree battery. He was
sentenced as a habitual offender to consecutive terms of
imprisonment for life, life, and forty years, respectively.
We affirmed. Mitchell v. State, 299 Ark. 566, 776
S.W.2d 332 (1989).
2015, Mitchell, who is incarcerated at a unit of the Arkansas
Department of Correction (" ADC" ) in Lincoln
County, filed a petition for a writ of habeas corpus in the
Lincoln County Circuit Court. The petition was
dismissed, and Mitchell brings this appeal.
circuit court's grant or denial of habeas relief will not
be reversed unless the court's findings are clearly
erroneous. Hobbs v. Gordon, 2014 Ark. 225, 434
S.W.3d 364. A finding is clearly erroneous when, although
there is evidence to support it, the appellate court is left,
after reviewing the entire evidence, with the definite and
firm conviction that a mistake has been committed.
our statute, a petitioner for the writ who does not allege
his actual innocence and proceed under Act 1780 of 2001 Acts
of Arkansas must plead either the facial invalidity of the
judgment or the lack of jurisdiction by the trial court and
make a showing by affidavit or other evidence of probable
cause to believe that he is illegally detained. Ark. Code
Ann. § 16-112-103(a)(1) (Repl. 2006). The burden is on
the petitioner in proceedings for a writ of habeas corpus to
establish that the trial court lacked jurisdiction or that
the commitment was invalid on its face; otherwise, there is
no basis for a finding that a writ of habeas corpus should
issue. Fields v. Hobbs, 2013 Ark. 416.
argued in the habeas petition, and in this appeal, that the
judgment in his case was illegal on its face because the
trial court lacked authority to sentence him to the terms of
life imprisonment because he was under the age of twenty-one
when he committed the offenses. As authority for the claims,
Mitchell cites Arkansas Code Annotated § 16-93-607(d)
(1987) and our decision in Hobbs v. Turner, 2014
Ark. 19, 431 S.W.3d 283.
16-93-607(d), however, applied only to first offenders. As
stated, Mitchell was sentenced as a habitual offender. With
respect to Turner, the case concerned a juvenile
offender who was sentenced to life imprisonment and was thus
entitled to relief under the United States Supreme
Court's decision in Graham v. Florida, 560 U.S.
48, 130 S.Ct. 2011, 176 L.Ed.2d 825 (2010). In
Graham, 560 U.S. at 74, the Court held " that
for a juvenile offender who did not commit homicide the
Eighth Amendment forbids the sentence of life without
parole." According to the judgment of conviction and
records maintained by the ADC, Mitchell was born on January
12, 1968. He committed the offenses in June 1986 when he was
eighteen years old. He did not allege in his habeas petition
that he was under the age of eighteen when he committed the
offenses or demonstrate that Graham applied to his
also argues that Arkansas Code Annotated section
16-93-607(c)(1) (1987) rendered him ineligible for parole,
and, thus, his life terms were unconstitutional because life
without parole was not a legal penalty for the offenses of
which he was convicted. Section 16-93-607(c)(1), in pertinent
part, provided that prison inmates under sentence of life
imprisonment shall not be eligible for release on parole
unless the sentence is commuted to a term of years by
executive clemency. Upon commutation, the inmate becomes
eligible for release on parole. Mitchell asserted that his
life sentences were effectively converted by section
16-93-607(c)(1) to a sentence of life without the possibility
Pursuant to Arkansas Code Annotated section 5-4-401(a)(1)
(1987), Mitchell could be sentenced for rape and kidnapping,
both of which were Class Y felonies, to a term of
imprisonment of ten to forty years or life. Mitchell did not
argue that the life sentences that were imposed were outside
the range of sentencing provided at the time he committed the
offenses. A court considering claims in a habeas petition
pertaining to the facial validity of the judgment need not
look beyond the permitted statutory range of punishment in
determining whether the sentence in the judgment was valid.
Redus v. State, 2013 Ark. 9, at 4 (per curiam).
have held that a challenge to the constitutionality of a
parole-eligibility statute is not a cognizable claim in
habeas proceedings. Woodson v. Hobbs, 2015 Ark. 304,
at 3, 467 S.W.3d 147, 149 (per curiam). Habeas proceedings do
not extend to issues of parole eligibility and are limited to
the questions of whether the petitioner is in custody
pursuant to a valid judgment of conviction or whether the
convicting court had proper jurisdiction. See
Blevins v. Norris, 291 Ark. 70, 722 S.W.2d 573
determination of parole eligibility is solely within the
province of the ADC. Aguilar v. Lester, 2011 Ark.
329 (per curiam). This court has repeatedly held that the
ADC, not the sentencing court, determines parole eligibility.
Cridge v. Hobbs, 2014 Ark. 153, at 3-4 (per curiam);
seeJohnson v. State, 2012 Ark. 212 ("
Parole eligibility falls clearly within the domain of the
executive branch and specifically the ADC, as fixed by
statute." ); Thompson v. State, 2009 Ark. 235
(per curiam) (holding that, because determining parole
eligibility is the prerogative of the ADC, the trial court
would not have had authority to place conditions as to parole
eligibility on the sentence announced). The ADC's