JOE E. MORGAN, APPELLANT
WENDY KELLEY, DIRECTOR, ARKANSAS DEPARTMENT OF CORRECTION, APPELLE
FROM THE LINCOLN COUNTY CIRCUIT COURT. NO. 40CV-15-11.
HONORABLE JODI RAINES DENNIS, JUDGE.
2003, appellant Joe E. Morgan entered a plea of guilty to
rape and first-degree sexual assault. He was sentenced as a
habitual offender to serve an aggregate term of sixty
subsequently filed in the trial court three peti tions for
writ of error coram nobis--one in 2007 and two in 2011. The
trial court denied the three petitions in one order entered
in 2012. One of the issues raised concerned the application
of a habitual-offender statute to Morgan's
sentence--Arkansas Code Annotated section 5-4-501 (c) (Repl.
1997), which provided that he would not be eligible for
parole. Morgan appealed to this court from the denial of the
petitions, and we affirmed, noting that, even if there was a
conflict between certain parole-eligibility statutes that
were applied to his case, the conflict
would not invalidate the judgment of conviction. We also
noted that parole-eligibility issues were not matters
properly considered by the sentencing court. Morgan v.
State, 2013 Ark. 341, at 8.
2015, Morgan 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; which also
challenged the application of section 5-4-501(c) to
Morgan's sentence, was dismissed, and Morgan brings this
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.
had done in the coram-nobis proceeding, Morgan argued in the
habeas proceeding that the trial court in his case lacked
subject-matter jurisdiction because he was sentenced under
section 5-4-501(c), and the trial court did not have
authority to apply that statute to his sentence. He further
contended that the sentence was invalid because, at the time
the legislature enacted Arkansas Code An notated section
16-93-1302 (Supp. 1995), it conflicted with section 5-4-501
in that it allowed eligibility for parole for an inmate
sentenced under section 5-4-501(c) when the inmate reached
the age of fifty-five.
no error. First, with respect to Morgan's assertion that
the trial court in his case lacked subject-matter
jurisdiction, subject-matter jurisdiction is the power of the
court to hear and determine the subject matter in controversy
between the parties. Bradley v. State, 2015 Ark.
144, 459 S.W.3d 302, 306. A court lacks subject-matter
jurisdiction if it cannot hear a matter under any
circumstances and is wholly incompetent to grant the relief
sought. Id. Morgan did not show that the trial court
lacked jurisdiction to hear his criminal case.
habitual-offender statute, section 5-4-501 (c), was in effect
when Morgan was convicted. While he argued that the
habitual-offender statute, and other statutes that affected
his parole eligibility, created a conflict between trial
courts and the ADC, he did not establish that the sentence
imposed on him was outside the statutory range for the
offenses of which he was convicted. Rather, the basis of his
claim for a writ of habeas corpus was that he was not
considered by the ADC to be ...