ALBERT D. BELL APPELLANT
STATE OF ARKANSAS APPELLEE
APPEAL FROM THE ARKANSAS COUNTY CIRCUIT COURT, NORTHERN
DISTRICT, AND MOTION FOR WRIT OF MANDAMUS TO FILE A BELATED
REPLY BRIEF [NO. 01SCR-93-4] HONORABLE DAVID G. HENRY, JUDGE
D. Bell, pro se appellant.
Rutledge, Att'y Gen., Vada Berger, Ass't Att'y
Gen., for appellee.
R. BAKER, ASSOCIATE JUSTICE.
Albert D. Bell brings this appeal from the denial of his pro
se petition under Arkansas Code Annotated section 16-90-111
(Repl. 2016). Bell did not claim in the petition that the two
sentences of life imprisonment that were imposed on him in
1994 were outside the statutory range for the offenses of
which he was convicted. Rather, he argued that the sentences
were facially illegal under the Eighth Amendment because the
State did not prove in the sentencing proceeding in his case
that he was incorrigible and irreparably corrupt. He asserted
further that the "evolving standards of a modern
society" no longer tolerated a life sentence for a
juvenile, and thus, his sentences were cruel and unusual and
violated the Eighth Amendment. He also argued that (1)
numerous witnesses testified at the sentencing phase of his
trial as to his character, "transient immaturity, "
and other mitigating factors, and the jury was unable to
decide on a sentence, which left the trial court, rather than
the jury as trier-of-fact, to impose the harshest sentence
possible; (2) the shooter in the case received only one life
sentence while he received two consecutive life sentences;
(3) the shooter was eligible for relief under Montgomery
v. Louisiana, 136 S.Ct. 718 (2016), which permitted
retroactive application of Miller v. Alabama, 567
U.S 460 (2012),  to juvenile cases, but he was not;
(4) the evidence was not sufficient to prove that he was
guilty of the offenses. Bell reiterates the issues raised in
the petition in his brief in this appeal and has also filed a
motion seeking leave to file a belated reply brief in the
appeal. A trial court's decision to deny relief under
section 16-90-111 will not be overturned unless it is clearly
erroneous. The trial court's decision in this matter were
not clearly erroneous. Accordingly, we affirm the order, and
the petition to file a belated reply brief is moot.
1997, this court affirmed Bell's convictions for two
counts of first-degree murder and his sentence to two
consecutive life sentences.1 State v.
Bell, 329 Ark. 422, 948 S.W.2d 557 (1997). Bell
subsequently filed in the trial court a petition for
postconviction relief pursuant to Arkansas Rule of Criminal
Procedure 37.1 (1994). The petition was denied, and we
affirmed. Bell v. State, CR-02-1071 (Ark. May 13,
2004) (unpublished per curiam). In 2010, Bell filed in the
trial court a petition for recall and for resentencing. Bell
sought resentencing by the trial court based on the decision
of the United States Supreme Court in Graham v.
Florida, 560 U.S. 48 (2010), wherein the Court held that
the Eighth Amendment forbids a sentence of life imprisonment
without parole for a juvenile offender who did not commit
homicide. The trial court denied his petition, and we
affirmed the order. Bell v. State, 2011 Ark. 379
(per curiam), cert. denied, 132 S.Ct. 1915 (2012).
2015, Bell filed in the trial court a pro se petition to
correct the sentence pursuant to section 16-90-111 (Repl.
2013) contending that the sentence imposed on him was illegal
because he was a juvenile at the time the offenses were
committed, and he, as an accomplice, had not killed anyone
himself and did not intend to kill anyone. The trial court
denied the petition on the grounds that it was an
unauthorized second petition for postconviction relief under
Rule 37.2(b) and, even if considered on substantive Eighth
Amendment grounds, it did not state a basis for relief. We
affirmed the order. Bell v. State, 2015 Ark. 370
affirmed the order that denied Bell's initial 2015
petition under section 16-90-111, we noted a sentence is
illegal on its face when it exceeds the statutory maximum for
the offense for which the defendant was convicted. See
Renshaw v. Norris, 337 Ark. 494, 989 S.W.2d 515 (1999);
see also Green v. State, 2016 Ark. 386, 502 S.W.3d
524. Bell, who did not contend that the sentence imposed on
him exceeded the statutory maximum, was convicted of two
Class Y felonies under Arkansas Code Annotated section
5-4-401(a)(1) (1987), punishable by a term of imprisonment of
not less than ten years nor more than forty years, or life.
Under Arkansas Code Annotated section 5-10-102(c) (Supp.
1991), first-degree murder was a Class Y felony when the
offenses were committed. Accordingly, the life sentences
imposed on Bell were within the range allowed by statute and
were not facially illegal. See Green, 2016 Ark. 386,
502 S.W.3d 524.
Bell's contention in his 2016 petition that
Graham applied to his case and rendered him eligible
for parole because he was merely an accomplice, this issue
was addressed by this court in Bell, 2011 Ark. 379.
In that proceeding, Bell also argued that he was entitled to
resentencing under Graham because he was only an
accomplice to first-degree murder and, thus, did not commit a
homicide offense. We noted in our opinion that our case law
makes clear that Bell was convicted of two homicides.
Bell, 2011 Ark. 379, at 2. We have held that there
is no distinction between principals on the one hand and
accomplices on the other insofar as criminal liability is
concerned. Lawshea v. State, 2009 Ark. 600, 357
S.W.3d 901. When two people assist one another in the
commission of a crime, each is an accomplice and criminally
liable for the conduct of both. Id. Because Bell was
convicted of a homicide offense, Graham was not
applicable. Bell, 2011 Ark. 379, at 3.
court has already addressed Bell's claims concerning his
sentencing as a juvenile to life imprisonment, and we need
not reconsider the matter in this appeal. With respect to the
other allegations that Bell raised in his second petition,
the claims were assertions of trial and constitutional error.
A claim that a sentence is illegal presents an issue of
subject-matter jurisdiction that can be addressed at any
time. See Walden v. State, 2014 Ark. 193, 433 S.W.3d
864. However, the claims, as advanced by Bell, did not allege
an illegal sentence of the type that is jurisdictional in
nature; rather, the grounds for relief raised in Bell's
petition were of the type that should have been raised in the
trial court. See Cantrell v. State, 2009 Ark. 456,
343 S.W.3d 591.