DEANDRA L. STEPHENSON APPELLANT
WENDY KELLEY, DIRECTOR, ARKANSAS DEPARTMENT OF CORRECTION APPELLEE
APPEAL FROM THE JEFFERSON COUNTY CIRCUIT COURT [NO.
35CV-17-303] HONORABLE JODI RAINES DENNIS, JUDGE
Deandra L. Stephenson, pro se appellant.
Rutledge, Att'y Gen., by: Amanda Jegley, Ass't
Att'y Gen., for appellee.
COURTNEY HUDSON GOODSON, ASSOCIATE JUSTICE.
2017, appellant Deandra L. Stephenson filed in the circuit
court in the county where he was incarcerated a pro se
petition for writ of habeas corpus pursuant to Arkansas Code
Annotated sections 16-112-101 to -123 (Repl. 2016), alleging
that he was entitled to release from custody because the
trial court in his criminal case committed error in the
conduct of the trial, the evidence was not sufficient to
sustain the judgment, and he is innocent of the offenses of
which he was convicted. He further argued that the court in a
habeas proceeding should look beyond the face of the judgment
to determine whether the writ should issue. Stephenson did
not contend that any of the sentences imposed on him were
outside the statutory range for the offenses of which he was
convicted or that the trial court lacked jurisdiction to
enter the judgment. The circuit court dismissed
Stephenson's petition on the grounds that he failed to
establish, as required by the statute, that the trial court
lacked jurisdiction or that the commitment was invalid on its
face. Stephenson brings this appeal. We find no error and affirm
the circuit court's order.
2007, Stephenson was found guilty by a Pulaski County jury of
two counts of capital murder and sentenced to two terms of
life imprisonment without parole. He was also found guilty of
one count of committing a terroristic act for which 480
months' imprisonment was imposed. The sentences were
enhanced pursuant to Arkansas Code Annotated section
16-90-120 (Repl. 2006) for use of a firearm in the commission
of the offenses. We affirmed. Stephenson v. State,
373 Ark. 134, 282 S.W.3d 772 (2008).
Standard of Review
circuit court's decision in a habeas proceeding will be
upheld unless it is clearly erroneous. Clay v.
Kelley, 2017 Ark. 294, 528 S.W.3d 836. A decision is
clearly erroneous when, although there is evidence to support
it, the appellate court, after reviewing the entire evidence,
is left with the definite and firm conviction that a mistake
has been made. Id.
Grounds for the Writ
of habeas corpus is proper when a judgment of conviction is
invalid on its face or when the trial court lacked
jurisdiction over the cause. Williams v. Kelley,
2017 Ark. 200, 521 S.W.3d 104; Philyaw v. Kelley,
2015 Ark. 465, 477 S.W.3d 503. Under 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 being illegally detained. Ark. Code Ann.
§ 16-112-103(a)(1) (Repl. 2016). Unless the petitioner
in proceedings for a writ of habeas corpus can show that the
trial court lacked jurisdiction or that the commitment was
invalid on its face, there is no basis for a finding that a
writ of habeas corpus should issue. Fields v. Hobbs,
2013 Ark. 416. Stephenson did not invoke Act 1780.
respect to Stephenson's argument that the court in a
habeas proceeding should not be limited to examining the face
of the judgment to determine if the writ should issue, the
legislature has declined opportunities to amend the statute
to express its disagreement with this court's
interpretation, and thus, this court's interpretation
remains the law.
appears that Stephenson's contention that the habeas
statute should be viewed more broadly was essentially an
attempt to broaden the scope of a habeas action to include
claims of trial error and the sufficiency of the evidence to
sustain the judgment. If so, we have held that a habeas
corpus proceeding does not afford a prisoner an opportunity
to retry his case, and a writ of habeas corpus will not be
issued to correct errors or irregularities that occurred at
trial. The remedy in such a case is a direct appeal.
Birchett v. State, 303 Ark. 220, 795 S.W.2d 53