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Colston v. Kelley

Supreme Court of Arkansas

March 7, 2019

CURTIS COLSTON APPELLANT
v.
WENDY KELLEY, DIRECTOR, ARKANSAS DEPARTMENT OF CORRECTION APPELLEE

          APPEAL FROM THE PULASKI COUNTY CIRCUIT COURT, SECOND DIVISION [NO. 60CV-18-3715] HONORABLE CHRISTOPHER CHARLES PIAZZA, JUDGE

          Curtis Colsten, pro se appellant.

          Leslie Rutledge, Att'y Gen., by: Darnisa Evans Johnson, Deputy Att'y Gen., and Pamela Rumpz, Ass't Att'y Gen., for appellee.

          JOHN DAN KEMP, CHIEF JUSTICE

         Appellant Curtis Colston appeals the circuit court's denial of his petition for writ of habeas corpus filed pursuant to Arkansas Code Annotated section 16-112-101 (Repl. 2016). Colston argues on appeal that there were multiple errors in his trial, there were errors in the Arkansas Court of Appeals' decision in his direct appeal, and this court erred in denying his petition for review. He also contends that the circuit court was wrong to hold that his petition was not timely filed under Arkansas Rule of Criminal Procedure 37.1 (2016). Because Colston's petition was filed as a petition for writ of habeas corpus, and he stated no ground for relief cognizable in a habeas proceeding, we affirm the order.

         I. Background

         In 2016, Colston was found guilty by a Miller County Circuit Court jury of aggravated assault and possession of a firearm by certain persons and sentenced as a habitual offender to an aggregate term of 360 months' imprisonment. The Arkansas Court of Appeals affirmed. Colston v. State, 2017 Ark.App. 282, 523 S.W.3d 363.

         II. Grounds for Issuance of the Writ

         A writ of habeas corpus is proper when a judgment of conviction is invalid on its face or when a circuit court lacks jurisdiction over the cause. Philyaw v. Kelley, 2015 Ark. 465, 477 S.W.3d 503. Jurisdiction is the power of the court to hear and determine the subject matter in controversy. Baker v. Norris, 369 Ark. 405, 255 S.W.3d 466 (2007). When the trial court has personal jurisdiction over the appellant and also has jurisdiction over the subject matter, the court has authority to render the judgment. Johnson v. State, 298 Ark. 479, 769 S.W.2d 3 (1989).

         Under our statute, a petitioner for the writ who does not allege his actual innocence and proceed under Act 1780 of 2001 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 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.

         III. Standard of Review

         A circuit court's decision on a petition for writ of habeas corpus will be upheld unless it is clearly erroneous. Hobbs v. Gordon, 2014 Ark. 225, 434 S.W.3d 364. 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.

         IV. Claims of Trial Error

         The issues raised by Colston in his petition concerned the admissibility of evidence and errors in his trial, in the direct appeal, and in this court's denial of his petition for review.[1] It is well settled that claims of error in the trial court's rulings on evidentiary questions or in the appellate courts' decisions pertaining to the trial court's rulings are not grounds for a petition for writ of habeas corpus. Such claims do not implicate the ...


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