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Noble v. State

Supreme Court of Arkansas

October 17, 2019



          Leonard Noble, pro se appellant.

          Leslie Rutledge, Att'y Gen., by: Brad Newman, Ass't Att'y Gen., for appellee.



         Leonard Noble appeals the dismissal of his pro se petition for writ of habeas corpus filed pursuant to Arkansas Code Annotated section 16-112-101 (Repl. 2016). Noble raises two grounds for reversal-that the circuit court erred in declining to issue the writ based on the State's failure to afford Noble a speedy trial and by not holding an evidentiary hearing on his petition. Because Noble did not state a ground for the writ, we affirm the circuit court's order, and find his subsequent motion seeking leave to file a supplemental addendum in his reply brief is moot.

         In 1999, a Sebastian County Circuit Court jury found Noble guilty of residential burglary and rape and sentenced him as a habitual offender to an aggregate sentence of 900 months' imprisonment. The Arkansas Court of Appeals affirmed. Noble v. State, CR-00-587 (Ark. App. Sept. 19, 2001) (unpublished) (original docket no. CACR 00-587). Noble filed the petition for writ of habeas corpus in the county where he is currently incarcerated

         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).

         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. The circuit court dismissed Noble's habeas petition on its merits; that is, it held that Noble had not been denied a speedy trial. The issue at hand, however, is whether Noble stated a ground for issuance of the writ. As he did not do so, the habeas petition was subject to dismissal by the circuit court, and this court will affirm the circuit court's decision when it reached the right result even if a wrong reason may have been stated. See Marshall v. State, 2017 Ark. 208, at 5, 521 S.W.3d 456, 459.

         This court has held that speedy-trial issues are not cognizable in habeas proceedings. Williams v. Kelley, 2017 Ark. 200, at 4, 521 S.W.3d 104, 107. Allegations of speedy-trial violations are assertions of trial error that do not implicate the facial validity of the judgment or the jurisdiction of the trial court. Id. If there were errors at trial, those issues could, and should, have been raised at trial and on the record on direct appeal and are thus not within the purview of the remedy because the writ of habeas corpus will not be issued to correct errors or irregularities that occurred at trial. Stephenson v. Kelley, 2018 Ark. 143, 544 S.W.3d 44.

         Noble also contends that the circuit court should have held a hearing on his petition. Our statutory scheme does not mandate a hearing on a habeas petition regardless of the allegations contained in it. Collier v. Kelley, 2018 Ark. 170, at 4. A hearing is not required on a habeas petition when probable cause for issuance of the writ is not shown by affidavit or other evidence. Id. Because Noble failed to establish probable cause for issuance of the writ, he was not entitled to a hearing. Johnson v. State, 2018 Ark. 42, 5, 538 S.W.3d 819, 822.

         Affirmed; motion moot.

          Josephine Linker Hart, Justice, dissenting.

         This is yet another case in which this court has impermissibly narrowed the grounds for relief under our state habeas corpus statute. This stance continues to perplex in light of the Supreme Court of the United States' rejection of this limit on habeas corpus when it reversed Jackson v. Norris, 2011 Ark. 49, 378 S.W.3d 103 (Jackson ...

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