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Ford v. Guyer

Supreme Court of Montana

December 27, 2018

EUGENE FORD, Petitioner and Appellant,
v.
LYNN GUYER, Warden, Montana State Prison, Respondent and Appellee.

          ORDER

         Eugene Ford has filed a petition for a writ of habeas corpus in which he seeks resentencing for his 1999 conviction. The Eighth Judicial District Court, Cascade County, sentenced Ford to life imprisonment for deliberate homicide and imposed a parole eligibility restriction.

         In his petition, Ford contends that his sentence is illegal as the judge illegally used an ex post facto law, namely § 46-18-219, MCA, to enhance his sentence. He explains that the presiding judge "questioned the legality of sentencing Ford to life without parole, and even admitted the statute did not apply to the case at bar." He states that this statute was applied to him because it eliminates or delays a defendant's parole eligibility after the criminal offense has been committed under State v. Beachman, 189 Mont. 400, 616 P.2d 337(1980).

         Ford misconstrues Beachman here. The issue in Beachman concerned a statute's application, which went into effect after the defendant Beachman committed his crime. Beachman, 189 Mont, at 406, 616 P.2d at 340-41. That is not the case here. Ford committed his offense in March 1999. "The law in effect at the time of the crime controls as to the possible sentence." State v. Stevens, 273 Mont. 452, 455, 904 P.2d 590, 592 (1995) (citing State v. Azure, 179 Mont. 281, 282, 587 P.2d 1297, 1298 (1978)). The 1997 version of the statutes apply to Ford. Not only did § 46-18-219, MCA, exist in 1997, but so did § 46-18-202, MCA, covering additional restrictions upon a sentence. Section 46-18-202, MCA, became law on My 1, 1977, and § 46-18-202, MCA, applies to Ford's sentence. Beachman, 189 Mont, at 406, 616 P.2d at 340.

         Regardless of the statute at issue, Ford's sentence is not illegal. The District Court had statutory authority to impose a parole restriction on a prison sentence exceeding one year. Section 46-18-202(2), MCA (1997). We have decided this issue before.

Section 46-18-202(2), MCA[, ] authorizes the sentencing court to impose restrictions, as part of the sentence, making the defendant ineligible for parole or participation in the supervised release program. Such restrictions may be imposed where the court finds it necessary to protect society and states the reasons for the restriction.

State v. Watson, 211 Mont. 401, 421, 686 P.2d 879, 889 (1984). The sentencing judge for Ford's conviction listed eleven reasons for imposition of sentence in the four-page judgment.

         These reasons included:

2. The Defendant has not done well while on probation/parole.
3. As pointed out in the presentence investigation report, except for alcohol being involved, there are no mitigating circumstances.
4. Adult probation recommended a lengthy sentence to the Montana State Prison.
5. Defendant's counsel recommended a sixty (60) year sentence to Montana State Prison.
6. The County Attorney recommended a sentence of 100 years to Montana State Prison with the Defendant being declared ineligible for parole for the first forty (40) years.
7. The Defendant has an extensive history of drug and alcohol abuse.
8. The force used in the commission of the crime was great and extended for some time, giving evidence of great anger. The victim suffered a crushed larynx, several broken ribs, crushed sternum, and a broken jaw, as well as groin and testicular injury. The victim's dentures were not found on the initial examination of the victim's mouth, but were later found to be pushed down ...

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