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Holmes v. Guyer

Supreme Court of Montana

November 12, 2019

RAYMOND A. HOLMES, Petitioner,
v.
LYNN GUYER, Warden, Montana State Prison, Respondent.

          ORDER

         Representing himself, Raymond A. Holmes has filed a petition for a writ of habeas corpus indicating that the Department of Corrections (Department or DOC) has calculated his sentence incorrectly which has extended his parole eligibility and discharge dates. In compliance with this Court's Order, the Special Assistant Attorney General for the Department has filed a response, explaining that remand to the District Court is required before any further sentence calculation by the DOC can be made.

         On February 24, 2016, Holmes was sentenced pursuant to a global plea agreement entered in the Fourth Judicial District Court, Mineral County. In DC-1987-546, Holmes admitted to violating probationary conditions and received a 10-year sentence to Montana State Prison (MSP). In DC-2015-547, Holmes pleaded guilty to bail jumping and received a 10-year sentence to MSP. And. in DC-2015-14, Holmes pleaded guilty to one misdemeanor count of violating an order of protection (Count One), for which he received a year, and 15 felony counts of violating an order of protection, (Counts Two through Sixteen), for which he received 2 years on each count for a total of 30 years. All but 10 days of the sentences for Counts Two through Sixteen were suspended. The 10-year sentence imposed in DC-1987-546 (probation violation) was to run concurrently to DC-2015-14 (violation of an order of protection) and consecutive to DC-2015-547 (bail jumping). The 10-year sentence in DC-2015-547 for bail jumping was consecutive to the 30-year, partially suspended sentence imposed in DC-2015-14 for violations of an order of protection.

         The District Court agreed with the prosecutor's summation that the net sentence for all three cases was forty years at MSP, with all but twenty years and fifty days suspended.[1]

PROSECUTOR: And the upshot of that essentially was 40 years, 20 - - all of - - all of that suspended but 20 years, and then I believe on those ten, I think there are some mihimums that we had, like 100 days Of - - of - -THE COURT: Yeah. It said 50 days.
PROSECUTOR: - - unsuspended time.
THE COURT: Twenty years and 50 days - -
PROSECUTOR: Okay. Yes.

         This Court affirmed Holmes's conviction in State v. Holmes, Nos. DA 18-0548, 18-0549, and 18-0550, 2019 MT 94N, 2019 Mont. LEXIS 145, and reiterated that" ... as a net sentence for all three cases, the District Court sentenced Holmes to forty years at the Montana State Prison with all but twenty years and fifty days suspended."

         Holmes maintains that the MSP is not calculating his sentence in accordance with the District Court's oral pronouncement of sentence. MSP's sentence calculation arrives at a total sentence of forty years at MSP, with approximately 10 years suspended, instead of the twenty years suspended orally imposed by the District Court. MSP is calculating Holmes's sentence consistent with the written judgments, which is what authorizes the MSP to detain a prisoner. Stephens v. Conley, 48 Mont. 352, 13.8 P. 189 (1914). The problem arises from errors in the written judgment of DC-2015-14. Instead of suspending all but 10 days on 15 counts (Counts Two through Count Sixteen), the written judgment suspends the sentence on only five counts - Counts Twelve through Sixteen. The effect of not having suspended all 15 counts is that Holmes custodial time was extended 10 years, which affects his parole eligibility and discharge dates.

         Holmes tried repeatedly to have his sentence conform to that which was orally, pronounced. In the District Court, Holmes sought review, however "[i]t is well-established that 'once a valid judgment and sentence have been signed, the court imposing that sentence [has] no jurisdiction to vacate or modify it except as provided by statute.'" Holmes, ¶ 6 (quoting State v. Hanners, 254 Mont. 524, 526, 839 P.2d 1267, 1268 (1992)). He then sought habeas corpus relief without adequately explaining his issues to allow our review. Holmes v. Guyer, No. OP 19-0381, Order denying petition for a writ of habeas corpus (Mont. Jul. 16, 2019).

         Holmes's sentence is unlawful because the written judgment does not match the oral pronouncement. Section 46-18-116, MCA. Moreover, the written judgment has an unlawful effect. The issue arises of '"whether that portion of the written judgment substantively increases one of two things: (1) the defendant's loss of liberty; and (2) the defendant's sacrifice of property.'" Holmes, ¶ 6, (citing State v. Johnson, 2000 MT 290, ¶ 24, 302 Mont. 265, 14 P.3d 480). Here, the portion of the written judgment in Cause No. DC-2015-14 substantively increases Holmes's loss of liberty by almost a decade in prison.

         A writ of habeas corpus is available to inquire into the cause of restraint to determine whether it is illegal. Section 46-22-101(1), MCA. We conclude that Holmes has demonstrated that he has an illegal sentence and, thereby, illegal incarceration. In light of the foregoing, when one portion of the sentence is illegal, it is better to remand the matter. State v. Heafner, 2010 MT 87, ¶ 11, 356 Mon.t 128, 231 P.3d 1087. To reach the oral pronouncement of "40 years MSP, with all suspended but 20 years and 50 days," the District Court will enter an amended judgment in Cause No. DC-2015-14 to reflect the following:

IT IS FURTHER THE JUDGMENT OF THIS COURT that on counts SEVEN, EIGHT, NINE, TEN, ELEVEN, TWELVE, THIRTEEN, FOURTEEN, FIFTEEN AND SIXTEEN, the Defendant is sentenced to the Montana State Prison for two (2) years on each count to run consecutively to one another, consecutive to counts TWO, THREE, FOUR, FIVE and SIX, concurrently with COUNT ONE and concurrently with the Defendant's Mineral County cause number DC-1987-546. On counts TWELVE through SIXTEEN, all but ten (10) days on each count arc suspended. Count SEVEN through Count SIXTEEN shall be suspended, but for five (5) days on each count.

         Therefore, IT IS ORDERED that Holmes's Petition for a Writ of Habeas Corpus is GRANTED in part and his criminal case. Cause No. DC-2015-14, is REMANDED to the Fourth Judicial District Court, Mineral County, to issue an amended judgment to ...


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