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State v. Prince

Court of Appeals of Arizona, First Division, Department A

August 13, 2013

STATE OF ARIZONA, Appellee,
v.
LARRY JOSEPH PRINCE, Appellant.

Not for Publication Rule 28, Arizona Rules of Civil Appellate Procedure.

Appeal from the Superior Court in Maricopa County Cause No. CR0000-151033 The Honorable Daniel G. Martin, Judge

William G. Montgomery, Maricopa County Attorney, Diane Meloche, Deputy County Attorney Attorneys for Plaintiffs/Appellants

Larry Joe Prince, In Propria Persona Appellant

MEMORANDUM DECISION

JOHN C. GEMMILL, Judge

¶1 Larry Joseph Prince appeals from the trial court's order denying his petition for a writ of habeas corpus. For the following reasons, we affirm.

BACKGROUND

¶2 In April 1986, following a thirteen-day trial, a jury convicted Prince of first degree murder, and in May 1986, the court sentenced Prince to death. Prince filed a direct appeal and on April 6, 1989, the Arizona Supreme Court affirmed Prince's conviction but modified his sentence to "life imprisonment without possibility of parole for twenty-five years ." State v. Prince, 160 Ariz. 268, 276, 772 P.2d 1121, 1129 (1989). Further, the supreme court noted that because Prince had been previously sentenced to death, the trial court had not considered whether Prince's "sentence on the murder charge should be concurrent with or consecutive to" an earlier sentence imposed on him for a drug charge. Id. at 277, 772 P.2d at 1130. The supreme court thus remanded to the trial court "for the sole purpose of determining whether [Prince's] sentences should be concurrent or consecutive." Id.

¶3 On August 22, 1989, the trial court held a hearing and issued a minute entry referring to the supreme court "mandate" and listing Prince's sentence as "[l]ife imprisonment without the possibility of parole for 25 calendar years." The court also ruled that Prince's life sentence was to run concurrently with his sentence on the drug charge.

¶4 On October 24, 2012, Prince filed a writ of habeas corpus with the trial court alleging that his sentence had expired and he was being held in custody illegally. Prince alleges that during the hearing on August 22, 1989, the trial court verbally pronounced that he was to serve a life sentence, but described "life" as meaning that Prince would "be released from custody upon serving 25 calendar years imprisonment."

¶5 The trial court denied Prince's petition for habeas corpus relief without a hearing. The court stated that the supreme court in State v. Prince did not "remand for resentencing, " as Prince alleges in his petition, but rather modified his sentence to life without the possibility of parole for twenty-five years and remanded solely for resolution of the issue of whether his sentences should run concurrently or consecutively. The trial court further stated that "nothing the trial court may subsequently have said (even accepting [Prince's] assertions as true) changed that ruling" because the court lacked the authority to do so. Prince timely appeals and we have jurisdiction pursuant to A.R.S. § 12-2101(A)(11) (Supp. 2012). See also Ariz. Const. art 2, § 14.

ANALYSIS

¶6 In reviewing an appeal from the denial of a petition for a writ of habeas corpus, our review is limited to determining whether the trial court abused its discretion. Salstrom v. State, 148 Ariz. 382, 384, 714 P.2d 875, 877 (App. 1986). "An abuse of discretion includes an error of law." State v. Burgett, 226 Ariz. 85, 86, ¶ 1, 244 P.3d 89, 90 (App. 2010). We review issues of law de novo. State v. Smith, 215 Ariz. 221, 227, 14, 159 P.3d 531, 537 (2007).

¶7 Prince argues the trial court erred in rejecting his petition. He asserts that the twenty-five calendar year sentence he alleges the trial court pronounced was an "illegal sentence" because it conflicted with the sentence that the supreme court had imposed upon him and with the statute in effect at the time, which defined a life sentence as imprisonment "without possibility of parole until the completion of the service of twenty-five calendar years. . . ." A.R.S. § 13-703(A) (Supp. 1983-84). Prince argues that his understanding of his sentence is nonetheless effective because an oral pronouncement is controlling over a written minute entry and because the State did not appeal from it.[1] We disagree that the alleged oral description of the ...


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