This case arises out of Jefferson County, Alabama, Ex Parte Sturdivant. This case involves an appeal from the Court of Criminal Appeals in regards to a Rule 32 petition. Rule 32 of the Alabama Rules of Criminal Procedure provides a method for defendants to challenge their conviction in a trial court. Therefore, in order to apply Rule 32 one must be convicted of a crime and are seeking post-conviction relief. Rule 32 is most commonly used when new evidence is discovered, that, had it been know, would have likely changed the outcome of the case. However, Rule 32 is subject to many strict limitations.
Here, Sturdivant (“petitioner”) raised an issue challenging the sentencing court’s jurisdiction. The petitioner raised this jurisdictional issue, for the first time, in a brief submitted to the Court of Criminal Appeals. Accordingly, the Court of Criminal Appeals confirmed the sentencing courts order, which denied the petitioner his Rule 32 petition. The petitioner then filed a petition to the Alabama Supreme Court for writ of certiorari.
The Alabama Supreme Court denied the writ of certiorari. The Court noted that all jurisdiction issues may be raised at anytime in proceedings before the Court, but appellate courts will not remand the case to the circuit court for an evidentiary hearing on a jurisdictional claim not raised in the petitioners Rule 32 petition. Fincher v. State, 837 So. 2d 876, 881 (Ala. Crim. App. 2002). However, if the petitioner can show from the facts in the record that there is an affirmative showing of a lack of jurisdiction then the petitioner may prevail and get the case remanded to the circuit court.
In this case, there was no such evidence in the record that demonstrated an affirmative lack of jurisdiction to sentence the petitioner; therefore, the Court denied the Rule 32. The Court denied the petition due to the fact that the petition lacked any jurisdictional claim and because there was no affirmative showing of a lack of jurisdiction on the record. Additionally, a court a criminal proceeding is presumed to have jurisdiction, whether or not there are recitals in its record to show it. 22A C.J.S. Criminal Law § 702 (1989). Essentially, the Court focused on how there was no affirmative showing of a jurisdictional defect in the record.
The Court noted that if the petitioner’s claim is jurisdictional in nature, then the petitioner could file another Rule 32 petition. However, this Rule 32 petition must contain the correct jurisdictional pleadings; if so, then the petition would not be subject to the strict procedural bars in Rule 32. This would allow the petitioner to present evidence to prove his claim regarding jurisdiction.
Setting aside a guilty verdict is difficult, but it is not impossible if
the person has legitimate grounds for a Rule 32 Petition. It is important
to remember that Rule 32 is subject to strict technical rules and should
be handled by an experienced appellant attorney. My office will be glad
to review your case and see if there are any legal arguments to have your
If you are someone you know want to challenge their criminal conviction, contact Birmingham criminal defense attorney Joseph A. Ingram or Ingram Law LLC at (205) 335-2640.