Ex Parte Seymour, 1050597.

CourtSupreme Court of Alabama
Writing for the CourtNabers
Citation946 So.2d 536
PartiesEx parte Christopher Jacques SEYMOUR. In re Christopher Jacques Seymour v. State of Alabama.
Decision Date30 June 2006
Docket Number1050597.
946 So.2d 536
Ex parte Christopher Jacques SEYMOUR.
In re Christopher Jacques Seymour
v.
State of Alabama.
1050597.
Supreme Court of Alabama.
June 30, 2006.

Christopher Jacques Seymour, pro se.

Troy King, atty. gen., and Kevin C. Newsom, deputy atty. gen., and Stephanie N. Morman, asst. atty. gen., for respondent.

NABERS, Chief Justice.


The issue presented in this case is whether a conviction is void for lack of subject-matter jurisdiction because the indictment charging the offense omitted an element of the offense. We hold that it is not.

I.

On November 8, 2001, Christopher Jacques Seymour opened fire on a group of five men somewhere in Randolph County. One of the five, Kevin Turner, was shot in his leg below the knee. As Turner retreated into his house, the gunfire continued, and some of the bullets entered Turner's house. Turner's wife and three-year-old son were inside the house.

Seymour was convicted of second-degree assault, § 13A-6-21, Ala.Code 1975, and of shooting into an occupied dwelling, § 13A-11-61, Ala.Code 1975. The Court of Criminal Appeals affirmed those convictions on direct appeal, without an opinion. Seymour v. State [No. CR-02-1902], 910 So.2d 834 (Ala.Crim.App.2004) (table).

946 So.2d 537

On January 3, 2005, Seymour filed a Rule 32, Ala. R.Crim. P., petition for postconviction relief. The trial court denied the petition. The Court of Criminal Appeals affirmed the trial court's denial of Seymour's Rule 32 petition in an unpublished memorandum; Judge Cobb dissented from the memorandum affirmance with an opinion. Seymour v. State, 946 So.2d 535 (Ala.Crim.App.2005). In her dissent, Judge Cobb wrote:

"For the reasons I joined Judge Shaw's special writing in Sullens v. State, 878 So.2d 1216 (Ala.Crim.App. 2003)(Shaw, J., concurring in part and dissenting in part), I cannot agree with the conclusion in the unpublished memorandum that the indictment in this case, which failed to allege a culpable mental state, was sufficient to charge the offense of shooting into an occupied dwelling, a violation of § 13A-11-61, Ala.Code 1975."

We granted Seymour's petition for the writ of certiorari to determine whether the failure to allege a culpable mental state in the indictment charging Seymour with the offense of shooting into an occupied dwelling divested the trial court of jurisdiction over that offense.1

II.

Seymour argues that in order for him to be convicted of shooting into an occupied dwelling, the State was required to prove that he acted with a culpable mental state.2 The indictment charging Seymour with that offense failed to allege a culpable mental state. Seymour argues that this omission was a fatal jurisdictional error.

Our analysis begins with the grounds for preclusion of remedy in Rule 32.2, Ala. R.Crim. P. Seymour did not raise his defective-indictment claim at trial or on direct appeal. See Rule 32.2(a)(3) and (5), Ala. R.Crim. P. Rule 32.2 thus sharply limits the scope of our review.

"A petitioner will not be given relief under this rule based upon any ground:

"....

"(3) Which could have been but was not raised at trial, unless the ground for relief arises under Rule 32.1(b); or

"....

"(5) Which could have been but was not raised on appeal, unless the ground for relief arises under Rule 32.1(b)."

Rule 32.2(a), Ala. R.Crim. P. (emphasis added). The exception under Rule 32.1(b) is limited to claims that "[t]he [trial] court was without jurisdiction to render judgment or impose sentence."3

Seymour argues that his defective-indictment claim is jurisdictional and that it thus falls within the exception provided in Rule 32.2(a) for claims arising under Rule 32.1(b). Under current Alabama caselaw, he is correct. This Court has held that "[a] valid indictment is the source of the

946 So.2d 538

subject matter jurisdiction to try a contested criminal case." Ash v. State, 843 So.2d 213, 216 (Ala.2002). Although Ash is a recent decision, similar language can be found in opinions dating back, in at least one case, more than a century. Butler v. State, 130 Ala. 127, 30 So. 338 (1901); see also Kyser v. State, 22 Ala.App. 431, 117 So. 157 (1928). Alabama law has not always been clear as to which defects will invalidate an indictment, but this Court has expressly held that "[f]ailure to allege an essential element of the charged offense is a jurisdictional defect...." Ex parte Lewis, 811 So.2d 485, 487 (Ala.2001). Under Lewis, Seymour presents a jurisdictional claim.

In response, the State challenges the statement in Ash that a valid indictment is the source of a trial court's subject-matter jurisdiction. Instead, the State argues, a trial court derives its jurisdiction from the Alabama Constitution and the Alabama Code. We agree.

...

To continue reading

Request your trial
203 practice notes
  • Harris v. Gordy, Civil Action Number: 5:15-cv-01112-VEH-JEO
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 11th Circuit. United States District Court of Northern District of Alabama
    • 1 Noviembre 2017
    ...deprived the trial court of jurisdiction is simply wrong, as a matter of both Alabama state law and federal law. See Ex parte Seymour, 946 So. 2d 536, 537-39 (Ala. 2006) (an indictment's failure to allege a necessary element of mens rea is a non-jurisdictional defect under state law); Unite......
  • Williams v. State, CR–12–1862.
    • United States
    • Alabama Court of Criminal Appeals
    • 4 Abril 2014
    ...sentence, nothing in that decision implicates the jurisdiction of the circuit court to sentence Williams. See generally Ex parte Seymour, 946 So.2d 536 (Ala.2006).183 So.3d 202Nevertheless, Williams's claim—that he is constitutionally entitled to a new sentencing proceeding under Miller —is......
  • Hulsey v. State, CR–13–0357.
    • United States
    • Alabama Court of Criminal Appeals
    • 10 Julio 2015
    ...statute of limitations as to that offense. The State's position on rehearing, in essence, is based on the argument that Ex parte Seymour, 946 So.2d 536 (Ala.2006), and subsequent cases applying that decision have overruled, for all purposes, cases such as Zimlich, supra, that use the word “......
  • State v. Rankin, No. 23A18
    • United States
    • North Carolina United States State Supreme Court of North Carolina
    • 21 Diciembre 2018
    ...489 n.10 (Tenn. 2016) (citing Wayne LaFave et al., 821 S.E.2d 810 5 Crim. Proc. § 19.2(e) (4th ed. 2015) ); see also Ex parte Seymour , 946 So.2d 536, 538 (Ala. 2006) (listing states that reject the common law jurisdictional rule). Many of these states apply plain error review (or some mino......
  • Request a trial to view additional results
203 cases
  • Harris v. Gordy, Civil Action Number: 5:15-cv-01112-VEH-JEO
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 11th Circuit. United States District Court of Northern District of Alabama
    • 1 Noviembre 2017
    ...deprived the trial court of jurisdiction is simply wrong, as a matter of both Alabama state law and federal law. See Ex parte Seymour, 946 So. 2d 536, 537-39 (Ala. 2006) (an indictment's failure to allege a necessary element of mens rea is a non-jurisdictional defect under state law); Unite......
  • Williams v. State, CR–12–1862.
    • United States
    • Alabama Court of Criminal Appeals
    • 4 Abril 2014
    ...sentence, nothing in that decision implicates the jurisdiction of the circuit court to sentence Williams. See generally Ex parte Seymour, 946 So.2d 536 (Ala.2006).183 So.3d 202Nevertheless, Williams's claim—that he is constitutionally entitled to a new sentencing proceeding under Miller —is......
  • Hulsey v. State, CR–13–0357.
    • United States
    • Alabama Court of Criminal Appeals
    • 10 Julio 2015
    ...statute of limitations as to that offense. The State's position on rehearing, in essence, is based on the argument that Ex parte Seymour, 946 So.2d 536 (Ala.2006), and subsequent cases applying that decision have overruled, for all purposes, cases such as Zimlich, supra, that use the word “......
  • State v. Rankin, No. 23A18
    • United States
    • North Carolina United States State Supreme Court of North Carolina
    • 21 Diciembre 2018
    ...489 n.10 (Tenn. 2016) (citing Wayne LaFave et al., 821 S.E.2d 810 5 Crim. Proc. § 19.2(e) (4th ed. 2015) ); see also Ex parte Seymour , 946 So.2d 536, 538 (Ala. 2006) (listing states that reject the common law jurisdictional rule). Many of these states apply plain error review (or some mino......
  • Request a trial to view additional results

VLEX uses login cookies to provide you with a better browsing experience. If you click on 'Accept' or continue browsing this site we consider that you accept our cookie policy. ACCEPT