Fair v. State

Decision Date05 December 1990
Docket NumberNo. 89-KA-0928,89-KA-0928
Citation571 So.2d 965
PartiesJohn Wesley FAIR v. STATE of Mississippi.
CourtMississippi Supreme Court

Richard B. Lewis, Chapman Lewis & Swan, Clarksdale, for appellant.

Mike C. Moore, Atty. Gen., W. Glenn Watts, Sp. Asst. Atty. Gen., Jackson, for appellee.


ROBERTSON, Justice, for the Court:

John Wesley Fair stands convicted in the Circuit Court of Coahoma County of the crime of arson in connection with the burning of the dwelling house of Gloria Ross Holmes, upon which he has been sentenced to seven years imprisonment. Fair perfected no appeal within thirty (30) days of the judgment imposing sentence. Rule 4(e), Miss.Sup.Ct.Rules. He now proceeds under the Mississippi Uniform Collateral Post-Conviction Relief Act and demands an out-of-time appeal. Rule 22, Miss.Sup.Ct.Rules; Miss.Code Ann. Sec. 99-39-5(1)(h) (Supp.1990). The Circuit Court denied his application, and Fair now appeals to this Court.

We affirm.

John Wesley Fair was 19 years of age when, on February 6, 1989, the Circuit Court entered its final judgment of conviction and imposition of sentence. He had completed eleven grades in school and, insofar as the record reflects, is of normal intelligence.

The evidence shows that, within a day or two after his conviction, Fair talked with his attorney, Charles E. Webster of Clarksdale, Mississippi, regarding an appeal. Fair says he told Webster he wanted an appeal. Webster tells the story otherwise. Webster says that, in his first post-sentence visit with Fair, he was fully anticipating that Fair would ask for an appeal. Webster is experienced in criminal defense practice and says that most of the defendants he represents who are found guilty want an appeal. He says that he was quite surprised when Fair indicated that he did not want to take an appeal. Webster insists that he fully discussed the matter with Fair at the time and then advised Fair that, if he wished to waive an appeal, he would have to do so in writing.

On February 14, 1989, Webster conferred with Fair at the Coahoma County Jail and again advised him of his right to appeal. Fair once again said that he did not want an appeal. Webster then presented Fair with an affidavit, reciting that Fair understood his legal right to appeal and desired to waive such. The bottom line of the affidavit is

... that John Fair has discussed this waiver fully with his attorney ... Charles E. Webster.... After numerous discussions with said attorney, the said John Fair still desires to waive his right to an appeal.

Webster testified that he read the affidavit to Fair. Fair concedes as much. Webster says that he explained the affidavit to Fair in layman's terms to be sure that Fair understood its import.

Fair then signed the affidavit in the presence of a notary public and his signature was witnessed by Webster, who thereafter filed it with the Circuit Court.

Of course, at the time the waiver was wholly revocable. Rule 4(e), Miss.Sup.Ct.Rules, provides that an appeal may be perfected by giving notice within thirty (30) days, and there is no question but that Fair would have a perfected appeal if he had given notice within thirty (30) days notwithstanding the waiver he executed on February 14. The problem is that March 8, 1989--the thirtieth (30th) day under the Rules--came and passed without event. The next matter appearing of record is Fair's March 28, 1989, motion for an out-of-time appeal, which, the Circuit Court correctly treated as an application under the PCR Act, Section 99-39-5(1)(h). This application came fifty (50) days after the judgment of conviction and sentence which first triggered the running of time upon Fair's right to appeal.

In cases such as this we hold that the defendant is required to prove by a preponderance of the evidence that within the time for giving notice of appeal--thirty (30) days from final judgment--he asked his attorney to appeal and that his attorney, through no fault of the defendant, failed to perfect an appeal. See Barnett v. State, 497 So.2d 443, 444 (Miss.1986). The Circuit Court held an evidentiary hearing for the purpose of resolving these factual questions. At this hearing, Fair appeared as a witness and testified, in substance, that he never agreed to waive an appeal and that at all times he insisted to Webster that he wanted an appeal. Fair admits that Webster came to the jail and read the affidavit to him, but he insists that he did not understand it. In fact, Fair insists to this day that he does not understand the meaning of the word "waive." Fair claims that, after Webster's visit, he attempted repeatedly to place telephone calls to Webster to inquire about his appeal, that Webster finally came to the jail to see him in late March of 1989, at which time he asked Webster about his appeal, and Webster replied that he had waived the right to appeal. It was following this meeting that Webster prepared and filed the motion for out-of-time appeal, which has given rise to the present proceedings.

Webster acknowledges that he received a telephone message through his secretary that Fair wanted to talk to him "Re: an appeal." New counsel for Fair, the District Attorney, and the Circuit Court all carefully interrogated Webster regarding the date of this notice. Webster conceded that it was possible that he received the notice prior to March 8, the deadline under our thirty (30) day rule. He stated that, in his opinion, it was far more likely that the notice came in on or about March 18, 1989. He acknowledges that it was several days thereafter that he went to see Fair and that he did not consider the matter urgent because, in his mind, Fair had waived his appeal. At the end of the evidentiary hearing, the Circuit Court found

... that Mr. Fair was advised of his right to appeal, advised of the time limit within which that appeal had to be...

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34 cases
  • Ross v. State
    • United States
    • Mississippi Court of Appeals
    • 11 Agosto 2009
    ...demands' to allow an out-of-time appeal in criminal cases." McGruder v. State, 886 So.2d 1, 2(¶ 4) (Miss.2003) (citing Fair v. State, 571 So.2d 965, 966 (Miss.1990)).6 While we find no circumstances that would indicate good cause in this case, the result of dismissing this appeal for lack o......
  • Griffin v. State, 2014–KA–01335–COA
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    • 17 Abril 2018
    ...appeal must, at the very least, show that the failure timely to perfect an appeal was through no fault of his own." Fair v. State , 571 So.2d 965, 967 (Miss. 1990).¶ 80. There is not a scintilla of evidence in this record—and Griffin does not allege in her PCR petition—that after the March ......
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