Henderson v. State

Citation170 So.3d 547
Decision Date02 September 2014
Docket NumberNo. 2013–CA–00387–COA.,2013–CA–00387–COA.
CourtCourt of Appeals of Mississippi
PartiesMartez C. HENDERSON a/k/a Martez Henderson, Appellant v. STATE of Mississippi, Appellee.

170 So.3d 547

Martez C. HENDERSON a/k/a Martez Henderson, Appellant
STATE of Mississippi, Appellee.

No. 2013–CA–00387–COA.

Court of Appeals of Mississippi.

Sept. 2, 2014.

170 So.3d 548

Michael T. Dawkins, Jackson, attorney for appellant.

Office of the Attorney General by Brad Smith, attorney for appellee.



IRVING, P.J., for the Court:

¶ 1. Henderson pleaded guilty to kidnapping I.H., a four-year-old child, whom he was raising as his own and whom he believed to be his own daughter. By judgment entered on September 2, 2009, he was convicted and sentenced to a five-year term of imprisonment in the custody of the Mississippi Department of Corrections, with four years and four months suspended, and five years of supervised probation. On August 31, 2012, Henderson filed a motion to set aside his conviction. The trial court found that the motion was timely filed, but denied it as being procedurally barred because it raised a defense—in loco parentis—that could have been raised at Henderson's guilty-plea hearing. This timely appeal followed.

¶ 2. We find the factual basis for the guilty plea insufficient and reverse the judgment of the circuit court denying Henderson's motion for post-conviction relief (PCR) and remand this case for further proceedings consistent with this opinion.


¶ 3. While Henderson was a freshman at Rust College in Holly Springs, Mississippi, a young lady he was dating became pregnant. Believing he was the father, Henderson dropped out of college and

170 So.3d 549

joined the United States Air Force to provide for his new family. Although they planned to marry before the child was born, the delivery occurred early while Henderson was still in basic training. He was unable to be present at the birth and, although I.H. was given his last name, no father's name was listed on the birth certificate. Henderson and I.H.'s mother were married on May 28, 2004.

¶ 4. Henderson raised I.H. as his daughter, claiming her and I.H.'s mother as his dependents on his military-benefits paperwork, and lived with them on base in Louisiana. At one point, I.H.'s mother left her with Henderson and returned home to Canton, Mississippi, to live with her mother. During this period, Henderson's mother moved from Michigan to Louisiana to help him care for I.H. I.H.'s mother returned at some point and took I.H. back to Mississippi with her. Although Henderson and I.H.'s mother were having marital difficulties and living apart, no custody agreement was entered concerning I.H.

¶ 5. In November 2008, Henderson visited I.H. in Canton, where they stayed at a local hotel. As he prepared to dress her for school the following day, he became upset when he discovered that she did not have any clean clothes. He then decided to take her back to his home in Louisiana. I.H.'s mother called the Madison County Sheriff's Office, and the sheriff's office contacted Henderson by phone. Henderson explained that he planned to seek a divorce and custody of I.H. and that he did not intend to return her to her mother. Upon learning that Henderson and I.H.'s mother were married and that there was no custody decree awarding sole physical custody to the mother, the sheriff's office took no further action.

¶ 6. Shortly thereafter, however, United States marshals arrested Henderson for kidnapping. He was unable to make bond and remained in jail from the time of his arrest in November 2008 until August 31, 2009, when he pleaded guilty to kidnapping pursuant to a plea agreement. What transpired at the guilty-plea hearing will be discussed hereafter.


¶ 7. The Mississippi Supreme Court has announced the applicable standard of review when a circuit court denies a petitioner's PCR motion:

When reviewing a lower court's decision to deny a petition for post [-] conviction relief[,] [an appellate court] will not disturb the trial court's factual findings unless they are found to be clearly erroneous. However, where questions of law are raised[,] the applicable standard of review is de novo.

Brown v. State, 731 So.2d 595, 598 (¶ 6) (Miss.1999) (internal citation omitted).


¶ 8. Henderson was indicted for kidnapping I.H. in violation of Mississippi Code Annotated section 97–3–53 (Supp.2013), which provides: “Any person who, without lawful authority ..., shall forcibly seize ..., or shall inveigle or kidnap ... any child under the age of sixteen (16) years against the will of the parents or guardian or person having the lawful custody of the child” shall be guilty of kidnapping. (Emphasis added). Therefore, the State had to prove that when Henderson took I.H., he had no right to do so. Henderson testified at the PCR hearing that, at the time he took I.H. to Louisiana, he believed that he was her biological father,1 and the State offered no evidence tending to disprove

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Henderson's testimony. All of Henderson's actions following his learning that his future wife was pregnant certainly support the sincerity and reasonableness of his belief. For example, even after I.H.'s mother filed an affidavit stating that Henderson was not I.H.'s father, six months later, Henderson signed a joint complaint for divorce wherein he swore that he was I.H.'s father and agreed to pay child support for her.

¶ 9. The law is clear that absent a court decree denying him custody, a natural father cannot be convicted of kidnapping his own child. See State v. Powe, 107 Miss. 770, 776, 66 So. 207, 208 (1914). Furthermore, a person does not have to be the biological parent of a child to have legally recognizable rights concerning the child. In J.P.M. v. T.D.M., 932 So.2d 760, 765–70 (¶¶ 14–26) (Miss.2006), the Mississippi Supreme Court upheld a chancellor's ruling that a man who had been raising a child as his own should be given custody of the child despite the fact that another man was proven to be the biological father. In so ruling, the supreme court discussed with approval the doctrine of in loco parentis. Id. at 768–70 (¶¶ 20–26). In J.P.M, the court relied upon Griffith v. Pell, 881 So.2d 184 (Miss.2004). In Pell, during divorce proceedings, the husband, who had been raising the child as his own, discovered that he was not the child's father. Id. at 185 (¶ 2). The trial court held that he had no standing to pursue custody. Id. at (¶ 3). On appeal, the supreme court, in reversing the trial court's judgment, reaffirmed the doctrine of in loco parentis: “Any person who takes a child of another into his home and treats [the child] as a member of his family, providing parental supervision, support and education, as if [the child] were his own ... is said to stand in loco parentis.” Id. at 186 n. 1 (citations omitted).

¶ 10. In Thornhill v. Van Dan, 918 So.2d 725 (Miss.Ct.App.2005), we considered a custody dispute following the judgment of divorce. The wife, relying on a paternity test establishing that her former husband was not the biological father of the child, appealed a chancellor's ruling giving the former husband custody of the child. Id. at 729 (¶ 20). Although there was no reference to the doctrine of in loco parentis, we held that a man who raises a child as his own, in the belief that the child is his own, “obtains rights that cannot be subsequently relinquished unilaterally.”Id. at 733 (¶ 33).

¶ 11. In Byrd v. United States, 705 A.2d 629, 632 (D.C.1997), the court held that a stepparent who was acting in loco parentis was a parent within the meaning of a District of Columbia statute that excepted parents from the crime of kidnapping. The Byrd opinion relied in part upon United States v. Floyd, 81 F.3d 1517 (10th Cir.1996). In Floyd, the court considered the federal kidnapping statute, 18 U.S.C. § 1201(a)(1) (1988), which provided: “Whoever unlawfully seizes, confines, inveigles, decoys, kidnaps, abducts, or carries away and holds for ransom or reward or otherwise any person, except in the case of a minor by the parent thereof, when ... the person is willfully transported in interstate or foreign commerce” shall be guilty of kidnapping. (Emphasis added). Floyd, a fugitive from justice, developed a relationship with a woman who had a daughter. Floyd raised the daughter as his own child. The daughter later met a man, became pregnant by him, and gave birth to a child without the man's knowledge. Floyd, as a matter of convenience, married the daughter, and also raised the daughter's child as his own. Sometime following the marriage, the daughter died in a car accident. Floyd, 81 F.3d at 1520. Floyd relinquished custody of the child to the

170 So.3d 551

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  • Mason v. State, 2015–CP–00523–COA
    • United States
    • Court of Appeals of Mississippi
    • 30 Mayo 2017
    ...applied the exception in proceedings under the state Uniform Post–Conviction Collateral Relief Act (UPCCRA). See Henderson v. State , 170 So.3d 547, 553–54 (¶¶ 21–23) (Miss. Ct. App. 2014). However, "[i]t is important to note ... that ‘actual innocence’ means factual innocence, not mere leg......
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