STATE OF MISSOURI ex rel. TREVOR GRIFFITH, Petitioner,
ANNE PRECYTHE, JULIE KEMPKER, AND KENNY JONES, Respondents.
ORIGINAL PROCEEDING IN HABEAS CORPUS
W. Draper III, Judge.
Griffith (hereinafter, "Griffith") filed a petition
for a writ of habeas corpus, seeking an immediate release
from custody and his return to the circuit court to be
discharged from probation. Griffith argues the circuit court
exceeded its authority after revoking and terminating his
second term of probation and was without authority to execute
this case was briefed, argued, and submitted, Griffith was
released from his incarceration and discharged from parole.
This Court exercises its discretion to not dismiss this
appeal as moot. The circuit court erred in placing Griffith
on a third term of probation. When a circuit court places a
defendant on an erroneous third term of probation, the case
should be remanded back to that point in time to determine
the proper course of the defendant's sentence. However,
since Griffith has been released and discharged, he should
not be returned to custody to make this determination.
and Procedural Background
December 2010, Griffith pleaded guilty to one count of felony
distribution, delivery, or sale of a controlled substance.
The circuit court suspended imposition of Griffith's
sentence and placed him on a five-year term of probation.
probation was revoked in October 2011, and the circuit court
sentenced him to five years in prison and placed him into a
120-day institutional treatment program. Pursuant to section
559.115, RSMo Supp. 2005, the circuit court retained
jurisdiction for the 120-day period. Following Griffith's
completion of the treatment program, the circuit court placed
Griffith on a second five-year probationary term, beginning
in February 2012.
February 2013, the circuit court revoked Griffith's
probation. The circuit court then placed Griffith on a third
term of probation for five years.
probation was revoked again in November 2014. The circuit
court imposed and executed a five-year term of imprisonment.
March 2017, Griffith filed a petition for a writ of habeas
corpus with the circuit court asserting the court exceeded
its authority in imposing a third term of probation. The
circuit court denied Griffith relief. Griffith petitioned and
was denied relief by the court of appeals.
then petitioned this Court for habeas corpus relief,
requesting this Court order his unconditional release from
confinement and amend his conviction record to reflect his
discharge from probation. This Court issued a writ of habeas
threshold determination in any appellate review is whether
the controversy is moot. Grzybinski v. Dir. of
Revenue, 479 S.W.3d 742, 745 (Mo. App. E.D. 2016).
"When an event occurs that makes a court's decision
unnecessary or makes granting effectual relief by the court
impossible, the case is moot and generally should be
dismissed." Id. (quoting Kinsky v.
Steiger, 109 S.W.3d 194, 195 (Mo. App. E.D. 2003)).
there are two exceptions to the mootness doctrine: (1) where
the case becomes moot after it has been argued and submitted,
and (2) where the case presents an unsettled legal issue of
public interest and importance of a recurring nature that
will escape review unless the court exercises its
discretionary jurisdiction. State ex rel. Peters-Baker v.
Round, 561 S.W.3d 380, 384-85 (Mo. banc 2018). "If
either of these exceptions exist, an appellate court may
choose to exercise its discretion to decide the case,
notwithstanding that it has become moot." Id.
this case was heard and submitted, this Court requested
counsel of record to file confirmation of Griffith's
incarceration and parole status. Griffith was released from
custody and discharged from parole at the end of February
2019. Griffith is no longer incarcerated and has been
discharged from parole. While the case appears to be moot
because Griffith is no longer restrained of his liberty and
has completed his sentence, counsel agree this Court should
reach the underlying merits of this case, rather than issue a
dismissal, because the first exception to the mootness