In Bellamy v. State, the Georgia Supreme Court vacated the defendant’s sentence of life without the possibility of parole.
The Court held that the sentence was not authorized because the particular recidivist statute in effect when the defendant was convicted could not be applied to a capital felony such as malice murder.
The record showed that in 1998, the defendant was convicted of one count of murder and two counts related to the possession of a firearm. He was sentenced as a recidivist to life without the possibility of parole on the murder count. His convictions were affirmed on appeal. In 2013, the defendant filed a motion to vacate the sentence on the grounds that the sentence was void.
Under Georgia law, while a court’s jurisdiction to modify or vacate a sentence is generally only for up to one year from the date of sentencing, “a sentencing court has jurisdiction to vacate a void sentence at any time.” The Georgia Supreme Court has previously held that a sentence is void if a court imposes punishment which the law does not allow.
The Court pointed out that, the particular recidivist statute in effect at the time of sentencing (O.C.G.A. § 17-10-7 (c) (2009)) “specifically excluded its provisions from applying to a capital felony such as malice murder.” As a result, the Court held that this statute did not authorize the sentence, and the trial court did not have the authority to impose it. As such, the defendant’s sentence of life without the possibility of parole was void. The Court vacated the sentence and the case was remanded to the trial court for resentencing.
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