JACKSON, Mississippi (AP) — Mississippi inmate Milton Trotter isn’t giving up his campaign to get out of state prison.
After the case made the rounds of the federal courts, the Mississippi Court of Appeals in November declined to release Trotter from prison, rejecting arguments that he signed a plea deal with the understanding that state parole officials would free him once he was released from federal prison.
Now, Trotter has filed a motion asking the Appeals Court to look at his case again. The rehearing request, if denied, will allow Trotter to appeal to the Mississippi Supreme Court.
Trotter was serving concurrent sentences in the state and federal courts related to the 1981 slaying of a California woman he and two others kidnapped and brought to Mississippi.
Trotter had argued to the Court of Appeals that he had been paroled from his federal kidnapping sentence in 2011 and should have been released from state prison at the same time.
When the state didn’t parole him in 2011, Trotter argued his murder conviction should be tossed because the state violated the plea agreement.
The Court of Appeals found there was nothing in Trotter’s plea agreement, the sentencing order, or any other part of Trotter’s record submissions that shows he was promised parole on his Mississippi sentence if granted parole in the federal system.
“What is more, Mississippi’s parole mechanism is permissive, not mandatory, so the judge could not have bound the Parole Board. Instead, our review shows Trotter got just the sentence he bargained for in his murder case — a concurrent life sentence,” the Appeals Court said.
In his new motion, Trotter again argues the agreement in exchange for the plea to the state murder charge was that once Trotter was not serving a federal sentence he would be a totally free person, except for federal parole.
“The State should release Trotter or the guilty plea should be vacated and the parties start anew at resolving the charge of murder,” Trotter’s attorney argues in court documents.
Prosecutors said there was nothing in the trial record about a plea agreement.
Trotter and others pleaded guilty in 1981 to federal kidnapping charges and state murder charges in Lauderdale County in the death of Gail Allen. In sentencing documents, all three said Allen was killed in a motel in Laurel, Mississippi, and her body was dumped in Lauderdale County, where the murder charges were filed and prosecuted.
Trotter was sentenced to life in prison for kidnapping and life for murder. Documents show the sentences were to be served concurrently in a federal prison.
In 2003, a state circuit judge denied a post-conviction petition by Trotter, saying it wasn’t filed within the three-year period allowed by law. Even if Trotter’s petition had been filed on time, the judge said Trotter failed to show he had new information that might result in a different trial outcome.
Trotter’s petition was rejected by a state appeals court in 2005 and a federal judge in 2006. Further federal appeals were filed, leading to a 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals order in 2013 returning the case to state court.