LIMESTONE COUNTY, Ala (WHNT) — Prosecutors have from the Alabama Attorney General’s office have moved to dismiss an appeal petition by former Limestone County Sheriff Mike Blakely.
Blakely reported for his three-year prison sentence for theft and ethics charges on Feb. 24, but his attorneys have filed a Rule 32 petition in an attempt to appeal his conviction. The Rule 32 process is separate from Blakely’s direct appeal — which was unsuccessful — and focuses on issues related to the defendant’s constitutional rights. Blakely’s lawyers have focused the appeal on retired Alabama Court of Appeals Judge Pamela Baschab’s status with the state bar association, saying she did not have an active license with the bar when Blakely was on trial in July 2021.
Blakely’s attorneys have claimed that that lack of proper license means Blakely should get a new trial. They argue the court did not have jurisdiction to render judgment and impose a sentence .
But in a motion filed Monday, prosecutors said the petition should be dismissed on both procedural grounds and also called a Blakely claim “legally and factually meritless.”
The state said that Blakely’s claims fail procedurally largely because they could have been raised at trial or during his direct appeal but they were not. The state said that Blakely could have discovered the issue with Baschab’s license during the trial and brought it up there, but failed to do so.
“Alabama law holds that a Rule 32 petitioner ‘will not be given relief under this rule based upon any ground . . . which could have been but was not raised at trial unless the ground for relief arises under Rule 32.1(b),'” the state argued in its filing.
The state said that instead, Blakely took a year to bring up the issue.
“Yet after Blakely’s conviction, sentencing and denial of his motion for a new trial, Blakely took issue with Judge Baschab’s qualifications for the first time,” the state said. “Specifically, Blakely moved the trial court to set aside his convictions and the sentencing order, because he alleged that Judge Baschab’s license with the Alabama State Bare was inactive during his trial.”
The state said the license issue could have been found by anyone with an internet connection at any point during the trial.
The filing also argues that Alabama case law allows for judges to be appointed in a case even if they may not fit every qualification mentioned in statute law.
“As stated previously, Gwin v. State held that a criminal conviction and sentence imposed by an appointed judge who did not properly reside in the county to which he was appointed (as required by statute) was nonetheless valid because the judge had de facto authority under Alabama law and the defendant did not object at trial,” the filing says.
The state also offered a general denial of Blakely’s second claim.
“The State rejects Blakely’s contention that a voluntary decision to not pay Bar dues means that an active supernumerary judge—who had been admitted to the Alabama State Bar— and who can be called into service by the Chief Justice of the Alabama Supreme Court at any time, could not serve when so called,” the state said.
The state ultimately asked the court that the appeal petition be summarily dismissed.