Jones v. Keller, 364 N.C. 249 (Aug. 27, 2010)

The trial court erred by granting the petitioner habeas corpus relief from incarceration on the grounds that he had accumulated various credits against his life sentence, imposed on September 27, 1976. The petitioner had argued that when his good time, gain time, and merit time were credited to his life sentence, which was statutorily defined as a sentence of 80 years, he was entitled to unconditional release. The court rejected that argument, concluding that DOC allowed credits to the petitioner’s sentence only for limited purposes that did not include calculating an unconditional release date. DOC had asserted that it recorded gain and merit time for the petitioner in the event that his sentence was commuted, at which time they would be applied to calculate a release date; DOC asserted that good time was awarded solely to allow him to move to the least restrictive custody grade and to calculate a parole eligibility date. The court found that the limitations imposed by DOC on these credits were statutorily and constitutionally permissible and that, therefore, the petitioner’s detention was lawful. The court also rejected the petitioner’s ex post facto and equal protection arguments.