Justia Mississippi Supreme Court Opinion Summaries

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In 2017, the Union County Sheriff’s Department seized six horses, four cats and three dogs belonging to Michael Dancy. The Justice Court of Union County found Dancy guilty of three counts of animal cruelty and ordered the permanent forfeiture of Dancy’s animals. Dancy appealed to the Circuit Court of Union County, where a bench trial was held de novo. The circuit court ordered that the animals be permanently forfeited and found Dancy guilty of three counts of animal cruelty. The circuit court further ordered Dancy to reimburse the temporary custodian of the horses $39,225 for care and boarding costs incurred during the pendency of the forfeiture and animal-cruelty proceedings. Aggrieved, Dancy appealed to the Mississippi SUpreme Court. Finding the forfeiture and reimbursement orders supported by substantial evidence, the Supreme Court affirmed. Furthermore, the Court found the circuit court did not abse its discretion in allowing a veterinarian testify for the State. The Supreme Court affirmed Dancy’s conviction under Section 97-41-7, and Section 97-41- 16(2)(a) that coincided with Union County Justice Court Arrest Warrant 7036216. However, the Court found Section 97-41-16(2)(a) made Dancy’s cruelty to his dogs and cats one offense. As a result, Dancy’s second conviction under Section 97-41-16(2)(a) that coincides with Union County Justice Court Arrest Warrant 7036219 was vacated. View "Dancy v. Mississippi" on Justia Law

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The lessee of commercially used Sixteenth Section Land sought to prevent the leasing school board from adjusting the annual rent outside the time constraints of the lease. While the terms of the lease appeared to contain a clear time restriction within which the Board did not act, the Mississippi Supreme Court determined the restriction could not be enforced. The restriction ran contrary to the statutory requirement that rent “shall be adjusted not less than once every ten (10) years . . . .” Miss. Code Ann. sec. 29-3-69 (Rev. 2010). Further, a school board’s duty as trustee to assure adequate consideration is received based on current fair market value of the Sixteenth Section Land cannot be waived, even by mutual agreement in a contract. For those reasons, the Supreme Court concluded the chancellor did not err by denying the lessee’s motion for a declaratory judgment that the school board was precluded from adjusting the rent based on the time restrictions in the lease. View "Oak Grove Marketplace, LLC v. Lamar County School District" on Justia Law

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In March 2018, Renaulta Mayze, Markhail Mayze, and Tydarius Sago (“Mayze”) were involved in a vehicle collision with Casey Weir. Mayze filed suit alleging that the collision had occurred in Hinds County. Weir filed a motion to dismiss or, in the alternative, to transfer venue, alleging that the collision had occurred in Madison County. After review, the Mississippi Supreme Court found that the trial judge abused her discretion in denying the motion to transfer venue. The Supreme Court reversed the trial court’s decision and remanded the case to the Hinds County County Court to be transferred to the Madison County County Court. View "Weir v. Mayze" on Justia Law

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A jury found Willie Nash guilty of possession of a cell phone in a correctional facility. Nash did not appeal the jury’s verdict; he challenged only the twelve year sentence he received. He claimed the twelve-year sentence was grossly disproportionate to the crime and thus violated the Eighth Amendment. Though harsh, the Mississippi Supreme Court found Nash’s sentence fell within the statutory range of three to fifteen years. And the judge based his sentencing decision on the seriousness of Nash’s crime and evidence of Nash’s criminal history. Because Nash has not shown that a threshold comparison of the crime committed to the sentence imposed leads to an inference of gross disproportionality, no further analysis was mandated, and the Court affirmed the sentence. View "Nash v. Mississippi" on Justia Law

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A jury found Dante Taylor guilty of first-degree murder for the death of his uncle Willie Lee Taylor. Dante appealed, and the Court of Appeals affirmed his conviction and sentence. Dante petitioned for the Mississippi Supreme Court's review, challenging the Court of Appeals’ decision to affirm the trial court’s grant of a pre-arming jury instruction. Granting certiorari, the Supreme Court held that the trial court’s decision to grant this instruction constituted reversible error. Accordingly, it reversed the decision of the Court of Appeals, and remanded the case to the Circuit Court for a new trial. Furthermore, the Supreme Court held that pre-arming instructions would no longer be permitted in criminal trials in Mississippi. View "Taylor v. Mississippi" on Justia Law

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Corey Moore disappeared from his trial after the court refused to grant him a continuance. He was convicted in abstentia and sentenced to twenty-five years as a habitual offender. On appeal, Moore argued he received ineffective assistance of counsel and that the trial court erred by not ordering a competency hearing, sua sponte, based on Moore’s diagnosis of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and vague, general assertions about Moore’s mental state from lay witnesses. After review, the Mississippi Supreme Court determined Moore based the ineffective-assistance-of-counsel claims on facts outside the record; thus, those claims were suitable only for postconviction review, not direct appeal. Furthermore, the Court found no basis to doubt the trial judge’s finding that Moore’s absence from the trial was “willful, voluntary, and deliberate.” View "Moore v. Mississippi" on Justia Law

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Robert Sheffield was injured on the job while working for S.J. Louis Construction (S.J. Louis). Sheffield filed a petition to contravert, and the administrative law judge (AJ) awarded Sheffield permanent-partial disability benefits. S.J. Louis appealed the decision to the full Mississippi Workers’ Compensation Commission (Commission), and the Commission reversed this finding, concluding that Sheffield did not suffer any additional disability from the 2015 injury than that caused by a 2010 injury. Sheffield appealed, and the Court of Appeals reversed the Commission’s decision. S.J. Louis filed a petition for writ of certiorari with the Mississippi Supreme Court. Because the Supreme Court found, after review, that the Commission’s decision was supported by substantial evidence, it reinstated and affirmed that decision. View "Sheffield v. S.J. Louis Construction Inc." on Justia Law

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Following a heavy rain on April 2-3, 2017, several homes in the Mill Creek Place Subdivision in Rankin County, Mississippi flooded and were damaged. Several homeowners, whose homes had been damaged, sued the County for failing to properly maintain Mill Creek, which is adjacent to the Mill Creek Place Subdivision. Rankin County filed a Mississippi Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6) motion to dismiss the complaint. The trial court granted Rankin County’s motion, finding that Rankin County was immune from liability—specifically discretionary function immunity—under the Mississippi Tort Claims Act. The homeowners appealed, arguing that Rankin County is not immune. The Mississippi Supreme Court reversed. Taking all of the allegations of the plaintiffs’ complaint as true, Rankin County’s alleged failure to maintain Mill Creek was a case of simple negligence, and "such maintenance decisions do not involve policy considerations." The Court therefore determined the trial court erred by dismissing the complaint based on discretionary function immunity. View "Moses v. Rankin County" on Justia Law

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In 1988, Douglas Long, Jr. married Catherine A. Long. After the couple divorced, Douglas, a Mississippi resident, sued Pennsylvania resident David Vitkauskas, alleging alienation of affections. Douglas claimed that Vitkauskas’s wrongful and adulterous actions irreparably injured his marriage with Catherine. Douglas alleged that Vitkauskas’s intentional, wrongful conduct proximately caused his divorce. Vitkauskas responded with a motion to dismiss for lack of personal jurisdiction. The trial court granted Vitkauskas’s motion and dismissed Douglas’s complaint. Douglas appealed, arguing that the trial court erred by finding that Vitkauskas was not subject to personal jurisdiction and, alternatively, by refusing to allow limited discovery pertaining to personal jurisdiction. Finding no error, the Mississippi Supreme Court affirmed. View "Long v. Vitkauskas" on Justia Law

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Darren Lee Wharton was found guilty by a jury of capital murder in 1995 for the shooting death of Danny McCugh during the commission of a robbery. The crime occurred on July 17, 1994, when Wharton was seventeen years of age. Wharton was granted leave by the Mississippi Supreme Court to the proceed with a motion for post-conviction relief (PCR) based on Miller v. Alabama, 567 U.S. 460 (2012), and Montgomery v. Louisiana, 136 S. Ct. 718 (2016). The trial court vacated Wharton’s life- without-parole sentence for capital murder and granted Wharton a Miller sentencing hearing. The trial court denied Wharton’s request that a jury make the Miller determination, stating that “the sentencing authority is the trial court.” Following the Miller hearing, the trial court resentenced Wharton to life in prison without parole. The Court of Appeals reversed Wharton’s sentence and remanded the case to the trial court, instructing that “Wharton’s Miller resentencing should be decided by a jury, not the trial court, because Wharton was convicted and sentenced under [Mississippi Code Section] 99-19-101 that prescribes sentencing solely by a jury.” The State petitioned for a writ of certiorari, which was granted. The Supreme Court found Wharton was not entitled to have a Miller resentencing hearing in front of a new jury because Section 99-19-101 was complied with at the original sentencing proceeding. Accordingly, it reversed the Court of Appeals’ decision. Further, although the Court of Appeals did not reach the question, the Supreme Court found no abuse of discretion in the trial court’s decision not to resentence Wharton to life in prison with the possibility of parole. Accordingly, the Court reinstated and affirmed. View "Wharton v. Mississippi" on Justia Law