Justia Mississippi Supreme Court Opinion Summaries

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Dex Hunter Stone was indicted for sexual battery and lustful touching of a child. A jury acquitted him of sexual battery but found him guilty of lustful touching of a child. The Circuit Court sentenced Stone to ten years in the custody of the Mississippi Department of Corrections with six years suspended and five years of probation. Stone appealed the denial of his motion for a new trial, arguing the verdict was against the overwhelming weight of the evidence and that newly discovered evidence entitled him to a new trial. Finding no reversible error, the Mississippi Supreme Court affirmed. View "Stone v. Mississippi" on Justia Law

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Michael Ray Jones was convicted by jury of aggravated assault. Jones appeals, arguing that the prosecution’s comments on his refusal to give a statement violated his constitutional right to remain silent. Additionally, Jones argues that it was plain error for the trial court to allow hearsay statements. A majority of the Mississippi Supreme Court concluded the State's comments on Jones' silence did not violate his right to remain silent, and any potential violation was cured by a sustained objection. Furthermore, the Court determined the admission of purportedly hearsay testimony did not amount to plain error. Therefore, the trial court's judgment was affirmed. View "Jones v. Mississippi" on Justia Law

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The chancery court tried this adoption case twice. After the first trial, the chancellor granted the adoption petition of the maternal grandparents, C.C.B. and S.R.B.; after the second trial, the chancellor granted the competing adoption petition of G.E.K. and G.R.K., the foster parents. The grandparents appealed, arguing for the first time that the chancery court lacked subject matter jurisdiction under the Mississippi Termination of Parental Rights Law (MTPRL) to terminate parental rights and adjudicate the adoption of S.A.B. Also, for the first time on appeal, they argued the chancery court lacked jurisdiction because it failed to order a home study as required by statute. After review, the Mississippi Supreme Court held the chancery court had jurisdiction under the MTPRL to accept the voluntary releases of parental rights filed by S.A.B.’s natural parents and to order S.A.B.’s adoption. Further, the Court held that, because the failure to order a home study did not implicate the chancery court’s subject matter jurisdiction, the issue could not be raised for the first time on appeal. Therefore, the Court affirmed. View "In the Matter of the Adoption of the Minor Identified in the Petition: C.C.B. and S.R.B. v. G.A.K. and G.R.K." on Justia Law

Posted in: Family Law
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Alan Dale Walker was convicted of the capital murder of Konya Edwards during the commission of sexual battery, for which he was sentenced to death. He also was convicted of forcible rape and kidnapping for which he was sentenced to thirty and thirty-five years, to run consecutively. On direct appeal, the Mississippi Supreme Court affirmed his convictions and sentences, and denied Walker’s application for leave to file a motion for post-conviction relief. Walker filed a successive motion, and the Court held that his post-conviction counsel had rendered ineffective assistance of counsel. The case was remanded back to the trial court for a hearing to determine whether Walker’s trial counsel had been ineffective under the standard set forth in Strickland v. Washington, 466 U.S. 668 (1984), in searching for and presenting mitigating evidence during the penalty phase of the trial and whether such deficient performance, if any, had prejudiced Walker. After a hearing on remand, the trial court held that Walker failed to meet his burden of proof that trial counsel had rendered deficient performance that prejudiced him. Walker appealed. Following a review of the record, the Supreme Court found no reversible error, and affirmed the trial judge's decision. View "Walker v. Mississippi" on Justia Law

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David Blue was convicted of capital murder when the only sentences for that crime were death or life imprisonment. Blue was sentenced to death, and his death sentence was subsequently found unconstitutional because he was both intellectually disabled and a minor when he committed the crime. The trial court sentenced Blue to life without parole, and he requested a "Miller" hearing to determine whether that new sentence was appropriate. While his petition for post-conviction relief was pending before the trial court, the Mississippi Supreme Court found Section 99-19-107 inapplicable to individuals for whom the death penalty was found unconstitutional. The trial court ordered a mental evaluation to help with a Miller determination regarding whether to sentence Blue to life or life without the possibility of parole. Blue filed an interlocutory appeal with the Supreme Court, arguing that a mental evaluation and hearing were unnecessary, because only one constitutional sentence was available: life imprisonment. The State argued that life without parole was a sentencing option because the statutory amendments that added life without parole as a sentencing option for capital murder applied to Blue. Because applying life without parole as a sentencing option to Blue would violate the prohibition against ex post facto laws, the Supreme Court vacated the trial court’s order and remanded the case with instructions to sentence Blue to life imprisonment. View "Blue v. Mississippi" on Justia Law

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Dewayne Small was convicted by jury of felony exploitation of a vulnerable adult. The charge stemmed from Small and his girlfriend cashing twenty checks totaling more than $12,000 written by 79-year-old Charlotte Davis. Small claimed he was performing yard work for Charlotte, a widow who lived alone. But after viewing photographs of a half-cut tree, piles of debris, unraked leaves, overgrown shrubs, and other evidence of a scam, the jury rejected his argument. Based on the guilty verdict, the trial judge sentenced Small as a habitual offender to ten years in prison without the possibility of parole. On appeal, Small challenged the weight and sufficiency of the evidence presented against him at trial. Small also filed a pro se supplemental brief: challenging his habitual- offender status; and claiming the jury was tainted because the trial court did not strike for cause a juror who had previously worked with the police officer who testified against Small. Finding no reversible errors, the Mississippi Supreme Court affirmed Small's conviction. View "Small v. Mississippi" on Justia Law

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Harry Green owned multiple properties at the time of his death, eight of which were at issue in this appeal. Several years prior to his death, Harry conveyed these properties to his sister Shirley Cooley, and later had Shirley reconvey six of the properties back to him. The reconveyance deeds were not notarized or recorded. Years later, Harry executed a will that divested the properties to his wife, Cristina Green, and to his grandchildren. The chancery court and the Court of Appeals found that Harry never accepted the reconveyance deeds and declined to impose a constructive trust, holding that Shirley owned all eight properties. Because the evidence clearly indicates that Harry accepted the six reconveyance deeds, the Mississippi Supreme Court reversed the judgments of the Court of Appeals and the chancery court as to the ownership of the six reconveyed properties. However, the Court found Cristina did not establish by clear and convincing evidence that a constructive trust was warranted. The Court therefore affirmed the judgments of the Court of Appeals and the chancery court regarding the ownership of the two properties not subject to reconveyance deeds. View "In Re Estate of Harry J. Green" on Justia Law

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Paul Barton appealed his conviction for possession of a stolen firearm. To the Mississippi Supreme Court, Barton argued the evidence was insufficient to show that he knew the firearm was stolen. At trial, Barton was also convicted of possession of a firearm by a felon, but he conceded that sufficient evidence supported that conviction. The Court of Appeals affirmed Barton’s convictions, concluding that the evidence was sufficient to support Barton’s conviction for possession of a stolen firearm. After review, the Supreme Court concluded the State failed to present sufficient evidence to prove that Barton knew the firearm was stolen and, therefore, that the State failed to present sufficient evidence to support Barton’s conviction of possessing a stolen firearm beyond a reasonable doubt. Therefore, the Court affirmed in part and reversed and remanded in part the judgments of the Court of Appeals and of the Circuit Court. The Supreme Court acquitted Barton as to the possession-of-a-stolen-firearm charge. View "Barton v. Mississippi" on Justia Law

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Murphy Burnett was arrested and detained for several years. The State eventually moved to nolle prosequi its criminal case against Burnett, and he was released from detention. Burnett filed suit against several governmental entities based on torts connected to his arrest, prosecution, and detention. All the entities moved to dismiss based on a failure to file proper notices of claims and based on the statutes of limitation. The trial court granted these motions. Because proper notices of claims were not sent, because most of the claims were barred by one-year statutes of limitation, and because Burnett did not specifically raise the remaining claims on appeal, the Mississippi Supreme Court affirmed the trial court's judgment. View "Burnett v. Hinds County, Mississippi" on Justia Law

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Mark Gibson and Court Properties, Inc., appeal the circuit court’s dismissal for lack of jurisdiction of their county-court appeal. In 2009, the Bells acquired a loan from Tower Loan. The Bells’ house was collateral for the loan. The Bells later experienced financial hardship. As a result, Tower Loan recommended that the Bells contact Gibson and Court Properties, Gibson’s wholly owned corporation, for financial assistance. On September 20, 2013, the Bells executed a promissory note, a deed of trust, and an assumption warranty deed with Court Properties. Approximately three months later, Gibson evicted the Bells and shortly thereafter, sold their house. The Bells sued Gibson and Court properties alleging fraud, breach of fiduciary duty, bad faith and wrongful foreclosure. A jury returned a verdict unanimously in favor of the Bells. Gibson and Court Properties moved for a new trial and for judgment notwithstanding the verdict. The motion was denied, and the Bells' request for attorneys' fees was granted. Gibson appealed within thirty days of the trial court's denial of his motions, but did not pay the cost bond within thirty days of the final judgment as required by statute. Gibson paid the estimated costs on April 18, 2018, which was one day before the circuit clerk’s deadline, but five days after the thirty-day statutory deadline required by Section 11-51-79. The Bells moved to dismiss the appeal for lack of jurisdiction, which was granted. Because Gibson and Court Properties failed to pay the cost bond within thirty days of the final judgment as required by Mississippi Code Section 11-51-79 (Rev. 2019), the Mississippi Supreme Court affirmed the circuit court’s dismissal for lack of jurisdiction. View "Gibson v. Bell" on Justia Law