Parker v. Mississippi

Shannon Parker appealed his aggravated-assault conviction and enhanced sentence. Eric and Edna Burkett were standing outside their home in Hattiesburg, Mississippi, when a white pickup truck stopped in front of them. The driver got out, and the Burketts asked if he needed help. The man mumbled something, grabbed a rifle, and shot Eric, wounding him. The man also fired shots at Edna but missed. Soon after, the police found the white truck in a nearby ditch, tires still spinning. The driver, later identified as Parker, was arrested and later confirmed by the Burketts as the man who attacked them. Parker appeared to be under the influence. At the interviewing officer’s recommendation, Parker underwent a mental evaluation. The evaluation was performed by a licensed professional counselor. Parker told the counselor that he had previously been treated for anxiety and depression. The counselor concluded that Parker “was verbal and responsive” and that “[h]is thought processes were rational.” Although indicted on two counts of assault, the State elected to proceed only on the aggravated assault against Eric, with a five-year sentencing enhancement for using a firearm. A week before the scheduled trial, Parker planned to plead guilty. But at the hearing, Parker claimed he had no recollection of the crime, and that he could not verify the State’s recitation of the facts. Under the circumstances, the trial judge determined he could not accept Parker’s plea. Parker presented three issues on appeal: (1) the trial judge erred in allowing the State’s firearm expert to testify; (2) the trial judge abused his discretion in denying Parker’s motion for a mental evaluation; and (3) the firearm enhancement violated the constitutional prohibition against double jeopardy. While the appellate court unanimously agreed the first and third issues presented no reversible error, the court was equally divided on the second issue. Based on this split, the Mississippi Supreme Court granted Parker’s petition for certiorari review. Although Parker reasserted all three appellate issues in his petition, the Court limited its review to the issue of Parker’s request for a mental evaluation. The Court found that although given the opportunity to do so, Parker presented no concrete reason establishing the need for a mental evaluation to assist in the pursuit of a viable insanity defense. Instead, Parker offered only unsupported assertions of diminished capacity (a defense not recognized by Mississippi law). The Court thus affirmed. View "Parker v. Mississippi" on Justia Law