Justia Mississippi Supreme Court Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in Constitutional Law
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Alan Walker was convicted of the capital murder of Konya Edwards during the commission of sexual battery, for which he received the death sentence. He was also 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 for post-conviction relief. Walker filed a successive post-conviction motion, arguing his counsel rendered ineffective assistance of counsel. On remand to the trial court, Walker failed to meet his burden of proof that trial counsel had rendered deficient performance that prejudiced him. Finding no grounds to reverse the trial judge’s determination, the Court affirmed conviction and sentences. View "Walker v. Mississippi" on Justia Law

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Darrell Walter was convicted by jury of capital murder and aggravated assault, both enhanced by the use of a firearm. He was sentenced to life without parole for capital murder, ten years for aggravated assault, and an additional five years for the aggravated-assault firearm enhancement to run concurrent to the ten-year sentence. Walter’s counsel filed a “Lindsey” brief; Walter himself did not file a pro se brief. The Mississippi Supreme Court accepted defense counsel’s attestation there were no arguable issues for appeal. Finding the evidence sufficiently supported Walter’s convictions for capital murder with firearms enhancements, the Supreme Court affirmed conviction. View "Walter v. Mississippi" on Justia Law

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A five-year-old girl's dead body was found after a twelve-hour police search. Her body was found in a filthy, abandoned trailer fifty yards from her apartment complex. She had been sexually assaulted, vaginally and anally, and then hanged by the neck with a pair of socks tied to a window crank. Twenty-nine-year-old Alberto Garcia, a resident of the same apartment complex, confessed to killing the child in the course of raping her. Forensic evidence confirmed Garcia’s DNA had been found in the child’s vagina and anus. Garcia pled guilty before trial, and waived his right to a jury for sentencing. For his crimes, Garcia was sentenced to death. He appealed only his sentence, and applying the heightened scrutiny that a death-penalty appeal demands, the Mississippi Supreme Court found no merit to Garcia’s claims the trial judge erred in her sentencing decision. Because the death penalty was constitutional and because Garcia’s death sentence was proportionate to other sentences imposed for the capital murder of a young sexual-assault victim, the Court affirmed the sentence. View "Garcia v. Mississippi" on Justia Law

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Leslie Galloway appealed the denial of his 2015 petition for post-conviction relief (PCR) pertaining to his 2007 guilty plea to carjacking, a conviction that was used as an aggravating circumstance in Galloway’s 2010 capital-murder trial at which Galloway received a death sentence. Galloway claimed in the petition that his defense counsel Wendy Martin had an actual conflict of interest because, before becoming his defense counsel, Martin had served as an assistant district attorney in the same case, unbeknownst to Galloway. The trial court ruled that Galloway’s PCR claim was time barred under Mississippi’s Uniform Post-Conviction Collateral Relief Act (UPCCRA), having been filed more than seven years after Galloway’s conviction for carjacking. The trial court alternatively found no merit to Galloway’s PCR claim, time bar notwithstanding. Accordingly, the trial court denied Galloway’s PCR petition. The Mississippi Supreme Court agreed with the trial court that Galloway’s PCR claim was time barred under the UPCCRA. The Court also agreed there was no merit to Galloway's PCR claim. View "Galloway v. Mississippi" on Justia Law

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Matthew Wiggins appealed a decision of a special court of eminent domain to the County Court of Hinds County, Mississippi, approving the City of Clinton’s exercise of eminent domain. Wiggins bought property in March of 2016. At the time, the structures located there were dilapidated and were in need of extensive structural repairs. Soon after Wiggins took possession of the properties, Clinton found that the properties should be demolished due to neglect. Clinton assessed 1,434 separate code violations to property Wiggins owned. Wiggins pleaded guilty to the violations on January 26, 2017. Clinton then found additional violations against Wiggins at those properties and at other properties he owned in Clinton. Wiggins was found guilty of two violations by the County Court of Hinds County in 2018. The remaining violations were dismissed. In June 2018, Clinton adopted an urban-renewal plan. Wiggins' parcel was within the renewal area, and sought to take it. The special court found Clinton’s exercise of eminent domain proper. After review, the Mississippi Supreme Court found sufficient evidence in the special court record to support the taking my eminent domain. Similarly, the Court determined the record offered no evidence to demonstrate the determination of the special court was manifestly wrong. Therefore, judgment was affirmed. View "Wiggins. v. City of Clinton" on Justia Law

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Johnny Lee Saddler confessed to the inappropriate touching of a thirteen-year-old girl. He contended his constitutional and procedural rights were violated during trial court proceedings, arguing that because he invoked his right to counsel and his right to silence, the trial court erred by denying the motion to suppress his confession. Saddler further argued his trial counsel was constitutionally inadequate. Finally, Saddler argued that the trial court erred by allowing the State to present improper lay opinion evidence. After review of the trial court record, the Mississippi Supreme Court determined Saddler waived his rights, and his confession was properly admitted. The Court found Saddler's counsel was not constitutionally ineffective, and the lay opinion did not prejudice Saddler's defense. View "Saddler v. Mississippi" on Justia Law

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Joseph "Peanut" Brown sat on death row since his conviction for capital murder in Adams County, Mississippi in 1994. The jury found that Brown shot and killed a convenience-store clerk during a robbery. Brown filed a successive petition for post-conviction relief in which he raised numerous issues. The Mississippi Supreme Court determined most of the claims raised at this point were subject to the time bar, the successive-writ bar, and/or were barred by res judicata. The Court determined the remaining issue was without merit. The successive petition was therefore denied. View "Brown v. Mississippi" on Justia Law

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Michael Willis (Willis) appealed his conviction for aggravated assault. Counsel for his codefendant and nephew Kedarious Willis filed a Lindsey brief averring there were no meritorious arguments for appeal. Charges arose over a fight in 2027 Kedarious got into with Travell Moore: Kedarious alleged Travell stole a radio from Willis' car. After the fight broke up, Kedarious and Willis drove to a relative's house on Jordan Street. Travell was playing dominoes outside surrounded by a large crowd of people by the time Kedarious and Willis drove by the house. Travell removed his shirt and went out in the street to confront Kedarious and Willis. Witness testimony was divided over whether Willis then got out of the car and argued with Travell before they reached Kedarious’s grandmother’s home or if Travell followed them down to Kedarious’s grandmother’s home. Regardless, the confrontation between Travell and Willis was renewed in front of Kedarious’s grandmother’s home. Travell claimed that at some point he turned his back to Willis and then heard Willis say, “shoot, shoot.” Travell tried to run but was struck by several bullets, falling at the next-door neighbor’s driveway. Travell was taken to University of Mississippi Medical Center where he was treated for a collapsed lung and a lacerated liver. His spinal cord was severed, resulting in paralysis. Willis was sentenced to twenty years in prison as a habitual offender. After reviewing Willis' contentions of error at trial, the Mississippi Supreme Court found no reversible error and affirmed his conviction. View "Willis v. Mississippi" on Justia Law

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Kendrick Shelvy appealed his burglary conviction, challenging the sufficiency of the evidence presented against him at trial. Because the Mississippi Supreme Court found sufficient evidence to support the verdict and because the verdict was not against the overwhelming weight of the evidence, it affirmed conviction. View "Shelvy v. Mississippi" on Justia Law

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Donald Keith Smith appealed the circuit court’s decision to summarily affirm his Petition Seeking Judicial Review of an Adverse Administrative Remedy Decision. In 2009, Smith pled guilty to one count of kidnapping, armed carjacking, and felony fleeing. Approximately two years later, Smith filed a pro se motion for post-conviction relief, attacking his armed-carjacking conviction. The Mississippi Supreme Court remanded his case for the trial court to conduct an evidentiary hearing. After that hearing, the trial court determined that Smith had not received the competency evaluation the trial court had ordered. So the trial court reversed Smith's conviction. Smith was later evaluated and found to be competent. In late 2016, Smith pled guilty to attempted kidnapping, armed carjacking, and felony fleeing. The trial court sentenced Smith to thirty years, with eighteen years to serve, for attempted kidnapping, thirty years, with eighteen years to serve, for armed carjacking, and five years for felony fleeing. In July 2017, the trial court amended Smith’s sentencing order to reflect that he should be sentenced to serve ten years for attempted kidnapping. The remainder of Smith’s sentencing order stayed the same. Smith filed an initial grievance through the Administrative Remedy Program (ARP) at the MDOC. In his grievance, Smith asserted that his time computation was incorrect. After review, the Supreme Court concluded the circuit court lacked jurisdiction over the Mississippi Department of Corrections, and therefore vacated and remanded. View "Smith v. Mississippi" on Justia Law