Articles Posted in Constitutional Law

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During Fiscal Year 2017, Mississippi Governor Phil Bryant directed State Fiscal Officer Laura Jackson to reduce the budgets of various state agencies. In response, State Representative Bryant W. Clark and State Senator John Horhn brought a declaratory-judgment action against the Governor seeking preliminary and permanent injunctive relief, a writ of mandamus ordering the Governor to reverse the reductions, and a declaration that Mississippi Code Section 27-104-13 (Rev. 2017) was facially unconstitutional. After an expedited hearing, the chancellor denied the motions for injunctive relief and dismissed the complaint with prejudice. Representative Clark and Senator Horhn appealed. The Mississippi Supreme Court found the budget reductions were an exercise of the executive’s core constitutional power. Therefore, it affirmed the chancellor’s final order because Representative Clark and Senator Horhn failed to overcome the strong presumption that Section 27-104-13 was constitutional. View "Clark v. Bryant" on Justia Law

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Adrian Montgomery and Terome O’Neal were drinking beer and liquor and smoking marijuana in a park. An eyewitness saw O’Neal knock Montgomery’s joint to the ground, which prompted Montgomery to angrily attack O’Neal. Paramedics later found O’Neal on the ground unconscious. He died days later in the hospital of multiple blunt-force trauma. Montgomery was indicted for deliberate-design murder but convicted on the lesser-included crime of depraved-heart murder. The judge granted a mistrial when the State learned (after the jury had been empaneled) the medical examiner who had conducted O’Neal’s autopsy had a sudden family emergency, rendering him unavailable. Montgomery argued his second trial placed him in double jeopardy because there had been no manifest necessity for the mistrial. In affirming Montgomery's convictions, the Mississippi Supreme Court determined the medical examiner was a key witness whose unavailability was unanticipated by the State. And due to the unknown and open-ended nature of the emergency, a continuance did not appear to be a reasonable option. So there was manifest necessity to declare a mistrial. View "Montgomery v. Mississippi" on Justia Law

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Frankie Jones was indicted for one count of first degree murder of Billy Ray Covington and one count of felon in possession of a firearm. A jury found Jones guilty on both counts, and the trial court sentenced him as a habitual offender under Mississippi Code Section 99-19-81 to life for the murder conviction and ten years for the felon in possession of a firearm conviction, with the sentences to be served concurrently. Jones appealed, but finding no reversible error, the Mississippi Supreme Court affirmed. View "Jones v. Mississippi" on Justia Law

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Terry Hill was convicted on one count of robbery, two counts of kidnapping, and one count of sexual battery. Hill raised one issue on appeal: whether the trial court erred in denying his attorney’s motion to withdraw and Hill’s motions for new counsel. Because of the defendant’s actions prior to and at trial, and because of the substantial evidence against Hill, the Mississippi Supreme Court affirmed the trial court. View "Hill v. Mississippi" on Justia Law

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This appeal arose from the Hinds County, Mississippi Circuit Court’s order granting in part Richard Chapman’s motion for post-conviction relief (PCR), following the Mississippi Supreme Court’s mandate in Chapman v. Mississippi, 167 So. 3d 1170 (Miss. 2015) (Chapman IV). In a five-to-four decision, a majority of the Court found that no direct appeal was taken from Chapman’s 1982 conviction for rape and life sentence, and ordered the trial court to conduct an evidentiary hearing to determine if the record and transcript from the jury trial still existed, and if not, whether something equivalent could be reconstructed. The parties reconstructed much of the record on remand, and the trial court granted Chapman leave to file an out-of-time appeal from his 1982 rape conviction and life sentence. Chapman appealed that ruling, claiming: (1) the record was less than adequate to allow an acceptable appeal to be prepared. Chapman maintains his trial counsel was constitutionally deficient for failing to file an appeal, or even a notice of appeal, even though Chapman claimed he paid counsel to do so; and (2) a life sentence imposed on a sixteen-year-old for a crime that was not a homicide constituted cruel and unusual punishment. Chapman argued his 1982 rape conviction should be reversed and the case dismissed or, in the alternative, remanded for a new trial. Having reviewed the reconstructed record, the Supreme Court found Chapman was not entitled to an out-of-time appeal. The Court confirmed: (1) Chapman’s trial record was not destroyed, as Chapman claimed throughout his multiple PCR petitions; and (2) Chapman had three years from April 17, 1984, when Mississippi’s Uniform Post-Conviction Collateral Relief Act (UPCCRA) went into effect, to petition for an out-of-time appeal but failed to do so. View "Richard Chapman v. State of Mississippi" on Justia Law

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Rickie Omar Smith was indicted on one count of armed robbery and one count of burglary of a dwelling. The jury found Smith guilty on both counts, and the circuit court sentenced Smith to thirty years for armed robbery and twenty-five years for burglary of a dwelling, with the sentences to run concurrently. Following the denial of Smith’s post trial motions, he appealed, arguing that the evidence was insufficient to sustain the jury’s verdict for armed robbery. Because the evidence was sufficient to sustain the jury’s verdict for armed robbery, the Mississippi Supreme Court affirmed. View "Smith v. Mississippi" on Justia Law

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In 2013, Abdur Ambrose ("Ambrose"), Stevie Ambrose, and Orlander Dedeaux were indicted for capital murder of Robert Trosclair with the underlying felony being kidnapping. Ambrose alleged Trosclair had "stolen stuff our of his car." and confronted him late in the afternoon. Trosclair was later found tied up with a yellow ratchet strap, tightly tied around his wrists and loosely tired around his back, his head as “very dirty, covered in dirt, black and blue, blood,” Trosclair’s ears had blood coming out of them, stab wounds, cuts, and scrapes to his body. Trosclair was heliported to a hospital where he was unresponsive upon arrival, and diagnosed as clinically brain dead. The trial court severed the case for separate trials. A jury found Ambrose guilty of capital murder, for which he received the death sentence. Ambrose appealed, raising following twelve alleged issues with the trial court's proceedings. A divided Mississippi Supreme Court majority concluded after a review of the the record and after considering all of the aggravating and mitigating circumstances presented at trial, the evidence was sufficient to support the verdict and the death penalty was not disproportionate or excessive. View "Ambrose v. Mississippi" on Justia Law

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Jason Miles appealed after a jury found him guilty of grand larceny. On appeal, he argued the evidence was insufficient to support the jury verdict, and the trial court erred in denying a continuance. Finding no error, the Mississippi Supreme Court affirmed Miles' conviction. View "Miles v. Mississippi" on Justia Law

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Dexter Powell was convicted by jury of aggravated assault and felon in possession of a firearm. He appealed, claiming: (1) ineffective assistance of counsel; and (2) insufficient evidence in support of the verdicts, both of which also were against the overwhelming weight of the evidence. Finding no reversible error, the Mississippi Supreme Court affirmed the trial court’s judgment of convictions. View "Powell v. Mississippi" on Justia Law

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A jury found Andre Thomas guilty of one count of felony shoplifting. Thomas and an accomplice went to the electronics section of a Sam's Club in Gulfport, Mississippi at around 8:00 P.M. in 2015. A Sam’s Club employee was working at the store’s exit door on the night in question and was tasked with checking customers’ receipts as they left the store. As Thomas and the accomplice approached the employee, the accomplice stepped away from the store’s exit and feigned a heart attack. The employee came to the accomplice's aid, which allowed Thomas to exit the store without paying for three 60-inch 3D "smart" televisions, each valued at over $2,500. The accomplice was taken to the hospital but released on the same night. A few weeks later, he was arrested and charged with felony shoplifting. The accomplice admitted Thomas had helped him steal the televisions, and he identified Thomas from a six-person photographic lineup. Thomas' appellate counsel filed a "Lindsey" brief, asserting he could not identify any issues warranting appellate review. Thomas filed a pro se supplemental brief, challenging his sentence. Finding Thomas’s arguments to be without merit, and finding no other arguable issues in the record, the Mississippi Supreme Court affirmed Thomas’s conviction and sentence. View "Thomas v. Mississippi" on Justia Law