Articles Posted in Constitutional Law

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David Thomas admitted in oral and written statements to police that he and Jontez Garvis had attacked Fred Jackson and stole cash from him. After being hospitalized for forty-one days due to the injuries inflicted by the two men, Jackson died. Thomas was indicted for and convicted of capital murder. The trial court sentenced Thomas to life in prison without parole. After review, the Mississippi Supreme Court affirmed Thomas’s conviction and sentence. View "Thomas v. Mississippi" on Justia Law

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Rickey Portis was convicted of two counts of sexual battery based on allegations that he repeatedly abused his then eight- and nine-year-old stepdaughters. The trial court sentenced him to two life sentences, to run consecutively. Portis appealed, arguing that the trial court erred by: (1) refusing to grant a continuance; and (2) in failing to allow him to introduce a prior inconsistent statement of a prosecution witness. Furthermore, Portis argued: (3) the verdict was not supported by sufficient evidence; (4) the verdict was against the overwhelming weight of the evidence;(5) cumulative error required reversal; and (6) Portis’s sentences were disproportionate to the crime. Finding no such errors, the Mississippi Supreme Court affirmed Portis' convictions. View "Portis v. Mississippi" on Justia Law

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Roger Jackson appealed his convictions for aggravated assault and felon in possession of a firearm. The jury acquitted Jackson of deliberate-design murder, which was charged in the same indictment. Jackson claimed the trial court erred by: (1) limiting defense counsel’s cross- examination of State’s witnesses; and (2) limiting defense counsel’s closing argument about reasonable doubt. Finding no reversible error, the Mississippi Supreme Court affirmed Jackson’s convictions. View "Jackson v. Mississippi" on Justia Law

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In 2011, the Mississippi Legislature amended Mississippi Code Section 97-37-7, granting enhanced concealed-carry licensees the privilege of carrying a concealed firearm in Mississippi courthouses, save for courtrooms, which the Legislature left within the province of judges. Litigants, witnesses, and family members who did not have enhanced concealed-carry licenses were subject to the general ban found in Mississippi Code Section 97-37-1 (Rev. 2014), which makes carrying a concealed weapon illegal for persons without enhanced concealed-carry licenses. Nonetheless, the three chancellors of the Fourteenth Chancery District, on their own motion, issued a court order prohibiting enhanced concealed-carry licensees from possessing a firearm in and around courthouse buildings of the Fourteenth District. Thereafter, Ricky Ward, an enhanced concealed-carry licensee, filed a petition to modify or dismiss the order. The chancellors issued another order denying Ward’s petition and reiterated that enhanced concealed-carry licensees would be prohibited from possessing a firearm in all Fourteenth District courthouses. Ward then filed an Extraordinary Writ of Prohibition to the Mississippi Supreme Court, seeking to have the orders vacated as unconstitutional and in direct conflict with state law. The Supreme Court ordered additional briefing, after which concluded the orders were facially unconstitutional. Furthermore, the orders "defy existing Mississippi statutory and caselaw. Accordingly, the orders are vacated. They are nullius juris." View "Ward v. Colom" on Justia Law

Posted in: Constitutional Law

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In May 2017, Derrick Hall was convicted by a jury of first-degree murder. Due to his status as a habitual offender, Hall was sentenced to serve life in prison. Having his posttrial motion for a judgment notwithstanding the verdict (JNOV) denied by the circuit court, Hall petitioned the Mississippi Supreme Court for relief. Finding no reversible error, the Court affirmed Hall's conviction. View "Hall v. Mississippi" on Justia Law

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A jury convicted Darius Haynes on two counts: possession of cocaine while in possession of a firearm and possession of a weapon by a felon. Because the evidence was legally sufficient to support the conviction of possession of cocaine, the Mississippi Supreme Court affirmed Haynes’ conviction for possession and the corresponding sentence. View "Haynes v. Mississippi" on Justia Law

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Prisoner Timothy Pryer filed an action in chancery court against the Itawamba County Sheriff’s Department and the Itawamba County Circuit Clerk. Pryer claimed that the defendants wrongfully had denied him access to public records under the Mississippi Public Records Act, entitling him to civil damages. More than three years after filing the complaint, Pryer filed a motion for leave to amend it to add a Public Records Act claim against Circuit Judge Thomas Gardner, III. Pryer alleged that, in deeming his public records request a motion for post-conviction relief, and then denying it, Judge Gardner had violated the Public Records Act, entitling Pryer to civil damages. The Chancery Court of Itawamba County granted Judge Gardner’s motion to dismiss, and Pryer appealed. Because Pryer’s claim against Judge Gardner was barred by the doctrine of judicial immunity, the Mississippi Supreme Court affirmed the dismissal of his amended complaint. View "Pryer v. Gardner" on Justia Law

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Damion Pace was indicted for one count of burglary, two counts of kidnapping, one count of forcible rape, and one count of extortion. The jury acquitted Pace of forcible rape, but convicted him of one count of extortion, two counts of kidnapping, and one count of robbery, a crime for which Pace had not been indicted. The Circuit Court sentenced him to twenty years for robbery, twenty years for each of the kidnappings, and ten years for extortion, with the sentences to run consecutively. Pace appealed, arguing that the circuit court erred by denying his motion for a directed verdict and that he received ineffective assistance of counsel. After review, the Mississippi Supreme Court held that, because Pace was not indicted for robbery and robbery was not a lesser-included offense of the indicted crime of burglary, the trial court’s entry of a judgment of conviction of robbery was a plain error that required vacation of the robbery conviction and sentence. Therefore, the Court vacated and remanded the robbery conviction and sentence. The Court found no merit to Pace’s other issues. View "Pace v. Mississippi" on Justia Law

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Willard Marquis was convicted for the sexual battery of a female minor under the age of fourteen. In a pretrial competency hearing, J.D., who was seven at the time, was found to be competent to testify. And a day later, J.D. testified at trial through closed-circuit TV. During the trial, a recording of a forensic interview of J.D. was played before the jury. Also played before the jury was a recording from J.D.’s mother’s cell phone in which J.D. told her mother of the alleged sexual abuse. At the end of the trial, the jury found Marquis guilty. Marquis appealed, arguing: (1) that J.D. was not competent to testify; (2) that the State’s use of a recorded forensic interview of J.D. violated his constitutional right to confront the witnesses against him; and (3) that the State’s use of the recorded conversation between J.D. and her mother, along with the recording of the forensic interview, was cumulative evidence which amounted to improper bolstering. Having reviewed the record, the Mississippi Supreme Court disagreed and affirmed Marquis’s conviction. View "Marquis v. Mississippi" on Justia Law

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Walter Sanford was convicted for aggravated DUI causing death under Mississippi Code Section 63-11-30(5). Having found no appealable issues, Sanford’s counsel filed a “Lindsey” brief. Sanford argued, pro se, insufficiency of the evidence. Finding the conviction was supported by legally sufficient evidence, the Mississippi Supreme Court affirmed. View "Sanford v. Mississippi" on Justia Law