Justia Mississippi Supreme Court Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in Constitutional Law

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Gerome Moore was indicted by grand jury of capital murder for the death of Carolyn Temple during the commission of a robbery. A jury convicted him of capital murder, and the trial court sentenced Moore to life without parole. Upon appeal, the Mississippi Supreme Court affirmed the conviction, but foundMoore had a statutory right to be sentenced by a jury. Thus, the Court vacated Moore's sentence and remanded for resentencing by a jury. View "Moore v. Mississippi" on Justia Law

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In chancery court, Plaintiffs challenged the two sources of funding for charter schools provided for under the Mississippi Charter Schools Act of 2013. Plaintiffs contended the Act was unconstitutional under Article 8, Sections 206 and 208, of the Mississippi Constitution. Also, one of the charter-school intervenors maintained that Plaintiffs lacked standing to bring the suit. The chancellor held that the Plaintiffs did have standing to sue and that they did not prove that either source of funding was unconstitutional. Before the Mississippi Supreme Court, Plaintiffs concentrated their argument under Article 8, Section 206, of the Mississippi Constitution, alleging that a charter school’s ad valorem funding was unconstitutional. They did not appeal the chancellor’s ruling concerning per-pupil funds. The Jackson Public School District (JPS) maintained that the chancellor erred in denying its motion to be dismissed from the suit. After review, the Supreme Court affirmed the chancery court, agreeing Plaintiffs had standing to sue, and that they did not meet their burden to demonstrate that Section 37-28-55 was unconstitutional. The Court found JPS’s arguments concerning its motion to dismiss were waived on appeal for failure to raise the issue in a cross-appeal. View "Araujo v. Bryant" on Justia Law

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A jury convicted Jikiel Jones of armed robbery, armed carjacking and kidnapping. On direct appeal to the Mississippi Supreme Court, Jones argued: (1) the trial court erred by excluding his alibi witness; (2) the trial court erred by granting a deficient accomplice jury instruction; and (3) the State failed to disclose exculpatory evidence before trial. With respect to the first issue, the Supreme Court found the trial court abused its discretion by excluding the testimony of Jones’s alibi witness. "While a per se violation of Mississippi Rule of Criminal Procedure 17.4(a) did occur, this violation cannot be held against Jones in light of his original counsel’s conflict of interest. Further, there is no indication in the record that Jones’s failure to notice the prosecution of his alibi witness was willful or motivated by a desire to obtain a tactical advantage." With respect to Jones' second issue: the Court found the accomplice instruction was deficient. Jones waived his right to appeal the exculpatory evidence issue. The Court reversed Jones’s conviction and remanded the case for a new trial. View "Jones v. Mississippi" on Justia Law

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Jeremy Fogelman was convicted by jury of felony failure to stop his motor vehicle for police. Because Fogleman fled at a high rate of speed, showing an indifference to the consequences and to causing injury, the trial judge designated Fogleman’s offense a crime of violence under Mississippi Code Section 97-3-2(2) (Rev. 2014). This finding resulted in Fogleman’s parole-ineligibility period increasing from one-fourth to one-half of his five-year sentence—a sentence allowed by statute and authorized by the jury’s verdict. The appellate court held that the resulting parole-ineligibility increase violated the Sixth Amendment because it was based on facts found by a judge, not a jury. The United States Supreme Court has held that the Sixth Amendment required factual determinations that increase maximum or minimum sentences be submitted to a jury and found beyond a reasonable doubt. The Mississippi Supreme Court found the judge’s crime-of-violence designation merely impacted the minimum time Fogleman had to serve before becoming parole eligible. It did nothing to affect Fogleman’s sentence. Thus, no Sixth Amendment violation occurred. The Mississippi Supreme Court reversed the Court of Appeals and reinstated the trial court's judgment. View "Fogleman v. Mississippi" on Justia Law

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Derrick Nelson was convicted by jury of murder. The Court of Appeals held that the trial court erred by refusing an imperfect self-defense jury instruction; it reversed Nelson’s conviction and remanded for a new trial. The State filed a petition for a writ of certiorari, which the Mississippi Supreme Court granted. Because no evidentiary basis in the record supported the grant of an imperfect self-defense jury instruction, the Supreme Court reversed the judgment of the Court of Appeals. While the Court of Appeals did not reach Nelson’s argument that the State deprived him of a fair trial, the Supreme Court found no reversible error, thus affirming Nelson’s murder conviction and sentence of life imprisonment. View "Nelson v. Mississippi" on Justia Law

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Bruce Martin was found guilty of second-degree murder for the death of James Brown and was sentenced to serve forty years in the custody of the Mississippi Department of Corrections. Martin argued on appeal the trial court abused its discretion in allowing two autopsy photographs to be published to the jury. Finding no error, the Mississippi Supreme Court affirmed Martin’s conviction and sentence. View "Martin v. Mississippi" on Justia Law

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Chevelle McAlister was convicted by jury of the murder of Johnna Norris and of possession of a firearm as a convicted felon. McAlister appealed his conviction, arguing that his counsel provided constitutionally ineffective assistance. The Mississippi Supreme Court determined the trial court record did not support a finding of ineffective assistance of counsel. Also, the Court found no indication from the record or the briefs that an evidentiary hearing would enable McAlister to further develop any evidentiary proof of the alleged errors. Thus, McAlister's conviction was affirmed. View "McAlister v. Mississippi" on Justia Law

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Loren Ross was convicted of felony driving under the influence (DUI), fourth offense. The Circuit Court imposed the maximum sentence of ten years in the custody of the Mississippi Department of Corrections (MDOC). Ross appealed, arguing that the trial court erred by not polling the jury to assure that the jurors had been unanimous in specifying the particular subsection of the DUI statute Ross had violated. He also argued the trial court erred by sentencing him to the maximum statutory penalty instead of ordering rehabilitative treatment for his alcoholism. Finding no error, the Mississippi Supreme Court affirmed Ross’ conviction and sentence. View "Ross v. Mississippi" on Justia Law

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Edward Ware was convicted of possession of a weapon by a convicted felon. Ware appealed, and his counsel filed a “Lindsey” brief, stating she searched the record but was unable to find any arguable issues for appellate review. Ware was given the opportunity to file a pro se brief, but he declined. After review of the record, and finding no arguable issues, the Mississippi Supreme Court affirmed Ware’s conviction. View "Ware v. Mississippi" on Justia Law

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Bobby Osbourne was convicted of aggravated assault, following a jury trial. Osbourne appealed, claiming that his trial counsel was constitutionally ineffective for numerous reasons: (1) for failing to move for a mistrial after discovering at trial that the handwritten notes taken by one of investigators, who had taken a statement from Osbourne, had not been provided to Osbourne’s defense before trial; (2) for failing to investigate possible exculpatory evidence; (3) for failing to perfect Osbourne’s direct appeal; and (4) for failing to obtain video evidence that corroborated Osbourne’s trial testimony. The State argued the only ineffective-assistance claim that could be addressed on this record was the claim that Osbourne’s trial counsel failed to perfect a direct appeal from Osbourne’s conviction. Accordingly, the State declined to stipulate that the record was adequate to address Osbourne’s remaining ineffective-assistance claims. The Mississippi Supreme Court agreed with the State: given the record before the Supreme Court, it addressed only the ineffective-assistance claim pertaining to trial counsel’s purported failure to perfect a direct appeal, and found no merit to Osbourne’s contention it entitled him to relief. View "Osbourne v. Mississippi" on Justia Law