Justia Mississippi Supreme Court Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in Constitutional Law
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Abdur Rahim Ambrose Sr. was convicted by jury of the capital murder of Robert Trosclair. The jury also found that Ambrose’s sentence should be death, and the circuit court imposed the death sentence. The Mississippi Supreme Court affirmed Ambrose’s conviction and sentence on direct appeal. Ambrose’s motion for rehearing was subsequently denied on October 18, 2018, and his petition for writ of certiorari to the United States Supreme Court was denied on March 25, 2019. Ambrose timely filed his application for postconviction relief on October 25, 2019, asserting the evidence presented at trial was constitutionally inadequate, and that the trial judge made rulings during voir dire that demonstrated impermissible gender bias, resulting in an unfair pool of prospective jurors. Finding no reversible error, the Mississippi Supreme Court denied Ambrose’s application for relief. View "Ambrose v. Mississippi" on Justia Law

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Tyrone Body appealed his conviction of burglary of a dwelling, arguing: (1) the evidence was insufficient to support his conviction; (2) his Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination was violated; (3) his indictment was legally insufficient; and (4) his twenty-five-year sentence constituted cruel and unusual punishment. After review, the Mississippi Supreme Court found no error and affirmed Body’s conviction and sentence. View "Body v. Mississippi" on Justia Law

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On November 3, 2020, a strong majority of the voters of Mississippi approved Initiative 65, which established a legal medical-marijuana program. The Petitioners challenged the Secretary of State’s approval of the initiative for inclusion on the ballot, arguing it would have been impossible for the petition seeking to place Initiative 65 on the ballot to be properly certified as meeting Miss. Const. art. 15, section 273 prerequisites by the Secretary of State. As the petition was certified in error, the Petitioners contended that all subsequent actions were void. “Remaining mindful of both the November 3, 2020 election results and the clear language in section 273 seeking to preserve the right of the people to enact changes to their Constitution,” the Mississippi Supreme Court held that the text of section 273 failed to account for the possibility that the State’s representation in the United States House of Representatives and corresponding congressional districts would be reduced. “[T]he intent evidenced by the text was to tie the twenty percent cap to Mississippi’s congressional districts, of which there are now four. In other words, the loss of congressional representation did, indeed, break section 273 so that, absent amendment, it no longer functions.” A majority of the Mississippi Court reversed the Secretary of State’s certification if Initiative 65, and held that any subsequent proceedings on it were void. View "In Re Initiative Measure No. 65" on Justia Law

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The Mississippi Supreme Court granted certiorari to review the Court of Appeals’ decision to affirm Kelvin Taylor's two convictions for murder and his conviction for felonious possession of a firearm. Taylor argued the circuit court erred by denying his motions to suppress. Taylor also claimed the Coahoma County Sheriff’s Office obtained an invalid waiver of his Fifth Amendment right to counsel. Though the Supreme Court found no reversible error and affirmed the decision of the Court of Appeals, the Supreme Court further granted certiorari to correct a statement of the law surrounding waiver of the Fifth Amendment right to counsel contained in the Court of Appeals’ opinion. The Court also briefly addressed a procedural bar to Taylor’s argument that he received ineffective assistance of counsel at trial. View "Taylor v. Mississippi" on Justia Law

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This case involved a dispute between Liberty Mutual Insurance Company (Liberty Mutual), Hill Brothers Construction Company (Hill Brothers) and the Mississippi Transportation Commission (the Commission) regarding a fuel-adjustment clause (the FAC) in a highway-construction contract. In 2019, the Commission successfully moved to alter or amend the circuit court's judgment. The circuit court vacated its prior entry of partial summary judgment in favor of Liberty Mutual on the issue of liability, effectively denying Liberty Mutual's motion for summary judgment. The Mississippi Supreme Court granted Liberty Mutual's petition for interlocutory appeal. The company argued the 2019 order was entered in violation of the Supreme Court's mandate in Hill Brothers I. The Supreme Court determined the circuit court erred in denying Liberty Mutual's motion on liability. The circuit court's judgement was thus reversed and summary judgment reinstated in favor of the insurance company on the issue of liability. View "Liberty Mutual Insurance Company v. Mississippi Transportation Commission" on Justia Law

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Sergio Sandoval was convicted on two counts of touching a child for lustful purposes and one count of sexual battery and was sentenced to fifteen years for each count of touching and thirty years for sexual battery, all to run concurrently. Sandoval only appealed the trial court’s ruling that he was competent to stand trial. After review, the Mississippi Supreme Court found the trial court did not err by finding Sandoval competent. View "Sandoval v. Mississippi" on Justia Law

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Tony Randell Barnett, Jr., was convicted of armed bank robbery. The sole issue on appeal was whether the evidence presented at trial was sufficient to support Barnett’s conviction. After review of the trial court record, the Mississippi Supreme Court found no reversible error and affirmed Barnett's conviction. View "Randell v. Mississippi" on Justia Law

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In 2015, D’Alandis Love, Perez Love, Kelsey Jennings, and Ken-Norris Stigler were driving in a red Pontiac headed to the Moroccan Lounge when a gold Tahoe approached as they were driving and opened fire. D’Alandis Love was killed. Perez Love, Jennings, and Stigler were seriously injured. Armand Jones, Sedrick Buchanan, Michael Holland, Jacarius Keys, and James Earl McClung, Jr., were developed as suspects in the shooting. Keys, accompanied by his attorney, went to the Sheriff’s Department and gave a videotaped statement to investigators implicating Jones, Holland, Buchanan, and McClung in the shooting. Keys, Jones, Holland, Buchanan, and McClung were later indicted and charged with one count of first-degree murder and three counts of attempted first-degree murder. Approximately five months after the men were indicted, Keys was shot and killed. Holland and Buchanan were considered suspects in Keys’s death. It is undisputed that at the time of Keys’s death, Jones was incarcerated. Before trial, Jones, Holland, Buchanan, and McClung moved to exclude Keys’s videotaped statement based on hearsay and the Sixth Amendment Confrontation Clause. The trial court denied the motion and allowed the statement to be admitted into evidence under Mississippi Rules of Evidence 804(b)(3) (the statement-against-interest hearsay exception), 804(b)(5) (the catch-all hearsay exception), and 804(b)(6) (the forfeiture-by-wrongdoing hearsay exception). The issue this case presented for the Mississippi Supreme Court's review centered on whether that videotaped statement could be introduced against a defendant under Rule 804(b)(6). The Court found that because the record showed Jones forfeited by wrongdoing his constitutional right to confront the witness, his convictions of murder and attempted murder were affirmed. But because there was insufficient evidence presented to support Buchanan’s convictions of aggravated assault, the Court reversed and rendered a judgment of acquittal as to Buchanan. View "Buchanan v. Mississippi" on Justia Law

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David Dickerson was convicted by jury of killing his ex-girlfriend and mother of his daughter by shooting and then burning her. In 2015, the Mississippi Supreme Court affirmed Dickerson’s capital-murder conviction and sentence of death, along with related convictions and sentences for arson and armed robbery. Dickerson petitioned for post-conviction relief, arguing he was “he is intellectually disabled as defined by the Court in [Atkins] and thus he is ineligible for the death penalty.” Specifically, Dickerson insists that the PCR “and its accompanying affidavits[] contai[n] much evidence that” he “meets all three criteria for mental retardation”—“subaverage intellectual functioning[,]” “significant deficits in adaptive functioning[,]” and that the “deficits manifested before age 18.” The Supreme Court again declined post-conviction relief, finding that Dickerson’s PCR claims were barred and/or failed to present a substantial showing of the denial of a state or federal right. View "Dickerson v. Mississippi" on Justia Law

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Jeremy Harris was convicted of attempted burglary of a dwelling with the intent to commit larceny and was sentenced to a term of ten years, with five years suspended. Harris argued on appeal that the trial court erred by granting a mistrial in his first trial. As the record from the first trial was not made part of the record on appeal, the Mississippi Supreme Court ordered that the record be supplemented. The parties were directed to file supplemental briefing if they so chose, and each filed a supplemental brief. Then after review of the entire record, the Supreme Court reversed the conviction and sentence, finding that the mistrial in Harris’s first trial was not manifestly necessary. In the absence of manifest necessity, the constitutional protection against double jeopardy prohibited a second trial for the same crime. View "Harris v. Mississippi" on Justia Law