Justia Mississippi Supreme Court Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in Constitutional Law

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A grand jury indicted, and a jury convicted, Gerome Montreal Moore for the capital murder of Carolyn Temple during the commission of a robbery. He was sentenced to life without parole. On appeal, the Mississippi Supreme Court affirmed the conviction, but vacated the sentence. The Court determined Moore needed to be resentenced by a jury under Mississippi Code Section 99-19-101. "The jury will determine if Moore should be sentenced to life imprisonment without parole or life imprisonment with eligibility for parole. If the jury determines that Moore should be eligible for parole, Moore is to be sentenced to life imprisonment with eligibility for parole, notwithstanding the provisions of Mississippi Code Section 47-7-3(1)(e)." View "Moore v. Mississippi" on Justia Law

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Larry Knight was convicted of one count of molestation and was sentenced to serve fifteen years in the custody of the Mississippi Department of Corrections (MDOC). Knight appealed, and his attorneys filed a brief under Lindsey v. Mississippi, 939 So. 2d 743 (2005), stating they searched the record but were unable to find any arguable issues for appellate review. Knight was given the opportunity to file a pro se brief, asked for more time, but ultimately filed nothing. The Mississippi Supreme Court reviewed the record and found no error. Accordingly, it affirmed the trial court's judgment. View "Knight v. Mississippi" on Justia Law

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Shannon Parker appealed his aggravated-assault conviction and enhanced sentence. Eric and Edna Burkett were standing outside their home in Hattiesburg, Mississippi, when a white pickup truck stopped in front of them. The driver got out, and the Burketts asked if he needed help. The man mumbled something, grabbed a rifle, and shot Eric, wounding him. The man also fired shots at Edna but missed. Soon after, the police found the white truck in a nearby ditch, tires still spinning. The driver, later identified as Parker, was arrested and later confirmed by the Burketts as the man who attacked them. Parker appeared to be under the influence. At the interviewing officer’s recommendation, Parker underwent a mental evaluation. The evaluation was performed by a licensed professional counselor. Parker told the counselor that he had previously been treated for anxiety and depression. The counselor concluded that Parker “was verbal and responsive” and that “[h]is thought processes were rational.” Although indicted on two counts of assault, the State elected to proceed only on the aggravated assault against Eric, with a five-year sentencing enhancement for using a firearm. A week before the scheduled trial, Parker planned to plead guilty. But at the hearing, Parker claimed he had no recollection of the crime, and that he could not verify the State’s recitation of the facts. Under the circumstances, the trial judge determined he could not accept Parker’s plea. Parker presented three issues on appeal: (1) the trial judge erred in allowing the State’s firearm expert to testify; (2) the trial judge abused his discretion in denying Parker’s motion for a mental evaluation; and (3) the firearm enhancement violated the constitutional prohibition against double jeopardy. While the appellate court unanimously agreed the first and third issues presented no reversible error, the court was equally divided on the second issue. Based on this split, the Mississippi Supreme Court granted Parker’s petition for certiorari review. Although Parker reasserted all three appellate issues in his petition, the Court limited its review to the issue of Parker’s request for a mental evaluation. The Court found that although given the opportunity to do so, Parker presented no concrete reason establishing the need for a mental evaluation to assist in the pursuit of a viable insanity defense. Instead, Parker offered only unsupported assertions of diminished capacity (a defense not recognized by Mississippi law). The Court thus affirmed. View "Parker v. Mississippi" on Justia Law

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Montrell Croft, a/k/a “G-Money,” was convicted by jury of “participating in or conducting or conspiring” in illegal gang activity, possession of a firearm by a felon, and attempted murder. Croft appealed. The Mississippi Supreme Court determined an instruction permitting a jury in a criminal case to find an element of a crime by a preponderance of the evidence constitutes plain error. Accordingly, it reversed and remanded this case for a new trial on whether Croft “participat[ed] in or conduct[ed] or conspir[ed]” in criminal gang activity beyond a reasonable doubt. Croft’s felon-in-possession and attempted-murder convictions and sentences were affirmed. View "Croft v. Mississippi" on Justia Law

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David Lee Stanfield was convicted of aggravated assault and of felon in possession of a firearm. The sole issue before the Mississippi Supreme Court was whether the trial court erred in instructing the jury that self-defense is not a defense to the crime of felon in possession of a firearm. Finding it did not, the Supreme Court affirmed. View "Stanfield v. Mississippi" on Justia Law

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Matthew Courtney appealed his conviction on one count of sexual battery. The trial court sentenced Courtney to serve a period of twenty-five years. Courtney argued that the statute of limitations barred his sexual battery conviction. Alternatively, Courtney argued that the delay in bringing him to trial violated his Sixth Amendment constitutional right to a speedy trial. The Mississippi Supreme Court determined Courtney did not preserve the statute of limitations argument; the Court could not find a speedy trial violation. Therefore, the Court affirmed Courtney's conviction and sentence. View "Courtney v. Mississippi" on Justia Law

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Andre Fairley was indicted by grand jury for one count of possessing two or more grams, but less than ten grams of cocaine with intent to distribute, and one count of possessing more than thirty grams, but less than one kilogram, of synthetic cannabinoid, with intent to distribute. Following a jury trial at which Fairley represented himself with the aid of standby counsel, Fairley was convicted of both counts. The trial court sentenced Fairley to twenty years for count one and five years for count two, with the sentences to be served day for day and concurrently. Fairley appealed both his convictions and sentences through appellate counsel and pro se, claiming numerous assignments of error. Finding no reversible error, the Mississippi Supreme Court affirmed Fairley’s convictions and sentences. View "Fairley v. Mississippi" on Justia Law

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Devin Arrington was indicted by grand jury for armed robbery. After jury selection, Arrington requested a continuance to allow him to retain new counsel, which was denied. During his attorney’s opening statement, Arrington interrupted and declared that he did not want his counsel to continue representing him. After a jury trial, Arrington was found guilty. Arrington filed a Motion for J.N.O.V. or, in the Alternative, Motion for New Trial. Both motions were denied. The Mississippi Supreme Court affirmed Arrington’s conviction for armed robbery. Arrington abandoned each of his arguments on appeal by failing to make them: failing to cite authority, or failing to identify the arguments for review. "Even if Arrington’s claims were not abandoned, Arrington’s arguments are either without merit or are based on facts not fully apparent from the record." View "Arrington v. Mississippi" on Justia Law

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A jury found Jason McGrath guilty of four counts of sexual battery by a person in a position of trust and one count of touching a child for lustful purposes, charges stemming from McGrath’s sexual assault and molestation of his stepdaughter, M. M. He was sentenced to forty years’ imprisonment. On appeal, McGrath argued the trial judge wrongly admitted Rule 404(b) evidence of McGrath’s previous sexual assaults and molestations of a different stepdaughter and his adopted daughter. The Mississippi Supreme Court found there were several legitimate purposes supporting these admissions, and saw no abuse of discretion in these rulings. View "McGrath v. Mississippi" on Justia Law

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In 2016, a grand jury indicted Alvin Wilson for sexual battery, specifically for the willful, unlawful and felonious sexual penetration of a child under the age of 14. The indictment provided that at the time of the sexual battery, Wilson was over the age of eighteen and was twenty-four months older than the victim. A jury found Wilson guilty of sexual battery as charged. The trial court sentenced Wilson to thirty-five years, with thirty years to be served day for day followed by five years of supervised post release supervision. Wilson appealed, arguing that the trial court erred by: (1) admitting into evidence a video recording of his interview with law enforcement; and (2) proceeding with his trial and sentencing in absentia. Finding no error, the Mississippi Supreme Court affirmed Wilson’s conviction and sentence. View "Wilson v. Mississippi" on Justia Law