Justia Mississippi Supreme Court Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in Criminal 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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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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D.C., a minor foster child, alleged that Jason Case, his foster parent, sexually abused him. The Mississippi Department of Human Services ("DHS") removed D.C. from Case’s home and a subsequent investigation substantiated the alleged abuse. DHS did not contest that Case abused D.C. In his complaint, D.C. alleged negligence and gross negligence on behalf of DHS and the Department's executive director, Richard Berry, in the licensing of the foster home and the lack of care and treatment to D.C., both during his placement and after DHS removed D.C. from the foster home. After a period of discovery, DHS filed a motion for summary judgment. It maintained that it was entitled to immunity under Mississippi Code Section 43-15-125 (Rev. 2015) and Mississippi Code Section 11-46-9(1)(d) (Rev. 2012). Without any noted reference to Section 43-15-125, the circuit court denied DHS’s motion for summary judgement. DHS filed a petition for interlocutory appeal, which a panel of the Mississippi Supreme Court granted. After review of the record, the Supreme Court affirmed in part and reversed in part the circuit court’s denial of summary judgment: the circuit court erred in denying DHS summary judgment for D.C.’s claims that stemmed from DHS’s licensing of the foster home, given the immunity DHS and its officers have under Section 43- 15-125. The circuit court, though, did not err in denying DHS summary judgment under Section 11-46-9(d)(1) of the Mississippi Tort Claims Act, because DHS did not meet its burden to show that no genuine issue as to any material fact existed. View "Mississippi Department of Human Services v. D.C." 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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E.C. alleged she was sexually assaulted on the premises of Pass Christian High School. The Youth Court adjudicated the alleged perpetrators not delinquent. Later, Roy and Kimberly Cuevas, individually, and on behalf of their minor daughter, E.C., filed a negligence action seeking damages from the Pass Christian School District associated with the alleged assault. Pass Christian unsuccessfully sought the records from the youth-court action to use in its defense in the civil case. It argued on appeal that the youth-court judge abused her discretion in denying its requests for disclosure of the youth-court records and trial transcripts relating to the three minor perpetrators. It also argued it would be denied due process and fairness if the sworn testimony of E.C. were not released due to the confidentiality rules protecting the subjects of youth-court actions. The Mississippi Supreme Court reversed and remanded for the circuit court to conduct an in camera review of the youth-court record to determine whether any of it should have been disclosed. View "In the Interest of M.D.G. v. Harrison County Youth Court of 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