Justia Mississippi Supreme Court Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in Criminal Law
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Alan Walker was convicted of the capital murder of Konya Edwards during the commission of sexual battery, for which he received the death sentence. He was also convicted of forcible rape and kidnapping, for which he was sentenced to thirty and thirty-five years, to run consecutively. On direct appeal, the Mississippi Supreme Court affirmed his convictions and sentences, and denied Walker’s application for leave to file for post-conviction relief. Walker filed a successive post-conviction motion, arguing his counsel rendered ineffective assistance of counsel. On remand to the trial court, Walker failed to meet his burden of proof that trial counsel had rendered deficient performance that prejudiced him. Finding no grounds to reverse the trial judge’s determination, the Court affirmed conviction and sentences. View "Walker v. Mississippi" on Justia Law

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Darrell Walter was convicted by jury of capital murder and aggravated assault, both enhanced by the use of a firearm. He was sentenced to life without parole for capital murder, ten years for aggravated assault, and an additional five years for the aggravated-assault firearm enhancement to run concurrent to the ten-year sentence. Walter’s counsel filed a “Lindsey” brief; Walter himself did not file a pro se brief. The Mississippi Supreme Court accepted defense counsel’s attestation there were no arguable issues for appeal. Finding the evidence sufficiently supported Walter’s convictions for capital murder with firearms enhancements, the Supreme Court affirmed conviction. View "Walter v. Mississippi" on Justia Law

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A five-year-old girl's dead body was found after a twelve-hour police search. Her body was found in a filthy, abandoned trailer fifty yards from her apartment complex. She had been sexually assaulted, vaginally and anally, and then hanged by the neck with a pair of socks tied to a window crank. Twenty-nine-year-old Alberto Garcia, a resident of the same apartment complex, confessed to killing the child in the course of raping her. Forensic evidence confirmed Garcia’s DNA had been found in the child’s vagina and anus. Garcia pled guilty before trial, and waived his right to a jury for sentencing. For his crimes, Garcia was sentenced to death. He appealed only his sentence, and applying the heightened scrutiny that a death-penalty appeal demands, the Mississippi Supreme Court found no merit to Garcia’s claims the trial judge erred in her sentencing decision. Because the death penalty was constitutional and because Garcia’s death sentence was proportionate to other sentences imposed for the capital murder of a young sexual-assault victim, the Court affirmed the sentence. View "Garcia v. Mississippi" on Justia Law

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Leslie Galloway appealed the denial of his 2015 petition for post-conviction relief (PCR) pertaining to his 2007 guilty plea to carjacking, a conviction that was used as an aggravating circumstance in Galloway’s 2010 capital-murder trial at which Galloway received a death sentence. Galloway claimed in the petition that his defense counsel Wendy Martin had an actual conflict of interest because, before becoming his defense counsel, Martin had served as an assistant district attorney in the same case, unbeknownst to Galloway. The trial court ruled that Galloway’s PCR claim was time barred under Mississippi’s Uniform Post-Conviction Collateral Relief Act (UPCCRA), having been filed more than seven years after Galloway’s conviction for carjacking. The trial court alternatively found no merit to Galloway’s PCR claim, time bar notwithstanding. Accordingly, the trial court denied Galloway’s PCR petition. The Mississippi Supreme Court agreed with the trial court that Galloway’s PCR claim was time barred under the UPCCRA. The Court also agreed there was no merit to Galloway's PCR claim. View "Galloway v. Mississippi" on Justia Law

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Johnny Lee Saddler confessed to the inappropriate touching of a thirteen-year-old girl. He contended his constitutional and procedural rights were violated during trial court proceedings, arguing that because he invoked his right to counsel and his right to silence, the trial court erred by denying the motion to suppress his confession. Saddler further argued his trial counsel was constitutionally inadequate. Finally, Saddler argued that the trial court erred by allowing the State to present improper lay opinion evidence. After review of the trial court record, the Mississippi Supreme Court determined Saddler waived his rights, and his confession was properly admitted. The Court found Saddler's counsel was not constitutionally ineffective, and the lay opinion did not prejudice Saddler's defense. View "Saddler v. Mississippi" on Justia Law

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Joseph "Peanut" Brown sat on death row since his conviction for capital murder in Adams County, Mississippi in 1994. The jury found that Brown shot and killed a convenience-store clerk during a robbery. Brown filed a successive petition for post-conviction relief in which he raised numerous issues. The Mississippi Supreme Court determined most of the claims raised at this point were subject to the time bar, the successive-writ bar, and/or were barred by res judicata. The Court determined the remaining issue was without merit. The successive petition was therefore denied. View "Brown v. Mississippi" on Justia Law

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In the early morning hours of February 7, 2013, Vicksburg Police Officers Russell Dorsey and Diawardrick Grover were dispatched to Herbert Williams’s residence as a result of a 911. Williams called 911 because he discharged his firearm at his neighbor’s dog. After Officer Dorsey arrived at Williams’s house, Williams explained his reasons for discharging his firearm. Williams stated that he shot at the ground near the dog in an attempt to prevent an attack by the dog. Officer Grover arrived a few minutes after Officer Dorsey, and he interviewed Jacqueline Knight Holt, the owner of the dog. Officer Grover observed the dog, and he described the dog as "small and scared." After Officers Dorsey and Grover conducted an investigation, Officer Dorsey arrested Williams for unnecessarily discharging a firearm in the city in violation of Vicksburg’s city ordinance. In July 2014, Williams filed a complaint against the City under the MTCA in the Circuit Court of Warren County. Williams alleged that “said Police Officers grossly and negligently arrested Plaintiff for no good cause, causing Plaintiff damages physically and psychologically.” Williams sued the City of Vicksburg (City) for injuries he allegedly sustained after his arrest. The Circuit Court, sitting without a jury under the Mississippi Tort Claims Act (MTCA), entered a judgment in favor of Williams. However, because the City was entitled to immunity, the Mississippi Supreme Court reversed. View "City of Vicksburg v. Williams" on Justia Law

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Michael Willis (Willis) appealed his conviction for aggravated assault. Counsel for his codefendant and nephew Kedarious Willis filed a Lindsey brief averring there were no meritorious arguments for appeal. Charges arose over a fight in 2027 Kedarious got into with Travell Moore: Kedarious alleged Travell stole a radio from Willis' car. After the fight broke up, Kedarious and Willis drove to a relative's house on Jordan Street. Travell was playing dominoes outside surrounded by a large crowd of people by the time Kedarious and Willis drove by the house. Travell removed his shirt and went out in the street to confront Kedarious and Willis. Witness testimony was divided over whether Willis then got out of the car and argued with Travell before they reached Kedarious’s grandmother’s home or if Travell followed them down to Kedarious’s grandmother’s home. Regardless, the confrontation between Travell and Willis was renewed in front of Kedarious’s grandmother’s home. Travell claimed that at some point he turned his back to Willis and then heard Willis say, “shoot, shoot.” Travell tried to run but was struck by several bullets, falling at the next-door neighbor’s driveway. Travell was taken to University of Mississippi Medical Center where he was treated for a collapsed lung and a lacerated liver. His spinal cord was severed, resulting in paralysis. Willis was sentenced to twenty years in prison as a habitual offender. After reviewing Willis' contentions of error at trial, the Mississippi Supreme Court found no reversible error and affirmed his conviction. View "Willis v. Mississippi" on Justia Law

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A jury found Willie Nash guilty of possession of a cell phone in a correctional facility. Nash did not appeal the jury’s verdict. He only challenged the sentence: twelve years in prison. He claimed the twelve-year sentence is grossly disproportionate to the crime and thus violated the Eighth Amendment. Though harsh, the Mississippi Supreme Court determined Nash’s sentence fell within the statutory range of three to fifteen years. And the judge based his sentencing decision on the seriousness of Nash’s crime and evidence of Nash’s criminal history. Because Nash has not shown that a threshold comparison of the crime committed to the sentence imposed leads to an inference of gross disproportionality, the Court performed no further analysis, and affirmed the conviction and sentence. View "Nash v. Mississippi" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law
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Kendrick Shelvy appealed his burglary conviction, challenging the sufficiency of the evidence presented against him at trial. Because the Mississippi Supreme Court found sufficient evidence to support the verdict and because the verdict was not against the overwhelming weight of the evidence, it affirmed conviction. View "Shelvy v. Mississippi" on Justia Law