Justia Mississippi Supreme Court Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in Criminal Law
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Cody Pitts was convicted by jury on one count of touching a child for lustful purposes, for which the circuit court sentenced him to a ten year sentence at the Mississippi Department of Corrections without the possibility of parole or early release. Pitts appealed his conviction and sentence, arguing: (1) the trial court abused its discretion by admitting evidence under Mississippi Rule of Evidence 803(25)—the tender-years exception to the rule against hearsay; and (2) the trial court abused its discretion by giving jury instruction S-6: an instruction concerning the uncorroborated testimony of a sex-crime victim. After review, the Mississippi Supreme Court found the trial court did not abuse its discretion, and affirmed. View "Pitts v. Mississippi" on Justia Law

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A jury convicted David Dickerson of capital murder, arson and armed robbery and sentenced him to death for capital murder. He was sentenced to twenty years for arson and forty years for armed robbery, to run consecutively. Dickerson appealed his convictions and sentences, and the Mississippi Supreme Court affirmed. Dickerson then sought post-conviction collateral relief proceedings, claiming however that he was incompetent to proceed with the post-conviction proceedings; so the Court remanded the case and ordered the trial court to determine whether Dickerson was competent to proceed in post-conviction proceedings. The trial court found Dickerson competent. Dickerson then appealed that finding. The Mississippi Supreme Court found the trial court’s determination that Dickerson was competent to proceed in post-conviction collateral relief proceedings was not manifestly against the overwhelming weight of the evidence. View "Dickerson v. Mississippi" on Justia Law

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Albert Stewart was convicted of felony fleeing and of possession of a controlled substance. The trial court sentenced Stewart to serve five years for the felony-fleeing count and a consecutive three-year term for the possession count. Because the Mississippi Supreme Court found no merit in the issues Stewart raised on appeal, it affirmed his convictions and sentences. View "Stewart v. Mississippi" on Justia Law

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Ashley Brown and Jessica Baugh were roommates at the Bay Meadows Apartments in Ridgeland, Mississippi. They worked together at a local bar. One night after work, Brown and Baugh met up with friends, including Stephanie Mejia, another co-worker. Mejia arranged to spend the night at Brown’s and Baugh’s apartment. Because Mejia did not have a key to the apartment, Baugh told her that she would leave the door unlocked. Mejia then left Baugh to meet up with her friends. During the night, Jones woke up Baugh and advised that someone had come into the apartment. Baugh was not concerned because she assumed it was Mejia. Later that morning, Brown woke up Baugh and advised that her car was gone. Brown’s keys, along with her debit and credit cards, were also gone. Baugh began to look around the apartment and noticed that her iPad and Michael Kors bag were missing. The tips that Baugh had received from work were in the bag. Brown and Baugh called the police. The Ridgeland Police Department learned that Amonteel Pates had used Brown’s credit card to purchase a pair of shoes. Pates was later arrested. When questioned about the incident at Brown’s and Baugh’s apartment, Pates acknowledged his involvement and culpability and provided the names of the other suspects: Rahim Williams, Michael Tillman, Fabiyonne Peel, and defendant Jontavian Eubanks. According to Pates, Mejia instigated taking Baugh's tips; Pates was aware that Mejia had arranged to spend the night at Baugh’s and Brown’s apartment and that Baugh would leave the door unlocked. Eubanks, Pates, Peel, Williams, and Tillman were indicted on burglary of a dwelling, conspiracy to commit burglary of a dwelling, motor-vehicle theft, and conspiracy to commit motor-vehicle theft. Pates pleaded guilty and was sentenced to twenty-five years in the custody of the Mississippi Department of Corrections (MDOC), with ten years to serve. As part of his plea agreement, Pates testified against Eubanks at trial. Eubanks was convicted of burglary of a dwelling, and conspiracy to commit burglary of a dwelling, and was sentenced to serve twenty-five years in the custody of the MDOC on Count I and five years on Count II, with the sentences to run concurrently to each other, but consecutively to any and all other sentences. He was further ordered to pay $698.50 in court costs, fees, and assessments. Eubanks appealed, arguing the trial court erred by: (1) denying his motion for funds to retain an expert for trial; (2) denying his motion for funds to retain an expert for a Daubert hearing; (3) overruling his Batson challenge; and (4) permitting hearsay testimony to establish essential elements of the charged offenses. Finding no reversible error, the Mississippi Supreme Court affirmed Eubanks' conviction. View "Eubanks v. Mississippi" on Justia Law

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Carlos Smith appealed the denial of his petition for post-conviction relief which was affirmed by the Court of Appeals. In his petition for post-conviction relief, Smith sought permission to proceed with an out-of-time appeal. The circuit court denied his motion, finding that it had no jurisdiction to allow the out-of-time appeal due to the 180-day time limit imposed by Mississippi Rule of Appellate Procedure 4(h). The filing was well past the 180-day deadline under the Mississippi Rules of Appellate Procedure; however, the petition was still within the three year time limit imposed for filing a petition for post-conviction relief under Mississippi Code Section section 99-39-5(2) (Rev. 2015). The Mississippi Supreme Court concluded the trial court erred by not considering Smith’s post-conviction motion for an out- of-time appeal under Section 99-39-5(2). Accordingly, it reversed and remanded. View "Smith v. Mississippi" on Justia Law

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Justin Herrington, a law-enforcement officer with the Columbia Police Department, was convicted of violating Mississippi Code Section 97-3-104, which prohibited sexual activity between a law-enforcement employee and an offender on correctional supervision. The trial court ordered Herrington to register as a sex offender under Mississippi Code Sections 45-33-21 through 45-33-51. The trial court then amended its order and removed Herrington’s registration requirement. The Mississippi Department of Public Safety (MDPS) appealed and argued that the trial court erred by removing Herrington’s requirement to register as a sex offender. After review, the Mississippi Supreme Court agreed and reversed the trial court’s order dispensing with Herrington’s registration requirement. View "Mississippi Department of Public Safety v. Herrington" on Justia Law

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James Brent was tried by jury and convicted of armed robbery and kidnapping, and he was sentenced to serve two concurrent life sentences as a violent habitual offender under Mississippi Code Section 99- 19-83 (Rev. 2015). Brent appealed to the Mississippi Supreme Court. Brent’s appellate counsel filed a "Lindsey" brief, certifying no arguable issues existed in the record. Brent himself filed a supplemental pro se brief, arguing: (1) the evidence was insufficient to support each of his convictions; (2) his retrial subjected him to double jeopardy; (3) a jury instruction effectively modified an essential element of armed robbery; and (4) the State’s evidence was insufficient to prove his status as a violent habitual offender under Section 99-19-83. Finding no arguable issues from the record, the Mississippi Supreme Court affirmed conviction and sentence. View "Brent v. Mississippi" on Justia Law

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In March 2015, James White was shot and killed in Brad Reed’s house in Clay County, Mississippi. A jury ultimately found Johnson guilty of first-degree murder, and the trial court sentenced him to a term of life imprisonment. At the close of the State’s case-in-chief, Johnson unsuccessfully moved for a directed verdict challenging the sufficiency of the State’s evidence. Johnson filed a motion for a judgment notwithstanding the verdict or, alternatively, a new trial. The trial court denied that motion too. On appeal, Johnson argued: (1) the trial court erred by denying his motion challenging the sufficiency of the evidence; (2) the trial court erroneously instructed the jury; (3) his grand jury indictment was improper; and (4) his jury verdict form was erroneous. After review, the Mississippi Supreme Court found sufficient evidence was presented to support Johnson’s murder conviction; the indictment sufficiently notified Johnson of the charged crime, and the jury was properly instructed. Accordingly, Johnson’s conviction and sentence were affirmed. View "Johnson v. Mississippi" on Justia Law

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Stephen Redmond appealed after a jury found him guilty of first-degree murder, for which he was sentenced to life imprisonment. He argued he should have been granted a new trial because the verdict was against the overwhelming weight of the evidence. After review, the Mississippi Supreme Court found the trial court did not abuse its discretion by denying his motion, and affirmed. View "Redmond v. Mississippi" on Justia Law

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James Ross was convicted by jury of three counts of sexual battery against two victims under the age of fourteen, and one count of statutory rape. After the verdict, Ross was sentenced to serve three concurrent thirty-year terms in prison for the sexual-battery convictions, and a consecutive terms of thirty years for the statutory-rape conviction, with five years suspended. Ross appealed, arguing: (1) the State failed to prove that the crimes occurred within a reasonable time frame of the dates alleged in the indictment; and (2) his trial was rendered unfair because the jury was informed that his codefendant, Canary Johnson, pled guilty to child neglect mid-trial. Ross alternatively argued his trial counsel was constitutionally ineffective for requesting that the jury be informed of Johnson’s guilty plea. Finding no reversible error, the Mississippi Supreme Court affirmed convictions and sentences. View "Ross v. Mississippi" on Justia Law