Justia Mississippi Supreme Court Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in Criminal 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

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Bobby Osbourne was convicted of aggravated assault, following a jury trial. Osbourne appealed, claiming that his trial counsel was constitutionally ineffective for numerous reasons: (1) for failing to move for a mistrial after discovering at trial that the handwritten notes taken by one of investigators, who had taken a statement from Osbourne, had not been provided to Osbourne’s defense before trial; (2) for failing to investigate possible exculpatory evidence; (3) for failing to perfect Osbourne’s direct appeal; and (4) for failing to obtain video evidence that corroborated Osbourne’s trial testimony. The State argued the only ineffective-assistance claim that could be addressed on this record was the claim that Osbourne’s trial counsel failed to perfect a direct appeal from Osbourne’s conviction. Accordingly, the State declined to stipulate that the record was adequate to address Osbourne’s remaining ineffective-assistance claims. The Mississippi Supreme Court agreed with the State: given the record before the Supreme Court, it addressed only the ineffective-assistance claim pertaining to trial counsel’s purported failure to perfect a direct appeal, and found no merit to Osbourne’s contention it entitled him to relief. View "Osbourne v. Mississippi" on Justia Law

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Charles Kuebler appealed the denial of his petition for writ of habeas corpus. Kuebler alleged the employees of the Jackson Detention Center (“JDC”) confiscated and photocopied his legal work, refused to let him meet with his attorneys, and eavesdropped on confidential attorney-client conversations. The circuit court found that Kuebler had not presented sufficient proof to support claims of violations of his constitutional rights and found no merit to the claims. After reviewing Kuebler’s petition and the evidence presented, the Mississippi Supreme Court found the circuit court did not err in denying the petition and affirmed. View "Kuebler v. Mason" on Justia Law

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Richard Morrow was convicted of fondling and sentenced as a habitual offender to life in prison without parole. Morrow’s trial counsel did not file a direct appeal. Nevertheless, the trial court allowed Morrow to proceed with an out of time appeal. Morrow raised four issues on appeal: (1) whether the trial court erred in allowing testimony and comments about DNA evidence; (2) whether the victim’s nonverbal responses were ambiguous and therefore insufficient to support the verdict; (3) whether he received ineffective assistance of counsel; and (4) whether cumulative error requires reversal. Finding no reversible error, the Mississippi Supreme Court affirmed. View "Morrow v. Mississippi" on Justia Law