Justia Mississippi Supreme Court Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in Criminal Law
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Joseph Ward was convicted of burglary of a dwelling, for which he was sentenced to serve twenty-five years in the custody of the Mississippi Department of Corrections (MDOC). Ward appealed, arguing the evidence was insufficient to support his conviction, and that the verdict was contrary to the weight of the evidence. Because the State failed to present substantive evidence proving the elements of the burglary charge against Ward, the Mississippi Supreme Court reversed Ward’s conviction and sentence. View "Ward v. Mississippi" on Justia Law

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Christopher Lozier appealed a circuit court order denying his petition to relieve him of having to register under the Mississippi Sex Offender Registry Law(MSORL). Lozier claimed the trial court misinterpreted Mississippi Code Section 45-33- 47 as applied to him. Lozier also claimed that the MSORL was unconstitutional because it violated ex post facto laws of the federal and state constitutions, constituted cruel and unusual punishment under both constitutions, violated the Privileges and Immunities Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution, and violated the Full Faith and Credit Clause of Article IV, Section 1, of the federal constitution, and in Mississippi Code sections 11-7-301 through -309. Finding no reversible error, the Mississippi Supreme Court affirmed the circuit court’s decision. View "Lozier v. Mississippi" on Justia Law

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Marquis Stevenson was convicted of first-degree murder and possession of a firearm by a convicted felon for shooting Marvion Leflore in the chest. On appeal, Stevenson argued his convictions were contrary to the weight of the evidence, and that his trial counsel rendered ineffective assistance of counsel. Because Stevenson’s convictions were not contrary to the weight of the evidence, the Mississippi Supreme Court affirmed. Because the record was insufficient to determine whether ineffective assistance of counsel was rendered, the Supreme Court dismissed his ineffective-assistance-of-counsel claim without prejudice. View "Stevenson v. Mississippi" on Justia Law

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James Cobb Hutto, III was convicted of the capital murder of Ethel Simpson and was sentenced to death. He sought post-conviction relief from the Mississippi Supreme Court, or alternatively, leave to proceed at the trial court on grounds of ineffective assistance of trial counsel. The Supreme Court found Hutto failed to present a substantial showing of the denial of a state or federal right, so it denied his petition. View "Hutto v. Mississippi" on Justia Law

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A jury convicted Chad Bowman of one count of burglary of a dwelling - a hunting camp where his wife had stayed during the early part of Mississippi’s bowhunting season. On appeal, Bowman argued the State failed to sufficiently prove the hunting camp was, at the time of the alleged burglary, a dwelling house. Bowman did not dispute that, under Mississippi law, a hunting camp could be considered a dwelling house. Instead, Bowman argues the hunting camp was not Emily Anne’s dwelling house, as charged in the indictment, because she neither owned the hunting camp, nor did she intend the hunting camp to be her permanent residence. After review, the Mississippi Supreme Court found the State sufficiently proved Emily Anne was residing in the hunting camp when Bowman broke in. Because of the apparent confusion over the length of time Bowman had to serve, the Court remanded the case for resentencing. View "Bowman v. Mississippi" on Justia Law

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Katherine Grace Short appeals the circuit court’s change of venue in her defamation case from the Circuit Court of the First Judicial District of Harrison County, Mississippi, to the Circuit Court of Jackson County, Mississippi. On the evening of August 1, 1975, Short’s husband, Tye Breland, died from a gunshot wound to the chest at their home in Pascagoula, in Jackson County, Mississippi. Short was not charged with Breland’s death. Forty-two years later, "Cold Justice: Beyond the Grave," a true-crime documentary (the episode), premiered on the Oxygen Network. The episode aired nationally, focused on Breland’s death, and considered whether Short murdered her late husband. During the episode, crime experts Kelly Siegler (identified as a prosecutor) and John Bonds (identified as a homicide investigator) investigated Breland’s death. Darren Versiga, a law-enforcement officer with the Pascagoula Police Department, assisted the investigation. The investigation team exhumed Breland’s body, prepared a mockup of the crime scene, conducted ballistics testing, and interviewed numerous witnesses to determine whether Breland’s death was a suicide, an accident, or a homicide. The team concluded that Breland did not commit suicide. They identified Short as a suspect in Breland’s death and turned over their investigation to the Jackson County District Attorney’s Office. According to the team, they put together enough information for a circumstantial case of murder. Short sued Siegler, Bonds and Versiga and various media entities, alleging defamation and tortious invasion of privacy. Versiga then filed a motion to transfer venue to the Circuit Court of Jackson County. In his motion, Versiga argued that the Circuit Court of Jackson County was the proper venue under Mississippi law because it was where a substantial alleged act or omission occurred or where a substantial event that caused the injury occurred. Versiga further argued that the Circuit Court of Jackson County was the proper venue “as it is the county in which [he] resides.” The Mississippi Supreme Court disagreed, determining the injury at issue occurred in Harrison county, and venue was proper there. Accordingly, the circuit court's judgment was reversed and remanded. View "Short v. Versiga" on Justia Law

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The Mississippi Supreme Court granted the petition of the Mississippi Department of Public Safety (MDPS) for certiorari review of the Court of Appeals’ decision that Chelsey Ferguson needed no longer register under the Mississippi Sex Offenders Registration Law (the Act) due to the expungement of her misdemeanor sex offense. Because Mississippi Code Section 45-33-55 (Rev. 2015) exempted sex offenses from orders of expungement to the extent that the information concerning those offenses was authorized for dissemination under the Act, the Supreme Court reversed the Court of Appeals’ decision and reinstated the circuit court’s judgment. View "Ferguson v. Mississippi Department of Public Safety" on Justia Law

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Deionta Ivory was convicted on counts of armed robbery and kidnaping. Ivory’s trial attorney moved ore tenus for judgment notwithstanding the verdict (JNOV), but he did not make a post-trial motion for a new trial. On appeal, Ivory argues that the verdicts were contrary to the overwhelming weight of the evidence, and he requests a new trial. He contends that his ore tenus motion for JNOV should be construed as a motion for a new trial because the motion challenged the weight of the evidence. In the alternative, Ivory argues that, if the issue was not preserved, his trial court attorney’s failure to move for a new trial constitutes ineffective assistance of counsel. In denying Ivory's request, the Mississippi Supreme Court the ore tenus motion was not a motion for a new trial, and Ivory's ineffective assistance of counsel claim was not warranted. "While the trial attorney’s omission did constitute deficient performance, Ivory suffered no prejudice because his convictions were supported by the overwhelming weight of the evidence." View "Ivory v. Mississippi" on Justia 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