Justia Criminal Law Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in Supreme Court of Mississippi
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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

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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

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Donald Keith Smith appealed the circuit court’s decision to summarily affirm his Petition Seeking Judicial Review of an Adverse Administrative Remedy Decision. In 2009, Smith pled guilty to one count of kidnapping, armed carjacking, and felony fleeing. Approximately two years later, Smith filed a pro se motion for post-conviction relief, attacking his armed-carjacking conviction. The Mississippi Supreme Court remanded his case for the trial court to conduct an evidentiary hearing. After that hearing, the trial court determined that Smith had not received the competency evaluation the trial court had ordered. So the trial court reversed Smith's conviction. Smith was later evaluated and found to be competent. In late 2016, Smith pled guilty to attempted kidnapping, armed carjacking, and felony fleeing. The trial court sentenced Smith to thirty years, with eighteen years to serve, for attempted kidnapping, thirty years, with eighteen years to serve, for armed carjacking, and five years for felony fleeing. In July 2017, the trial court amended Smith’s sentencing order to reflect that he should be sentenced to serve ten years for attempted kidnapping. The remainder of Smith’s sentencing order stayed the same. Smith filed an initial grievance through the Administrative Remedy Program (ARP) at the MDOC. In his grievance, Smith asserted that his time computation was incorrect. After review, the Supreme Court concluded the circuit court lacked jurisdiction over the Mississippi Department of Corrections, and therefore vacated and remanded. View "Smith v. Mississippi" on Justia Law

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Johnathan Nickson was charged with two counts of first-degree murder and one count of possession of a firearm as a convicted felon. The jury acquitted him on the two counts of first-degree murder but deadlocked as to second-degree murder and the felon-in-possession charge. The trial court declared a mistrial. Because the jury’s verdict acquitted Nickson of first-degree murder, the Mississippi Supreme Court concluded the trial court erred by declaring a mistrial on those charges. As a result, the trial court’s order declaring a mistrial as to the two counts of first-degree murder was reversed, and a judgment of acquittal was rendered on those charges. The trial court’s order was affirmed as to the remaining offense of second-degree murder and the charge of possession of a firearm as a convicted felon because no final resolution was reached by the jury. View "Nickson v. Mississippi" on Justia Law

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Orlando Newell shot and killed Michael Woods. At trial, he argued self-defense, and the jury convicted him of murder. The trial court gave a pre-arming jury instruction, which precluded Newell’s self-defense theory. Because this instruction was not supported by the evidence and improperly impaired Newell’s self-defense claim, the Mississippi Supreme Court concluded the trial court’s grant of the pre-arming instruction was made in error. Consequently, Newell's conviction was reversed and the matter remanded for a new trial. View "Newell v. Mississippi" on Justia Law

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After Kendal Woodson’s wife said she was going to leave him, he beat her severely and poured hot cooking oil on her. Woodson was convicted of domestic aggravated assault. Woodson’s trial counsel filed no posttrial motions, but Woodson later obtained an out-of-time appeal. His appointed counsel filed "Lindsey" brief, certifying she found no arguable issues supporting an appeal. Woodson did not file a pro se brief. After reviewing the record, the Mississippi Supreme Court concurred there were no appealable issues, accepted counsel's Lindsey certification, and affirmed Woodson's conviction and sentence. View "Woodson v. Mississippi" on Justia Law

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In June 2017, the Mississippi Supreme Court affirmed Timothy Nelson Evans’s capital-murder conviction and sentence of death. The mandate issued October 5, 2017. On that same date, the Mississippi Office of Capital Post-Conviction Counsel (OCPCC) moved for post-conviction relief on Evans' behalf. The Mississippi Supreme Court concluded Evans’s PCR claims failed to present a substantial showing of the denial of a state or federal right. View "Evans 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