Justia Criminal Law Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in Supreme Court of Mississippi
by
The Mississippi Supreme Court granted certiorari to review the Court of Appeals’ decision to affirm Kelvin Taylor's two convictions for murder and his conviction for felonious possession of a firearm. Taylor argued the circuit court erred by denying his motions to suppress. Taylor also claimed the Coahoma County Sheriff’s Office obtained an invalid waiver of his Fifth Amendment right to counsel. Though the Supreme Court found no reversible error and affirmed the decision of the Court of Appeals, the Supreme Court further granted certiorari to correct a statement of the law surrounding waiver of the Fifth Amendment right to counsel contained in the Court of Appeals’ opinion. The Court also briefly addressed a procedural bar to Taylor’s argument that he received ineffective assistance of counsel at trial. View "Taylor v. Mississippi" on Justia Law

by
Sergio Sandoval was convicted on two counts of touching a child for lustful purposes and one count of sexual battery and was sentenced to fifteen years for each count of touching and thirty years for sexual battery, all to run concurrently. Sandoval only appealed the trial court’s ruling that he was competent to stand trial. After review, the Mississippi Supreme Court found the trial court did not err by finding Sandoval competent. View "Sandoval v. Mississippi" on Justia Law

by
Tony Randell Barnett, Jr., was convicted of armed bank robbery. The sole issue on appeal was whether the evidence presented at trial was sufficient to support Barnett’s conviction. After review of the trial court record, the Mississippi Supreme Court found no reversible error and affirmed Barnett's conviction. View "Randell v. Mississippi" on Justia Law

by
In 2015, D’Alandis Love, Perez Love, Kelsey Jennings, and Ken-Norris Stigler were driving in a red Pontiac headed to the Moroccan Lounge when a gold Tahoe approached as they were driving and opened fire. D’Alandis Love was killed. Perez Love, Jennings, and Stigler were seriously injured. Armand Jones, Sedrick Buchanan, Michael Holland, Jacarius Keys, and James Earl McClung, Jr., were developed as suspects in the shooting. Keys, accompanied by his attorney, went to the Sheriff’s Department and gave a videotaped statement to investigators implicating Jones, Holland, Buchanan, and McClung in the shooting. Keys, Jones, Holland, Buchanan, and McClung were later indicted and charged with one count of first-degree murder and three counts of attempted first-degree murder. Approximately five months after the men were indicted, Keys was shot and killed. Holland and Buchanan were considered suspects in Keys’s death. It is undisputed that at the time of Keys’s death, Jones was incarcerated. Before trial, Jones, Holland, Buchanan, and McClung moved to exclude Keys’s videotaped statement based on hearsay and the Sixth Amendment Confrontation Clause. The trial court denied the motion and allowed the statement to be admitted into evidence under Mississippi Rules of Evidence 804(b)(3) (the statement-against-interest hearsay exception), 804(b)(5) (the catch-all hearsay exception), and 804(b)(6) (the forfeiture-by-wrongdoing hearsay exception). The issue this case presented for the Mississippi Supreme Court's review centered on whether that videotaped statement could be introduced against a defendant under Rule 804(b)(6). The Court found that because the record showed Jones forfeited by wrongdoing his constitutional right to confront the witness, his convictions of murder and attempted murder were affirmed. But because there was insufficient evidence presented to support Buchanan’s convictions of aggravated assault, the Court reversed and rendered a judgment of acquittal as to Buchanan. View "Buchanan v. Mississippi" on Justia Law

by
David Dickerson was convicted by jury of killing his ex-girlfriend and mother of his daughter by shooting and then burning her. In 2015, the Mississippi Supreme Court affirmed Dickerson’s capital-murder conviction and sentence of death, along with related convictions and sentences for arson and armed robbery. Dickerson petitioned for post-conviction relief, arguing he was “he is intellectually disabled as defined by the Court in [Atkins] and thus he is ineligible for the death penalty.” Specifically, Dickerson insists that the PCR “and its accompanying affidavits[] contai[n] much evidence that” he “meets all three criteria for mental retardation”—“subaverage intellectual functioning[,]” “significant deficits in adaptive functioning[,]” and that the “deficits manifested before age 18.” The Supreme Court again declined post-conviction relief, finding that Dickerson’s PCR claims were barred and/or failed to present a substantial showing of the denial of a state or federal right. View "Dickerson v. Mississippi" on Justia Law

by
Jeremy Harris was convicted of attempted burglary of a dwelling with the intent to commit larceny and was sentenced to a term of ten years, with five years suspended. Harris argued on appeal that the trial court erred by granting a mistrial in his first trial. As the record from the first trial was not made part of the record on appeal, the Mississippi Supreme Court ordered that the record be supplemented. The parties were directed to file supplemental briefing if they so chose, and each filed a supplemental brief. Then after review of the entire record, the Supreme Court reversed the conviction and sentence, finding that the mistrial in Harris’s first trial was not manifestly necessary. In the absence of manifest necessity, the constitutional protection against double jeopardy prohibited a second trial for the same crime. View "Harris v. Mississippi" on Justia Law

by
Following the death of his four-month-old daughter and his subsequent indictment for murder, Joshua Clark was convicted of depraved-heart murder. The prosecution relied heavily on the testimony of Dr. Karen Lakin, a pediatrician who opined that the daughter's death resulted from Shaken Baby Syndrome (SBS) (now referred to as Abusive Head Trauma (AHT)). The Court of Appeals reversed and remanded Clark’s conviction after finding that crucial parts of Dr. Lakin’s testimony were unreliable and therefore inadmissible. The Mississippi Supreme Court disagreed with the conclusion of the Court of Appeals that Dr. Lakin’s opinion testimony was inadequately supported to meet the reliability prong of the Daubert standard and was thus improperly admitted. Instead, the Court found the circuit court did not err by admitting Dr. Lakin’s testimony. Therefore, the judgment of the Court of Appeals was reversed, and the judgment of the trial court was reinstated and affirmed. Furthermore, the Supreme Court found Clark’s six additional assignments of error not previously addressed by the Court of Appeals were without merit. View "Clark v. Mississippi" on Justia Law

by
Darron Thames was indicted by grand jury for conspiracy to commit murder and accessory after the fact to murder. Thames was acquitted by a jury of the conspiracy charge, but he was found guilty of accessory after the fact to murder under Mississippi Code Section 97-1-5 (Rev. 2014). Thames appealed his conviction claiming he was unfairly prejudiced by the State’s use of impeachment evidence and transcript testimony of a prosecution witness who had previously testified at a guilty-plea proceeding and at another trial. Thames further claimed his conviction was not supported by sufficient evidence, and that the jury’s guilty verdict was not supported by overwhelming weight of evidence. Finding no reversible error, the Mississippi Supreme Court affirmed Thames’s conviction. View "Thames v. Mississippi" on Justia Law

by
Cephus Terry was charged with possession of cocaine with intent to sell, possession of methamphetamine, possession of Tramadol, and two counts of possession of a firearm by a felon. He was convicted on all five counts, and the circuit court sentenced him as a habitual offender to serve forty-six years in the custody of the Mississippi Department of Corrections. The trial court denied his motion for a new trial, and the Mississippi Court of Appeals affirmed. A majority of the Mississippi Supreme Court concluded the evidence presented at trial was sufficient to support the jury's verdict. Additionally, Terry’s argument that the trial judge erred by improperly instructing the jury as to the issue of constructive possession was subject to a procedural bar. Accordingly, judgment was affirmed. View "Terry v. Mississippi" on Justia Law

by
Kadedria Hampton appealed her convictions for two counts of felony child abuse for burning and starving a minor child. She claimed on appeal that there constitutional right to be present at every stage of her jury trial was violated, and that the evidence was constitutionally insufficient to support either of her convictions. After review, the Mississippi Supreme Court found no merit to Hampton's claim her right to be present at trial was violated. Nor did the Court find the State presented insufficient evidence to support a conviction for felonious starvation of a minor child. The Court did find, however, the State presented insufficient evidence to support Hampton's conviction of the felonious burning of a minor child. Accordingly, judgment was affirmed in part, reversed in part, and remanded for further proceedings. View "Hampton v. Mississippi" on Justia Law