Justia Criminal Law Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in Supreme Court of Mississippi
by
Kasey Boomer Kelly was convicted of possession of a weapon by a convicted felon. Kelly appealed his conviction, claiming that his constitutional right to a speedy trial was violated and that the evidence was insufficient to support his conviction. After review of the trial court record, the Mississippi Supreme Court found Kelly's constitutional right to a speedy trial was not violated because he failed to assert that right and because he failed to demonstrate that he was prejudiced by the delay. The Court also found the State presented sufficient evidence to show constructive possession of the weapon. Therefore, the Court affirmed Kelly's conviction and sentence. View "Kelly v. Mississippi" on Justia Law

by
Timothy Williams challenged the sufficiency and weight of the evidence supporting his felon-in-possession-of-a-firearm conviction. Though he argued his conviction should have been reversed, Williams stipulated he was indeed a felon and was prohibited from possessing firearms. And he admitted to a detective, in a recorded interview and then in a signed statement, that he purchased a Colt .45 semi-automatic pistol “off the street.” Williams also described how he loaned the pistol to a woman - a woman who later testified Williams indeed left a gun with her. Williams also insisted the State violated his constitutional and statutory speedy trial rights due to an eighteen-month delay between his arrest and trial. The Mississippi Supreme Court found no merit to Williams' first contention, and determined that even if the delay between arrest and trial was presumptively prejudicial, Williams failed to show any actual prejudice from the delay. Accordingly, the Court affirmed Williams' conviction and the ten-year sentence he received as a habitual offender. View "Williams v. Mississippi" on Justia Law

by
Using a cell-phone app that simulated a flashing police light, Louis Scott impersonated an undercover police officer and pulled over a young woman late at night. Scott approached the woman’s vehicle and threatened her with a knife through the car window, but the woman escaped by driving away suddenly. Based on this, Scott was convicted of attempted kidnapping. Evidence admitted at trial revealed Scott had kidnapped and raped another young woman later the same evening. On appeal, Scott contended the evidence of the second attack was substantially more prejudicial than probative under Mississippi Rule of Evidence 403. The Mississippi Supreme Court determined that argument was without merit: Scott’s kidnapping and rape of the second victim was highly probative of his intent with regard to the attempted kidnapping charge. Scott also contended for the first time on appeal, that his indictment was defective because it failed to specifically allege Scott failed in the kidnapping attempt. The Court held in the past that such allegation was not required. Therefore, the Court affirmed Scott’s conviction and sentence. View "Scott v. Mississippi" on Justia Law

by
Dex Hunter Stone was indicted for sexual battery and lustful touching of a child. A jury acquitted him of sexual battery but found him guilty of lustful touching of a child. The Circuit Court sentenced Stone to ten years in the custody of the Mississippi Department of Corrections with six years suspended and five years of probation. Stone appealed the denial of his motion for a new trial, arguing the verdict was against the overwhelming weight of the evidence and that newly discovered evidence entitled him to a new trial. Finding no reversible error, the Mississippi Supreme Court affirmed. View "Stone v. Mississippi" on Justia Law

by
Michael Ray Jones was convicted by jury of aggravated assault. Jones appeals, arguing that the prosecution’s comments on his refusal to give a statement violated his constitutional right to remain silent. Additionally, Jones argues that it was plain error for the trial court to allow hearsay statements. A majority of the Mississippi Supreme Court concluded the State's comments on Jones' silence did not violate his right to remain silent, and any potential violation was cured by a sustained objection. Furthermore, the Court determined the admission of purportedly hearsay testimony did not amount to plain error. Therefore, the trial court's judgment was affirmed. View "Jones v. Mississippi" on Justia Law

by
Alan Dale Walker was convicted of the capital murder of Konya Edwards during the commission of sexual battery, for which he was sentenced to death. He also was convicted of forcible rape and kidnapping for which he was sentenced to thirty and thirty-five years, to run consecutively. On direct appeal, the Mississippi Supreme Court affirmed his convictions and sentences, and denied Walker’s application for leave to file a motion for post-conviction relief. Walker filed a successive motion, and the Court held that his post-conviction counsel had rendered ineffective assistance of counsel. The case was remanded back to the trial court for a hearing to determine whether Walker’s trial counsel had been ineffective under the standard set forth in Strickland v. Washington, 466 U.S. 668 (1984), in searching for and presenting mitigating evidence during the penalty phase of the trial and whether such deficient performance, if any, had prejudiced Walker. After a hearing on remand, the trial court held that Walker failed to meet his burden of proof that trial counsel had rendered deficient performance that prejudiced him. Walker appealed. Following a review of the record, the Supreme Court found no reversible error, and affirmed the trial judge's decision. View "Walker v. Mississippi" on Justia Law

by
David Blue was convicted of capital murder when the only sentences for that crime were death or life imprisonment. Blue was sentenced to death, and his death sentence was subsequently found unconstitutional because he was both intellectually disabled and a minor when he committed the crime. The trial court sentenced Blue to life without parole, and he requested a "Miller" hearing to determine whether that new sentence was appropriate. While his petition for post-conviction relief was pending before the trial court, the Mississippi Supreme Court found Section 99-19-107 inapplicable to individuals for whom the death penalty was found unconstitutional. The trial court ordered a mental evaluation to help with a Miller determination regarding whether to sentence Blue to life or life without the possibility of parole. Blue filed an interlocutory appeal with the Supreme Court, arguing that a mental evaluation and hearing were unnecessary, because only one constitutional sentence was available: life imprisonment. The State argued that life without parole was a sentencing option because the statutory amendments that added life without parole as a sentencing option for capital murder applied to Blue. Because applying life without parole as a sentencing option to Blue would violate the prohibition against ex post facto laws, the Supreme Court vacated the trial court’s order and remanded the case with instructions to sentence Blue to life imprisonment. View "Blue v. Mississippi" on Justia Law

by
Dewayne Small was convicted by jury of felony exploitation of a vulnerable adult. The charge stemmed from Small and his girlfriend cashing twenty checks totaling more than $12,000 written by 79-year-old Charlotte Davis. Small claimed he was performing yard work for Charlotte, a widow who lived alone. But after viewing photographs of a half-cut tree, piles of debris, unraked leaves, overgrown shrubs, and other evidence of a scam, the jury rejected his argument. Based on the guilty verdict, the trial judge sentenced Small as a habitual offender to ten years in prison without the possibility of parole. On appeal, Small challenged the weight and sufficiency of the evidence presented against him at trial. Small also filed a pro se supplemental brief: challenging his habitual- offender status; and claiming the jury was tainted because the trial court did not strike for cause a juror who had previously worked with the police officer who testified against Small. Finding no reversible errors, the Mississippi Supreme Court affirmed Small's conviction. View "Small v. Mississippi" on Justia Law

by
Paul Barton appealed his conviction for possession of a stolen firearm. To the Mississippi Supreme Court, Barton argued the evidence was insufficient to show that he knew the firearm was stolen. At trial, Barton was also convicted of possession of a firearm by a felon, but he conceded that sufficient evidence supported that conviction. The Court of Appeals affirmed Barton’s convictions, concluding that the evidence was sufficient to support Barton’s conviction for possession of a stolen firearm. After review, the Supreme Court concluded the State failed to present sufficient evidence to prove that Barton knew the firearm was stolen and, therefore, that the State failed to present sufficient evidence to support Barton’s conviction of possessing a stolen firearm beyond a reasonable doubt. Therefore, the Court affirmed in part and reversed and remanded in part the judgments of the Court of Appeals and of the Circuit Court. The Supreme Court acquitted Barton as to the possession-of-a-stolen-firearm charge. View "Barton v. Mississippi" on Justia Law

by
Murphy Burnett was arrested and detained for several years. The State eventually moved to nolle prosequi its criminal case against Burnett, and he was released from detention. Burnett filed suit against several governmental entities based on torts connected to his arrest, prosecution, and detention. All the entities moved to dismiss based on a failure to file proper notices of claims and based on the statutes of limitation. The trial court granted these motions. Because proper notices of claims were not sent, because most of the claims were barred by one-year statutes of limitation, and because Burnett did not specifically raise the remaining claims on appeal, the Mississippi Supreme Court affirmed the trial court's judgment. View "Burnett v. Hinds County, Mississippi" on Justia Law