Articles Posted in Supreme Court of Mississippi

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In 2008, Officer Joe Edney was involved in the arrest of Carlos Williams. Williams alleged that Edney had attempted to stop a vehicle in which Williams had been a passenger. When the vehicle stopped, Williams ran until Edney demanded that he stop. Williams stated that after he surrendered, Edney began screaming at him obscenities, threats, and racial slurs. Williams alleged that Edney then sprayed Williams with mace and kicked and stomped Williams in the face, neck, and shoulder, causing him injuries. Williams sued; the return of service was made in March 2010; by July 2010, Williams applied for default, stating Edney failed to respond to the complaint. The circuit court entered default judgment in November 2010. The case remained stagnant for four and a half years after entry of default. In April 2015, the trial court found Williams failed to notify or name the City of Greenville as a party, and as such, the claims against Edney in his official capacity had to be dismissed. The trial court then awarded damages in favor of Williams against Edney individually. Thereafter, Endey moved for relief from the judgment, contending the final judgment awarding damages, fees and costs was the only notice he received that he had been sued. Further, Edney alleged that the summons and complaint was delivered to another Greenville Police Department employee, and that person's signature, who was not authorized to received service of process for him, appeared on the proof of service. Thus, the default judgment entered against him was void. The court found that Edney’s motion was well-taken and held that the court had not acquired jurisdiction over Edney because of improper service of process. The court ordered the entry of default, the default judgment, and the order of the court awarding damages to be set aside. Counsel for Williams immediately made an ore tenus motion for an additional 120 days within which to serve Edney with a copy of the summons and complaint. The trial court reserved ruling and ordered the parties to brief the issue of whether the dismissal should be with or without prejudice. At the end of the hearing, counsel for Williams handed a copy of the summons and complaint to Edney. Edney moved to dismiss, arguing the statute of limitations has expired. Williams contended that he should have been allowed to begin the lawsuit anew because he had demonstrated a good-faith effort to serve Edney. Edney appealed the trial court’s holding that Williams had established good cause for his failure to serve process within the statutory time period. The Mississippi Supreme Court found that the trial court abused its discretion in failing to consider in its analysis of good cause Williams’s four-and-a-half-year delay in pursuing this action. Therefore, it reversed the trial court’s decision and remanded this case to the trial court to include the length of delay in its analysis of good cause. View "Edney v. Williams" on Justia Law

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Richard Gerald Jordan was sentenced to death following his conviction on charges of kidnapping and murdering Edwina Marter in 1976. In his Second Successive Petition for Post-Conviction Relief, Jordan challenged the Mississippi Department of Corrections’ (MDOC) using midazolam as the first drug in its three-drug lethal-injection protocol. According to Jordan, midazolam did not meet the requirements set forth in Mississippi Code Section 99-19-51(1) (Supp. 2018), which directed MDOC to use “an appropriate anesthetic or sedative” as the first drug. Because Jordan failed to provide sufficient support to warrant an evidentiary hearing, the Mississippi Supreme Court denied his petition. View "Jordan v. Mississippi" on Justia Law

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In this, Thomas Edwin Loden Jr.’s fourth petition for post-conviction relief, he challenged the Mississippi Department of Corrections’ use of midazolam in its lethal-injection protocol. He claimed that midazolam was not an “appropriate anesthetic or sedative” that, “if properly administered in a sufficient quantity, is likely to render the condemned inmate unconscious, so that the execution process should not entail a substantial risk of severe pain” under Mississippi Code Section 99-19-51 (Supp. 2018). Loden requested the Mississippi Supreme Court to enter an order forbidding the State from using any drug, including midazolam, as the first drug in its lethal-injection series. The Court determined, from review of Loden's filings and affidavits on whether a 500-milligram dose of midazolam met Mississippi’s statutory definition of an “appropriate anesthetic or sedative,” Loden offered no more than the ipse dixit arguments of his expert, Craig W. Stevens, Ph.D. "Loden has failed to carry his burden of proof in presenting a substantial showing of the denial of a state or federal right as required by Mississippi Code Section 99-39-27 (Rev. 2015), for the portions of his affidavits related to the efficacy of a 500-milligram dose of midazolam are a 'sham' and are not supported by established medical literature." Moreover, the United States Supreme Court considered the same arguments presented in Loden's petition and rejected them. Accordingly, Loden's petition for PCT was denied. View "Loden v. Mississippi" on Justia Law

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Brian King was indicted as a habitual offender and charged with one count of possession of a firearm by a convicted felon. After being found guilty, King was sentenced to a term of ten years without the possibility of parole. King argued on appeal that the trial court erred in denying his request for a psychological examination and in allowing the introduction of evidence of prior bad acts. Finding no error, the Mississippi Supreme Court affirmed King’s conviction and sentence. View "King v. Mississippi" on Justia Law

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Dalton Trigg and his father, Dr. Stephen Trigg, sued Dalton’s former criminal-defense attorney, Steven Farese Sr., alleging professional malpractice. The circuit court held that the claims were premature because Dalton had not yet secured postconviction relief from the underlying conviction, and it dismissed the complaint without prejudice. The issue this case presented for the Mississippi Supreme Court's review centered on whether a convicted criminal could sue his former defense attorney for negligently causing him to be convicted while that conviction still stood. The Court held that a convict must “exonerate” himself by obtaining relief from his conviction or sentence before he could pursue a claim against his defense attorney for causing him to be convicted or sentenced more harshly than he should have been. To the extent prior decisions of the Court or the Court of Appeals suggested otherwise, they were overruled. View "Trigg v. Farese" on Justia Law

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A jury found Tobias Coleman guilty of aggravated assault for shooting a man in the head. The judge sentenced him to twenty years’ imprisonment, with five years suspended. After review, the Mississippi Supreme Court found the trial court committed reversible error by admitting into evidence an undated, grainy Facebook image taken of defendant holding what appears to be a handgun, years before the alleged crime, through the testimony of a witness who denied ever having seen Coleman’s Facebook page or the photograph in question. The matter was remanded for a new trial. View "Coleman v. Mississippi" on Justia Law

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Julian Hawkins was acting "erratically and unusually," and transferred from the Forrest General Hospital Emergency Room to Pine Grove Behavioral Health Center. At Pine Grove, Hawkins attacked a nurse and struggled against those who were trying to hold him down. He was charged with two counts of simple assault on “medical personnel.” The jury convicted him on one of those charges, and acquitted him on the second. Hawkins appealed, focusing his argument around alleged ineffective assistance of trial counsel. Because this issue could not be determined from only the facts contained in the record before it, the Mississippi Supreme Court affirmed Hawkins’s conviction, but allowed him the opportunity, if he chose, to raise the issue in a petition for post-conviction relief. However, because Hawkins was not properly indicted for the crime for which he was sentenced, the Supreme Court vacated his sentence and remanded for resentencing under the proper statute. View "Hawkins v. Mississippi" on Justia Law

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Richard Green was convicted for the attempted murder and kidnapping of his wife, Cathleen Green (“Cathy”). Green appealed, arguing that the State presented insufficient evidence to convict him of both counts. After review, the Mississippi Supreme Court found a reasonable juror could have found that the State had proved, beyond a reasonable doubt, each element of both convictions based on the testimony, evidence, and applicable law. Therefore, it affirmed Green’s convictions and sentences. View "Green v. Mississippi" on Justia Law

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On December 23, 2013, Abdur Ambrose, Stevie Ambrose, and Orlander Dedeaux were indicted for capital murder of Robert Trosclair with the underlying felony being kidnapping. The trial court severed the case for separate trials. Ambrose proceeded to trial on June 15, 2015. Following the culpability phase of trial, a jury found Ambrose guilty of capital murder. Following the penalty phase of trial, the jury imposed the death penalty. Ambrose appealed, raising twelve assignments of error. Finding only one harmless error, the Mississippi Supreme Court found no other reversible error and affirmed Ambrose's conviction and sentence. View "Ambrose v. Mississippi" on Justia Law

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Charles Blake was convicted of sexually battering a seven-year-old child during a family barbeque. He was sentenced to life in prison. On appeal, Blake argued the judge made several evidentiary errors that entitled him to a new trial. The Mississippi Supreme Court determined evidence that Blake sexually penetrated the child's anus with his finger, or, as the child put it, dug “in his butt," was so overwhelming as to render any alleged evidentiary error harmless. View "Blake v. Mississippi" on Justia Law