Articles Posted in Supreme Court of Mississippi

by
Montrell Croft, a/k/a “G-Money,” was convicted by jury of “participating in or conducting or conspiring” in illegal gang activity, possession of a firearm by a felon, and attempted murder. Croft appealed. The Mississippi Supreme Court determined an instruction permitting a jury in a criminal case to find an element of a crime by a preponderance of the evidence constitutes plain error. Accordingly, it reversed and remanded this case for a new trial on whether Croft “participat[ed] in or conduct[ed] or conspir[ed]” in criminal gang activity beyond a reasonable doubt. Croft’s felon-in-possession and attempted-murder convictions and sentences were affirmed. View "Croft v. Mississippi" on Justia Law

by
David Lee Stanfield was convicted of aggravated assault and of felon in possession of a firearm. The sole issue before the Mississippi Supreme Court was whether the trial court erred in instructing the jury that self-defense is not a defense to the crime of felon in possession of a firearm. Finding it did not, the Supreme Court affirmed. View "Stanfield v. Mississippi" on Justia Law

by
Matthew Courtney appealed his conviction on one count of sexual battery. The trial court sentenced Courtney to serve a period of twenty-five years. Courtney argued that the statute of limitations barred his sexual battery conviction. Alternatively, Courtney argued that the delay in bringing him to trial violated his Sixth Amendment constitutional right to a speedy trial. The Mississippi Supreme Court determined Courtney did not preserve the statute of limitations argument; the Court could not find a speedy trial violation. Therefore, the Court affirmed Courtney's conviction and sentence. View "Courtney v. Mississippi" on Justia Law

by
Andre Fairley was indicted by grand jury for one count of possessing two or more grams, but less than ten grams of cocaine with intent to distribute, and one count of possessing more than thirty grams, but less than one kilogram, of synthetic cannabinoid, with intent to distribute. Following a jury trial at which Fairley represented himself with the aid of standby counsel, Fairley was convicted of both counts. The trial court sentenced Fairley to twenty years for count one and five years for count two, with the sentences to be served day for day and concurrently. Fairley appealed both his convictions and sentences through appellate counsel and pro se, claiming numerous assignments of error. Finding no reversible error, the Mississippi Supreme Court affirmed Fairley’s convictions and sentences. View "Fairley v. Mississippi" on Justia Law

by
Devin Arrington was indicted by grand jury for armed robbery. After jury selection, Arrington requested a continuance to allow him to retain new counsel, which was denied. During his attorney’s opening statement, Arrington interrupted and declared that he did not want his counsel to continue representing him. After a jury trial, Arrington was found guilty. Arrington filed a Motion for J.N.O.V. or, in the Alternative, Motion for New Trial. Both motions were denied. The Mississippi Supreme Court affirmed Arrington’s conviction for armed robbery. Arrington abandoned each of his arguments on appeal by failing to make them: failing to cite authority, or failing to identify the arguments for review. "Even if Arrington’s claims were not abandoned, Arrington’s arguments are either without merit or are based on facts not fully apparent from the record." View "Arrington v. Mississippi" on Justia Law

by
A jury found Jason McGrath guilty of four counts of sexual battery by a person in a position of trust and one count of touching a child for lustful purposes, charges stemming from McGrath’s sexual assault and molestation of his stepdaughter, M. M. He was sentenced to forty years’ imprisonment. On appeal, McGrath argued the trial judge wrongly admitted Rule 404(b) evidence of McGrath’s previous sexual assaults and molestations of a different stepdaughter and his adopted daughter. The Mississippi Supreme Court found there were several legitimate purposes supporting these admissions, and saw no abuse of discretion in these rulings. View "McGrath v. Mississippi" on Justia Law

by
In 2016, a grand jury indicted Alvin Wilson for sexual battery, specifically for the willful, unlawful and felonious sexual penetration of a child under the age of 14. The indictment provided that at the time of the sexual battery, Wilson was over the age of eighteen and was twenty-four months older than the victim. A jury found Wilson guilty of sexual battery as charged. The trial court sentenced Wilson to thirty-five years, with thirty years to be served day for day followed by five years of supervised post release supervision. Wilson appealed, arguing that the trial court erred by: (1) admitting into evidence a video recording of his interview with law enforcement; and (2) proceeding with his trial and sentencing in absentia. Finding no error, the Mississippi Supreme Court affirmed Wilson’s conviction and sentence. View "Wilson v. Mississippi" on Justia Law

by
Alondo Greenleaf was convicted of aggravated assault after stabbing a man in the back. Greenleaf testified it was an accident, and on appeal he contended he received constitutionally ineffective assistance of counsel because his defense attorney did not offer what Greenleaf called an “accident instruction” based on the excusable homicide statute. The Mississippi Supreme Court found Greenleaf failed to rebut the presumption this was sound trial strategy, so it affirmed Greenleaf’s conviction and sentence. View "Greenleaf v. Mississippi" on Justia Law

by
Defendant Howard Payton was convicted for the 2010 kidnapping and rape of a university student. At trial, inter alia, the State presented definitive scientific evidence of guilt: Payton’s DNA matched the DNA sample obtained from N.B.’s rape kit so closely that the probability of finding someone other than Payton with the same DNA profile was less than one in 999 trillion. It was not until January 25, 2016, that Payton filed a twelve-page pro se motion for a judgment notwithstanding the verdict (JNOV), or, in the alternative, a new trial. The State did not raise the untimeliness of the motion. In fact, the State did not respond to the motion. The trial judge considered the substantive issues raised in the motion and, finding no merit, denied Payton’s requests for relief one week later on February 1, 2016. Payton made five filings regarding appealing his motion for JNOV. On March 9, 2016, the trial court granted Payton in forma pauperis status; at that time, he was appointed counsel who entered an appearance on Payton's behalf. A few days before the appeal brief was due, however, Payton died. Appellate counsel moved for abatement ab initio, asking. He asked that the Court allow a thirty-day period or other reasonable amount of time to allow any personal representative of Payton to come forward and to move for a substitution for the deceased appellant. If no such motion was made, counsel requested the Court enter an order of abatement voiding the entire criminal proceeding against Payton from its inception, nullifying the petit jury’s verdict and the circuit judge’s judgment of conviction and remanding the case back to the same trial court with instructions to dismiss the grand jury’s indictment, all without notice to the victim. "Because of the increased recognition of crime victims in our constitution and statutory law, and because the policies undergirding stare decisis are not served by continued application of the abatement ab initio doctrine, we expressly overrule Gollott [v. Mississippi, 646 So.2d 1297 (1994)]." Since no motion was filed for substitution pursuant to Rule 43(a), the Mississippi Supreme Court dismissed Payton’s appeal as moot and left his conviction intact. Appellate counsel's motion to abate Payton’s conviction ab initio was denied. View "Payton v. Mississippi" on Justia Law

by
After a jury trial, Douglas Neely was convicted of resisting arrest and felony fleeing a law enforcement officer. The Circuit Court sentenced Neely, for felony fleeing a law enforcement officer, to five years as a habitual offender and, for resisting arrest, to six months, to run consecutive to the five year sentence. Neely appealed; his appellate counsel has filed a brief in accordance with Lindsey v. State, 939 So. 2d 743 (Miss. 2005), certifying to the Mississippi Supreme Court that, after examining the record, no arguable issues existed. Neely’s appellate counsel requested and was granted additional time for Neely to file a pro se brief raising any issues he desired to raise on appeal. Neely never filed a pro se brief, so the Supreme Court affirmed Neely’s conviction and sentence. View "Neely v. Mississippi" on Justia Law