Justia Criminal Law Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in Supreme Court of Mississippi
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

by
Bobby Batiste was convicted of capital murder and sentenced to death. His conviction and sentence were affirmed by the Mississippi Supreme Court. The Court later granted him the right to file a petition for post-conviction relief (PCR), finding he was entitled to a hearing regarding alleged communications between bailiffs and/or others and members of the jury. During the hearings, a motion was made requesting that the trial judge recuse. This motion was denied, and, ultimately, the PCR was denied. Batiste appealed both the denial of the request to recuse as well as the denial of the PCR on its merits. Because the Supreme Court found that evidentiary questions remained relating to the recusal issue, it did not address the merits of the PCR. The matter was remanded for further proceedings. View "Batiste v. Mississippi" on Justia Law

by
Robert Casey was convicted by jury of possession of cocaine, for which the circuit court sentenced him to serve twenty years in the custody of the Mississippi Department of Corrections, with four years suspended pending completion of four years’ post-release supervision. Casey appealed, arguing that the trial court erred by declining to suppress cocaine found on his person and that his constitutional and statutory rights to a speedy trial were violated. Because Casey’s arguments were without merit, the Mississippi Supreme Court affirmed his conviction and sentence. View "Casey v. Mississippi" on Justia Law

by
Cynthia Robinson was convicted of conspiracy and possession with intent to distribute hydrocodone after being intercepted by police on her way to meet a confidential informant. On appeal, Robinson contended the trial court erred by denying her motion for a mental evaluation. Robinson’s counsel asserted that Robinson was not effectively assisting in her own defense and pointed to Robinson’s YouTube videos espousing conspiracy theories and to her prior diagnosis of a drug-induced psychotic disorder. Robinson personally asked the court to deny the motion, which it ultimately did: the trial judge cited his prior experience with Robinson and his prior findings that she was “reasonable and rational” and had “presented herself well . . . before the Court.” Robinson testified in her own defense, and she appeared fully aware of the allegations against her and presented a coherent theory of her defense. The Mississippi Supreme Court affirmed Robinson’s convictions and sentences. View "Robinson v. Mississippi" on Justia Law