Articles Posted in Supreme Court of Mississippi

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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

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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

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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

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Eric Sharkey was found guilty of two counts of armed robbery and one count of possession of a firearm by a convicted felon and received three sentences—fifteen years for each armed robbery and ten years for possession, all to run concurrently. Sharkey appealed his convictions and sentences. Finding no error, the Mississippi Supreme Court affirmed. View "Sharkey v. Mississippi" on Justia Law

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Jayvious Johnson was convicted of two counts of capital murder with firearm enhancement, one count of kidnapping with firearm enhancement, and one count of conspiracy. The Mississippi Supreme Court concluded after automatic review that the verdicts were not against the overwhelming weight of the evidence, and the trial court did not commit reversible error on the evidentiary issues Johnson raised. The Court therefore affirmed Johnson’s convictions. View "Johnson v. Mississippi" on Justia Law

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Timothy Nunn was convicted by jury of unlawful possession of a firearm by a convicted felon. He was sentenced as a habitual offender to ten years without the possibility of parole or early release. Nunn appealed when the trial court denied his motion for a new trial. Nunn's appellate attorney found no arguable issue to raise an appeal. Finding no reversible error or issue warranting further briefing, the Mississippi Supreme Court affirmed Nunn's conviction and sentence. View "Nunn v. Mississippi" on Justia Law

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The State of Arizona and Williams Gaming, Inc. (WMS), a manufacturer of electronic gaming machines, initiated a civil asset forfeiture against money Randy Binning had won, in part, in Tunica, Mississippi, casinos. Binning was indicted in Mississippi for violations of the Mississippi Gaming Control Act. A circuit court in Mississippi, however, dismissed all criminal charges against Binning with prejudice. Despite the dismissal of charges in Mississippi, Arizona continued its prosecution of the civil-forfeiture action. Binning sought a writ of prohibition from the Mississippi Supreme Court, clarifying to the state of Arizona that any further collateral attacks upon the dismissed criminal charges under Mississippi law should have been barred as res judicata. Because Binning failed to provide sufficient authority that a court in Mississippi may issue a writ of prohibition to a court outside of the state, the Mississippi Supreme Court affirmed denial of the writ. View "Binning v. State of Mississippi" on Justia Law

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William Whittaker was convicted of four counts relating to the sexual abuse of his six-year-old daughter, Betty. On appeal, Whittaker claims he received ineffective assistance of counsel because his defense attorney did not insist on certain redactions from the recording and transcript of his partial confession, in which Whittaker refused to take a polygraph test and discussed a prior sex-offense conviction. The Mississippi Supreme Court determined the exhibits used at trial were redacted; it appeared Whittaker’s appellate counsel confused them with the unredacted exhibits admitted at the suppression hearing. Whittaker also argued his partial confession should have been suppressed as involuntary, but his theory on appeal was entirely different from the one he advanced at trial and therefore procedurally barred. The Supreme Court, consequentially affirmed Whittaker’s convictions and sentences. View "Whittaker v. Mississippi" on Justia Law

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In 2001, a jury convicted Winfred Forkner of burglary of a storehouse, for which he was sentenced as a habitual offender to life without the possibility of parole. Forkner filed three prior motions for post-conviction relief (“PCR”) with the Mississippi Supreme Court. His fourth motion, filed January 18, 2018, he argued his conviction and sentence were void and illegal because the indictment had not charged all of the essential elements of the crime of burglary of a storehouse. Specifically, Forkner alleged error concerning the second element of the crime: “in which any goods, merchandise, equipment or valuable thing shall be kept for use, sale, deposit, or transport.” He argued that the indictment did not allege that items were kept in the storehouse “for use, sale, deposit, or transport.” A panel of the Supreme Court granted Forkner's petition and found Forkner's indictment was indeed defective. The State sought an en banc rehearing of the panel’s order. Forkner opposed the State’s motion and filed a Motion to Remand Petitioner to the Wilkinson County Jail and a Petition for Immediate Release. After due consideration, the Supreme Court granted the State’s motion for rehearing, vacated the panel order and dismissed Forkner’s Application for Leave to Proceed in the Trial Court. Also, Forkner’s Motion to Remand Petitioner and his Petition for Immediate Release were denied. View "Forkner v. Mississippi" on Justia Law

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Timothy Ronk was convicted of capital murder and armed robbery for the 2008 stabbing death of Michelle Craite and the intentional arson of where she resided. He was sentenced to death and thirty years in prison, respectively; the Mississippi Supreme Court affirmed his convictions and sentences. Ronk sought post-conviction relief, raising five claims: (1) trial counsel was ineffective; (2) his sentence was disproportionate; (3) Mississippi’s death-penalty statute is unconstitutional; (4) cumulative error requires reversal; and (5) trial counsel failed to preserve the record for review. Finding that Ronk’s claims were either barred or failed to present a substantial showing of the denial of a state or federal right, the Supreme Court denied his motion. View "Ronk v. Mississippi" on Justia Law