Cert grants – Jan. 9, 2014

Bonds v. Statedeliberate design presumption – Bonds was accused of killing his coworker  Seabron after Seabron gave him a ride home.  Seabron’s body was found several days later; he had been shot in the head. Bonds initially denied having anything to do with Seabron’s death but later gave several stories the last one being that Seaborn had said he was going to show him something and then pointed a gun at Bonds’ head.  They struggled for the gun and it went off.   Bonds raised two issues on appeal  – gruesome photos, and the giving of an instruction that deadly design can be presumed from the use of a deadly weapon.   The instruction stated  “If death is inflicted upon a person with a deadly weapon in a manner calculated to destroy life, then malice may be inferred from the use of the weapon.” Bonds contends that this instruction was in conflict with jury instruction 17, which states, in pertinent part: “The [circuit c]ourt [instructs] the jury that ‘Manslaughter’ is ‘the killing of a human being, without malice or deliberate design in the heat of passion, but in a cruel or unusual manner, or by the use of a dangerous weapon without authority of law, and not in necessary self-defense.” Bonds alleges that the reading of jury instruction 17 with jury 1instruction 9 left the jury confused and with no other option but to find Bonds guilty of murder since malice may be inferred by the use of a deadly weapon.” Bonds, ¶ 15.  The Ms. S. Ct. granted cert.  They are probably looking at the deliberate design instruction.  In upholding the instruction in Bonds, the Court of App. cites its own opinion in Reith v. State. The Miss. S. Ct. granted cert. in Reith on December 13, 2013.

Pryor v. State – A few years after Pryor was convicted of sexual battery, he filed a motion with the circuit clerk asking for specific documents. The trial court denied the motion finding that the documents did not exist and the motion was just a fishing expedition. The Ct. of App. Agreed.

Ferguson v. State – Ferguson was riding with Robinson from Starkville to West Point when he learned that Robinson was going there to pick up marijuana. On the way back as luck would have it they encountered a check point and someone threw the marijuana from the car. Ferguson was found guilty of possession and sentenced to eight years. He raised four issues on appeal: sufficiency of the evidence, allowing the indictment to be amended to charge Ferguson as an habitual after the jury had been selected, 3) the denial of a motion for continuance so that Ferguson could hire counsel to replace his appointed counsel, and 4) ineffective assistance in that his attorney failed to object to the admissibility of the picture of a text message sent to his phone after the arrest, conceding that Ferguson was guilty of possession, andfailed to ask the jury to find Ferguson not guilty.

Loyacono v. Travellers issue of proximate cause in car wreck – Loyacono was driving home when an uninsured driver, Shelby, backed into her. Loyacono was transported to the hospital by ambulance where she was treated for neck and back pain. Loyacano sued her own insurer and at trial she put on evidence that she had cracked her teeth as a result of grinding them because of the pain. Shelby testified that the accident was a minor one and there was no damage to Shelby’s vehicle. The court submitted a special interrogatory with five questions to the jury but the court itself answered the first question on whether Shelby was negligent with a “yes”. The jury, though, was to answer the question of causation. The jury found for Loyacano but awarded 0 damages. The Ct. of Appeals reversed finding that the question of causation should have also been diredted by the court. “Apparently, the trial court directed a verdict for Loyacono on the issues of negligence and liability. This conflicted with special interrogatory question three, which effectively cancels that finding by allowing the jury to determine causation. It is error for a court to give instructions that “are likely to mislead or confuse the jury as to the principles of law applicable to the facts in evidence . . . .” Moak v. Black, 230 Miss. 337, 351, 92 So. 2d 845, 851 (1957). Therefore, it was error for the court to grant a directed verdict and then submit causation to the jury. “Under these circumstances, the task of the jury was to determine the extent of [the plaintiff’s] injuries and loss, not whether any existed.” The case was reversed and remanded for a trial solely on damages. Traveller’s cert. petition argued that the issue of causation was one for the jury.

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