Decisions – Ct of App. – Jan. 14, 2014

Hartfield v. State – three people, Hartfield, Dixon and Graham,  were indicted for the murder of Hartfield’s wife, Tabitha.   Dixon testified against Hartfield and Graham in separate trials.  It is difficult to know why Graham didn’t  plead guilty since she’s the one who called the police and confessed to killing Tabitha, her cousin, and took police to her body.  Graham was called to testify at Hartfield’s trial and she invoked her 5th right to remain silent. Hartfield attempted to introduce letters that Graham had sent to Hartfield and Graham’s boyfriend and mother – letters that inculpated Graham and exculpated Hartfield.  The prosecution objected that the letters were hearsay.  The Ct.of App. reversed on the basis of the decision in Lacy v. State, 700 So.2d 602, 607 (Miss. 1997).  The statement should have been admitted pursuant to MRE 804(h)(3) a statement against interest where there were corroborating circumstances that indicating trustworthiness.   Since Graham had admitted guilt and had made statements that she and Dixon murdered Tabitha, the letters should have been admitted.  Indeed, it was an abuse of discretion to exclude them. 

King v. King – ID divorce.  Wife appealed over division of property claiming  the chancellor erred in failing to award her a percentage of her husband’s  pension from the  Navy.  The Ct. of App. affirmed finding no abuse of discretion. 

Meds, Inc. v. MDES – issue of whether phlebotomist was an employee for purposes of unemployment benefits.  Ct of App. reverses finding she was an independent contractor. 

Thomas v. State –  Ct. App. reversed denial of post conviction relief and remanded for a new sentencing pursuant to Miller v. Alabama, 132 S. Ct. 2445 (2012) which holds that an automatic life sentence for a juvenile convicted of murder violates the Eighth Amendment. 

Palermo v. Lifelink Foundation, Inc. – Palermo received a skin graft on his knee.  When the graft became infected, he sued the supplier of the skin graft for strict liability and negligence.  After excluding the Palermo’s expert because of a late designation, the trial court granted summary judgment for the defendants. The Ct. of App. affirmed finding that skin is not a product, that the exclusion of the Palermo’s expert was not error and thus there was no evidence of negligence, and the trial ct. did not err if refusing to allow the summary judgment hearing transcribed. 

Harrison Co. Utility Auth. v. Walkereminent domain – “After an order was entered granting HCUA the right of immediate title to and possession of the property, Walker, her husband, James Walker Sr., and her son, James Walker Jr., filed a separate lawsuit against HCUA asserting that James Sr. and James Jr. held an interest in the property by virtue of a misfiled warranty deed. The trial court dismissed HCUA’s condemnation action, without prejudice, finding HCUA had notice of James Sr. and James Jr.’s interest in the property and failed to join them in the action. HCUA appealed. Finding error, we reverse and remand.”

(note: these are not the only opinions handed down today. The editor is summarizing the cases that may add to the law and erring on the side of including opinions rather than excluding them). 

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