Decisions – Ct. of App. – Sept. 2, 2014

Henderson v. State –  In this crazy case (which proves, once again, the value of birth control as well as the old adage that no good deed goes unpunished), Martez Henderson and Helouise Lane dated while both attended Rust College.  At some point Helouise informed Martez she was pregnant.  The baby was born in May 2004.   Meanwhile, Martez had dropped out of college to enter the air force so that he could provide for his child.  A week later, Martez and Helouise married by phone.  Martez was not listed as the father on the birth certificate since he was not present at the birth.  The couple and their child resided at Barksdale Air Force Base in Shreveport but Helouise left after 6 months taking the baby.  Martez sent money to Helouise and visited his daughter every two weeks. The couple reconciled and had another daughter in February 2006.  After six months, they split again.  This time the oldest daughter  stayed with Martez and Martez’s mother moved in to care for her.  A  month later, Helouise appeared and took the child.   The two reunited again in November 2006 but five months later Martez learned that Helouise was cheating on him and he moved out. Eventually, in November 2008, Martez visited the girls but instead of taking them to school, took  them to his home in Louisiana. Helouise had Martez arrested.  Four months later he was charged in Madison with kidnapping the oldest daughter.  Five months after that, Helouise asked that the charges be dropped but for the first time alleged that Martez was not the child’s father (and, apparently, he was eventually proved to not be the father).  After having been incarcerated for nine months, Martez agreed to plead guilty in exchange for being sentenced to time served.  He was not told, however, that he would have to register as a sex offender.    Some three years after the plea, Martez was informed by Louisiana that he would have to register as a sex offender since the kidnapping involved a minor under the age of 18.  In October 2012, Martez filed to vacate his plea on the grounds that it was not knowing and voluntary since he did not realize that he had a defense of in loco parentis.   The trial court denied  relief finding that Martez’s in loco parentis defense was known to him at the time he pleaded. Martez appealed.   The Miss. Court of Appeals reverses.  “The State’s position, that nothing short of biological parenthood could protect Henderson from prosecution, is not borne out by our case law.” 

On the facts of this case, including the State’s stipulation that Henderson was acting in loco parentis over I.H. when he took her home to live with him, Henderson was actually innocent of the kidnapping charge. . For the foregoing reasons, we find that the trial court erroneously denied Henderson’s PCR motion. Because the State has conceded that Henderson was acting in loco parentis with regard to I.H., there was no factual basis to accept Henderson’s plea of guilty to kidnapping her. We therefore reverse and render the trial court’s judgment denying Henderson’s PCR motion and remand this case to the active docket of the Madison County Circuit Court for further proceedings as may be determined by the State. To be clear, we simply hold that based upon the State’s concession that Henderson was acting in loco parentis with I.H. at the time the kidnapping occurred, the trial court was deprived of a factual basis for accepting Henderson’s guilty plea.


Shotts v. City of Madison –  animal cruelty – Shotts was convicted of M.C.A. Sect. 97-41-16(1) (Rev. 2006), which at the time of the alleged offense provided that “Any person who shall maliciously, either out of a spirit of revenge or wanton  cruelty, or who shall mischievously kill, maim or wound, or injure any dog or  cat, or cause any person to do the same, shall be fined not more than One Thousand Dollars ($1,000.00) or be imprisoned not exceeding six (6) months.” Shotts testified that he was giving the dog a bath in a tall kennel with a shower apparatus where the dogs legs were restrained.  Shotts testified that he realized after showering Chloe that the water heater was set to high.   He only realized Chloe had been burned when her hair came to fall out as he was toweling her off.  The Court of Appeals reverses and vacates the conviction finding that there was no evidence that the injuries were done maliciously. “It may be fairly said that Shotts was careless, but mere carelessness does not rise to the level of wanton cruelty.” 

In The Matter of the Last Will and Estate of J.T. Smith –  will and inter vivos gifts; undue influence – J.T. Smith had no children.  In the 80s his health began to fail and in December 2004 he fell and was hospitalized for two months.  Dyuring that time he was assisted by his sister-in-law Virginia Jones. He wanted her to sign checks for him so she got forms for Smith to sign making her the co owner of his checking acct containing $529,000. She then proceeded to drain it by guying cds.  Each cd named Smith, Jones and one of Junes’  daughters. In July 2005, Smith had a will prepared.  Jones picked it up from the attorney and took it to Smith to sign.  The will left the property to be divided among Smith’s six nieces and nephews.  Later she had him sign  an “Itemized Listing Attachment” that left everything to Jones.   When Smith died in 2006, Jones submitted the will to probate.  The chancellor invalidated the  “Itemized Listing” and removed Jones as the executrix.     The niece Jeanette Brown became the executrix and she moved for an accounting and to set aside the inter-vivos gifts. The chancellor agreed the gifts were the result of undue influence  but upheld the will but refused to impose a constructive trust.  The Ct. of Appeals affirms all of these decisions. 

Houston v. State –  Hpuston was convicted of business burglary.  On appeal he argues that the trial court erred in admitting his confession and denying him a subpoena duces tecum during the suppression hearing.  In December 2011, Deputy Shane Lang received a call about a break-in at the Prescription Shop in Carthage.  On his way to the scene, Lang spotted a man wearing dark clothes and a mask carrying a white bag. This was Houston.   Houston ran and Lang eventually caught him.   The bag contained the stolen items.  When an investigator attempted to question Houston but Houston said he did not want to talk. Later Houston asked to speak to the investigator.  Houston stated he knew his rights but refused to sign the Miranda waiver.  He nonetheless gave and signed a statement. At the suppression hearing, Houston claimed he never asked to speak to the investigator.  Instead he asked for medical help and was told that would be forthcoming only if he gave a statement. During the hearing. Houston sought to get his medical records from the jail.  The trial court refused and found the confession to be voluntary.  On appeal, the Ct. of Appeals affirms on the grounds that this was a factual determination for the trier of fact (trial court) to make.  As far as the SDT, the trial court did not err in refusing it when Houston could have gotten these through discovery.   Furthermore, he failed to make a proffer so that the trial court or the court on appeal could determine if they were relevant. 

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