Decisions – Miss.S.Ct. – Sept. 4, 2014

Lyndon Myers v. State armed robbery –  Myers was employed at the Dollar Tree in the Grandview shopping center in Madison.  On May 16, 2012, he asked to leave work early and the manager let him go at 9 p.m. Later that night, when a co-worker was exiting the store, she was confronted by  Myers’ cousin Earnest Johnson who was armed with a handgun and forced the employees back into the store to get money out of the safe.   Johnson’s vehicle was stopped  after a bolo went out.  Myers was in the vehicle with Johnson. At Myers’ trial, Johnson, who took a plea,  testified that it was Myers’ plan and it began three weeks prior to the robbery.  Myers was convicted.  Within weeks of the trial, Johnson began writing letters to Myers recanting his testimony.  The trial court considered the letters at the motion for new trial and concluded that they weren’t credible.  On appeal, Myers argued the trial court erred in refusing his alibi instruction.  Myers had tapes of himself shopping at Wal Mart at the time the robbery happened. “Myers’s presence at Wal-Mart Store at the time of the armed robbery” did not establish an alibi defense as to the State’s charges against him. In response to D-2, the State
submitted that ‘alibi is inapplicable to the facts in this case since the defendant is not charged and the State doesn’t contend he was physically present [or] directly participat[ed] in the crime.’” 

Myers argues that the court erred in refusing his necessity instruction. 

The State adduced testimony that Myers’s fingerprint was on the gun which the arresting officers seized from the trunk of the red Grand Am Myers was driving. To explain the presence of his fingerprint, Myers testified that, “four to five days” prior to the robbery, he and his three-year-old son had gone to Johnson’s house. Johnson “had the firearm laying on the coffee table[,]” so, for his son’s safety, Myers claimed to have “grabbed the gun and told [Johnson] to put it up.” Thus, Myers claimed that his fingerprint on the gun was from necessity, but Myers offered no testimony as to necessity of possession of the gun found in a Dollar Tree bag with the stolen money in the trunk of the car he was driving shortly after the armed robbery of May 16.

Next Myers complains about the court allowing the state to impeach him with a prior for selling drugs in Madison in 2007. The parties had already stipulated that Myers was a convicted felon (because he was charged with felon in possession) and prior to testifying Myers asked that the state be barred from delving into the details of that charge.  The court conducted a weighing of the factors as per Peterson and found it to be more probative than prejudicial. The Court of Appeals holds that this was not error. “In attempting to paint himself as a mentor to Johnson, who was addicted to alcohol
and drugs, Myers opened the door for the State to attack his credibility by questioning him about his prior conviction for the sale of drugs.”  Finally, the Court finds that the trial court did not err in refusing to grant a new trial based on the recantation.

Mize v. Westbrook Construction –  slander of title – Mize purchased 56 acres in Lafayette County.  He understood that this included a small portion south of County Road 206. The owners of property south of that road claimed that their property extended to the center of the road.  Mize commissioned a survey.  His survey agreed with Mize’s understanding and Mize filed a corrected deed. When the  owners of the land south of the road, including Westbrook  Construction, refused to acknowledge these boundaries. Mize filed suit to quiet title.   The defendants counterclaimed for slander of title.  After a trial, the chancellor found for the defendants on the survey and found that Mize acted with malice and awarded the Defendants $32,530 for interest paid on the property since filing suit and $5,687 in attorneys fees. Mize appealed and the Court of Appeals affirmed.  The Miss.S.Ct. granted cert and reverses finding that there was no evidence of malice to support the slander of title claim.    

Community Trust Bank v. First National Bank of Clarksdale –  This case involves deeds of trust on land in Oxford.    The land had been  owned by an Abner’s restaurant but was conveyed to Karen White in a divorce.  The property was already encumbered buy a deed of trust to CNT and Karen was supposed to pay it.  That same year she got an $800,000 from FNB secured by, among other things, a deed on the property.   The loan was made with  the understanding that the bank would become the primary lienholder.    FNB even procured title insurance to insure its status.  No formal title search was performed but the attorney for Miss. Valley Title discovered the existence of another deed of trust on the property held by CTB.  He never informed FNB of this information, however.  Years later the loan went into default and this was the first time that FNB learned that  Community Trust had a prior deed of trust.  When CTB attempted to foreclose, FNB  filed an action seeking equitable subrogation whereby it would be recognized as the prior lienholder.   The chancellor held for FNB and CTB appealed.  The Miss.S.Ct reverses.  “[I]n the context of equitable subrogation, this Court long ago stated that we must
examine ‘natural justice under the actual facts of the situation. . . .'”

We hold that natural justice under the facts of this case inexorably weighs against subrogation in favor of FNB. CTB was materially prejudiced by being placed secondary to a lien of a value and between two parties that it never agreed to be behind. It now finds itself behind a loan amount that has grown despite consistent and substantial payments by the borrower. FNB has recouped more than twice the amount of the original primary lien on the Oxford property.

Shinn v. State – Shinn was convicted of the armed robbery of Tiya’s Market in Columbus.  Store employees identified him as the robber.  On appeal he raises sufficiency of the evidence issues and the Miss. S. Ct. affirms.

The Court also grants cert. in Tellus Operating Group v. Maxwell.   Here’s my summary of what happened at the Miss. Court of Appeals. Tellus Operating Group v. Maxwell Energy –  The Court of Appeals reverses itself on rehearing. The Oil and Gas Board issued an order allowing Tellus, the operator of a proposed oil and gas well, to charge statutory “alternate charges” to each “nonconsenting owner” of drilling rights which included Maxwell.  Maxwell appealed and the chancery court reversed finding that the Board’s decision that Tellus offered Maxwell reasonable terms was unsupported by the substantial  evidence and, moreover, that Maxwell had agreed in writing to participate in the drilling of the well. This was affirmed in December but, on rehearing, the Court of Appeals reverses and affirms the Oil and Gas Board’s decision allowing Tellus to “force integrate” with “alternate charges” a drilling unit for a proposed gas well. Before assessing alternate charges, Tellus, as required by MCA Sect. 57-3-7(2)(a), wrote to Maxwell and offered three options: 1) a written agreement to lease out the property or 2) to farm out or 3) to participate in the well by signing an operating agreement and authority for expenditure.  The Board’s decision that these options were reasonable was supported by substantial evidence.

2 thoughts on “Decisions – Miss.S.Ct. – Sept. 4, 2014

  1. It is quaint that “natural justice” is the standard between fighting banks. It is wonderful that the facts “inexorably weigh” in favor of the first lien holder. It is magical that the Court would note that the inexorable path was paved with the recognition that the bank not entitled to equity had already doubled its money. Could this spell the end of pay day lending as natural justice flows inexorably upon the poor?

  2. In affirming Myers’ direct appeal, they also ruled on this:
    Lyndon C. Myers a/k/a Lyndon Myers a/k/a Lyndon Charles Myers a/k/a Lyndon C. Myers, III v. State of Mississippi; Madison Circuit Court; LC Case #: 2012-0431-JC; Ruling Date: 01/11/2013; Ruling Judge: William Chapman, III; Disposition: Lyndon C. Myers’s Motion to Expedite Appellate Process Due to Actual Innocence is dismissed for mootness. Order entered.

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