Decisions- Miss. Ct. of App. – Oct. 7, 2014 – part 2

Jairus Collins v. Statemurder/suppression of statement– Collins was convicted of the murder of Ebony Jenkins and sentenced to life without parole. Her body was found behind a Hattiesburg daycare.  A man who lived behind the daycare heard shots two nights before Jenkins’ body was found.  He testified that a man running from the scene was of medium build and wore a “hoodie-type sweater” that was “[e]ither blue or light gray or black.”  When shown a sweater the police found in the woods wrapped around the murder weapon, the witness testified he was “[p]retty positive.”  Collins’ friend identified the gun as one he had given to Collins to repair. Collins’ brother testified that Collins came to his apartment the night the shots were heard and that was wearing a gray hoodie  and appeared to be out of breath. Jenkins’s phone records revealed that the last call she received came from a phone owned by Collins’s father. Collins’s sister normally used the phone but that she allowed Collins to use the phone around the time of Jenkins’s murder. The cell phone records showed that Jenkins’ phone and Collins’ phone were in the same area at the time of the murder. Collins told police that Jenkins had called him and asked for a ride. He  arrived at Jenkins’s location to pick her up but could not find her.  The Court of Appeals affirms.

Collins argued that the court should have suppressed his statements. Collins was picked and read his Miranda rights.  At first Collins waived his rights,  He then said  he would “rather speak to a lawyer.” Questioning stopped. After five minutes, Collins knocked on the door. When the detective  opened the door, Collins began speaking to him. The detective told him “I’ll be more than happy to talk to you, but I can’t right now” but  “if you want to talk[,] man, I’ll sit right here and listen.”  Collins then asked how long they could keep him there.   The detective  responded, “right now like I said, we can’t do nothing because you said you wanted your lawyer.”  They conversation ensued in the same vein until the detective finally told Collins that is he wanted to talk, he’d have to sign another Miranda form.   On appeal,  Collins argues that the  detective’s  failure to re-advise him of his Miranda rights and obtain a new waiver required Collins’ statements be suppressed. The Court of Appeals finds that the refusal to suppress was not an abuse of discretion.  ‘[A]fter  invoking his right to counsel, Collins initiated a new contact with police officers and then freely and voluntarily provided a statement to the officers. 

His next issue involves double jeopardy.  “Collins asserts that, without his statement, no reasonable juror could have found that sufficient evidence existed to convict him of Jenkins’s murder. Collins further argues that “the grant[] of a new trial based on the insufficiency of the evidence triggers the [D]ouble [J]eopardy [C]lause of the United States Constitution and bars [his] retrial” for Jenkins’s murder.”  The Court rejects this  issue.

Arguing the confession after it has been admitted: Collins then argues that he should have been allowed during closing argument to argue that  police officers failed to honor his request for counsel.   Even after a confession is ruled admissible, the defendant can argue its weight and credibility.  When the trial court ruled as it did, it did not comment on the “truth, voluntariness, weight, or credibility of Collins’s statement. Furthermore, the record reflects that, after the State’s objection and the circuit court judge’s response, the defense continued to attack the truthfulness and credibility of Collins’s pretrial statement.”

Collins argues that the trial court erred in allowing the police officer to testify as a cell phone expert and that the conviction was against the weight of the evidence. The detective had  attended a sixteen-hour course about the
cellular technology used in law enforcement.   The court finds that the detective did not provide expert testimony. ” Instead, the record reflects that Detective Sims simply reviewed the cell-phone records obtained during the investigation of Jenkins’s murder and entered information from those records into his computer-mapping software.” Collins also challenges his conviction as an habitual.  

Russell v. Russellmodification of alimony – Leo and Gracie  divorced in 1978 and  Leo was ordered to pay Gracie $2,500 each month in permanent alimony. In 2011 Leo filed to reduce or terminate the alimony and the court reduced it to $1,553 after determining that Gracie received $947 each month in Social Security benefits from Leo’s earnings.  Leo appeals and the Court affirms. Leo argues that the court erred in not reducing the alimony even more. He also argues that the court erred in not letting him enter into evidence the deposition of his expert because it was taken outside the discovery deadline.   The Court of Appeals affirms holding that Rule 1.10(A) of the UCC Rules provides that, “[a]bsent special circumstances[,] the court will not allow testimony at trial of an expert witness who was not designated as an expert witness to all attorneys of record at least sixty days before trial.

Earl Lee Wright v. King –  prison discipline – Wright was sentenced as an habitual to life for armed robbery.  He was serving time at Leakesville when he filed a petition for post-conviction collateral relief  related to a rule violation for the possession of major contraband (cell phone). The circuit court treated Wright’s petition as a petition for an order to show cause pursuant to MCA section 47-5-803.  Then  Wright filed an “Application for Malicious Act: Negligence” claiming he was denied services by the Inmate Legal Assistance Program. He later filed another motion alleging that the bedding and clothing provided by MDOC were inadequate and that he was unable to attend religious services. The circuit court  stayed the proceedings for ninety days for Wright to exhausted his administrative remedies which Wright did.   The  circuit court determined that the decisions of the MDOC related to Wright’s various complaints were not arbitrary or capricious.   Wright appeals and the Court affirms.

Richard Swenson v. James Kermit Brouillette et aleasement – Swenson sued his neighbors, the  Brouillettes, claiming he was entitled to  a prescriptive easement and an easement by necessity. He also claimed damages for the  damages for trees that the Brouillettes had trimmed. The chancellor found against Swenson.  He appeals and the Court of Appeals affirms.

Kittrell v. W.S. Red Hancockworkers compensation –  Kittrell claimed he suffered from a  work-related injury while working as a pipefitter for W.S. Red Hancock.  He claimed  he jarred his back when a coworker but he did not seek medical attention until several days had passed. The Commission found he did not suffer a work related injury. “As the Commission saw it, there was “simply no believable reason” Kittrell would not have made a timely, definitive report about the injury to Hancock ‘if he actually had been injured as he described at the emergency room and at the hearing.'”  The Court of Appeals affirms.

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