Decisions – Miss.Ct. of App. – Dec. 9, 2014

Daniel Pride and WIlliam Pride vs. Rivers Pride and a bunch of other Prides –  partition –  there are 12 litigants in this case and all are pro se. That must have been fun. Apparently a bunch of siblings owned 150 acres in Panola County.  Six years after Rivers Pride filed for partition and the judge ordered the house and one acre be sold at public auction, Daniel and William filed a Rule  60 motion for relief from judgment.  This is even after the original partition was appealed. Pride v. Pride, 60 So.3d 208 (Miss.App. 2011).  The grounds for the motion are that the house has depreciated in value and selling it won’t generate proceeds sufficient to pay the assessments mandated by the chancellor.  When the motion is denied, he argues on appeal that the chancellor erred in not honoring his request for  written findings of fact and conclusions of law.  The Court is unpersuaded and affirms.

Jack H. Wilson Jr. v. Joy Elizabeth Stewartchild support contempt –  Jay and Joy divorced in 1003 after having three children.  Joy got sole custody and Jay agreed to pay $1700 a month in child support plus private school tuition, college, half of extracurriculars, and half of any uncovered medical bills.   In December 2004, Jack was found in contempt for failure to pay.  He agreed to pay arrearages in the amount of $9,052 plus attorneys fees of $1000.  His child support was also reduced to $800 a month contingent upon him paying the arrearages..  In 2011, Joy filed an amended petition for contempt.  Ha had not paid anything since the previous order.   A special master was appointed.  He found that since Jay had not paid the $9,052, the agreement reducing the child support was not effective.   The arrearages were calculated on that amount for a total of $132,255.90. The chancellor adopted the special master’s findings put tweaked the interest. On appeal Jay argues that he substantially complied with the order when he paid $9000 of the $9,052 in arrears and the reduction should have been honored.   He also argues he is entitled to credit for paying one kid’s $58 cell phone bill and for the time when one of the kids lived with him.  “Notwithstanding the stipulation of the parties regarding finality of the referee’s determinations, whether or not certain payments should be credited to Jay against his child support arrearage remains within the chancellor’s discretion.”  “Further, as the noncustodial parent, Jay was required to provide satisfactory evidence to show he was entitled to a credit for the time period Henley lived with him.”  As to Jay’s arguments that he should be relieved of college expenses once the kids turned 21, the Mississippi Supreme Court has held that a father’s separate agreement to pay for all reasonable college expenses remained in effect post-majority. 

William Peebles v. Sandra Peebles –   Property settlement agreement/social security and bankruptcy/ consent judgments – William and Sandra were divorced in 2004. They entered into a property settlement agreement whereby  Sandra would get the marital home, William would execute a quitclaim deed, and that William would pay the note, taxes  and insurance until either the house sold, or Sandra remarried. Sandra claimed William stopped paying on the house note and in 2011 she filed a contempt action.   William asserted that Sandra had agreed to relieve him of his house-note obligations for a one-year period after he underwent triple-bypass heart surgery. William also argued that the $708 per month Sandra  began withdrawing from his Social Security should offset his missed payments on the house note. He also raised an inability-to-pay defense. In  2012, William filed for chapter 7 bankruptcy and sought to discharge his debt owed to Sandra.  A few months later, he was  granted a discharge.  The the order did not specify which debts were actually discharged, but did state that “Some of the common types of debts which are not discharged in a chapter 7 bankruptcy case are: . . . Debts that are domestic support obligations[.]”  William then filed for summary judgment in Sandra’s contempt action asserting discharge in bankruptcy, waiver, and res judicata as defenses.  The chancellor found that the  house note was not dischargeable in bankruptcy. And because the PSA did not mention William receiving a credit if Sandra drew from his Social Security benefits, the chancellor rejected William’s offset theory. ” After this ruling, the parties entered a “consent judgment.” Under its terms, William agreed he owed Sandra $54,686.60 for the house note and Medicare supplement costs. He also agreed to pay $10,000 for Sandra’s attorney’s fees, for a total of $64,686.60.”   “The consent judgment did, however, give William ‘the right to seek an appeal from the [c]ourt’s pretrial ruling denying his request for credit for the social security payments [Sandra] has been receiving as a result of [William’s] contributions into social security.'”  As for the bankruptcy, the Court finds that William did not preserve this issue for appeal and it loses for that reason as well as on the merits. Consent judgments are binding. They can be appealed for narrow reasons “akin to those under Rule 60(b)—claims such as fraud, misrepresentation, accident, or mistake” none of which exist here.

As for the social security payments,  in Spalding v. Spalding, 691 So. 2d 435, 440 (Miss. 1997), the Miss. Supreme Court held that derivative Social Security benefits can be used as a substitute income stream to satisfy alimony obligations. Here there was no alimony.  “More importantly, the parties’ PSA does not mention William receiving a credit if Sandra starts to draw Social Security benefits.”   A PSA is a contract that should be enforced as written. “

Leon Edwards v. Statecastle doctrine/state’s obligation to test evidence – Edwards was convicted of manslaughter in the killing of his wife’s lover,  Darrin Dickerson. When Edwards saw their cars in the parking lot of a hotel in Tunica, he  knocked on the door to the hotel room adjacent to theirs and asked the occupant to have the hotel clerk call the Coahoma County Sheriff’s Department. When the officer came, he identified everyone and asked Sheila to step outside. Sheila refused to talk, so Edwards left the premises.  The next day,  Edwards went to  Dickerson’s apartment complex and  called a tow truck to remove his wife’s vehicle. Sheila came out to stop t he two truck.   Dickerson came out of his apartment with both of his hands in his pockets. “Edwards testified that he warned Dickerson not to come any closer. When Dickerson would not stop, Edwards went to his vehicle to retrieve his gun. Edwards testified that when he walked back towards Sheila’s vehicle, Dickerson made a gesture like he was going to pull something out of his pocket. Edwards proceeded to shoot Dickerson. Dickerson later died from his injuries.”

On appeal he argues that the jury should have been instructed on the castle doctrine and  that the  the State violated his due-process rights by failing to adequately test a firearm.  As for the castle doctrine,  Edwards failed to ask for it at trial and is barred from raising this issue on appeal. As for the gun, when Dickerson was in the helicopter ambulance, Sheila’s gun was retrieved from Dickerson’s pocket.  SIx days later Sheila took it to the police department. Edwards argues that the state had a duty to secure the weapon at the scene and that the state had a duty to test fire it.

We cannot say that Officer Johnson acted in bad faith. This gun was admitted into evidence. Officer Johnson testified that the gun, the clip, and the unspent bullet were in substantially the same condition as they were when Sheila brought them to her. Officer Johnson testified that because she was unable to establish the chain of custody and given that there were no spent shell casings of that caliber found at the scene of the shooting, she did not think it was necessary to test fire the gun. Six days had passed before Sheila finally turned the gun over to Officer Johnson. It is also worth noting that a test fire would not have revealed that a bullet was jammed in the chamber because the bullet had been removed by Sheila. Therefore, we find that Edwards was not deprived of presenting a complete defense. The gun was admitted at trial in substantially the same condition as when Officer Johnson received it, and counsel for Edwards was able to elicit testimony from Sheila that a bullet was jammed in the chamber, raising the inference that the gun was fired. The credibility of that testimony was for the jury to decide. For the foregoing reasons, we find that this issue is without merit.

PCR appeals affirmed:

Melissa Webster v. State

Donnie Sylvester v. State

Deriera Magee

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