On January 8, 2015, the Mississippi Supreme Court granted cert in four cases.
Wallace v. State – ineffective assistance of counsel – Eric Wallace was convicted of a drive by shooting after he and a friend were pulled over shortly after the shooting and Wallace handed over a half-empty pistol containing cartridges that matched shell casings found at the scene. Wallace and his passenger consented to a gunshot residue test. The passenger came back clean, but Wallace was positive for residue on the outside of his left hand. Since Wallace is paralyzed from the waist down, the prosecution’s theory of the case was that Wallace was driving and he shot from the driver’s side window. (A witness who saw the shooting reported there were two men in a truck; one driving and the other standing in the back of the truck). On appeal he argued that his trial counsel was ineffective for failing to request 1) a circumstantial evidence instruction or 2) an alibi instruction. He also claimed the evidence was insufficient. The Court of Appeals affirmed. Wallace filed for cert. which the Miss.S.Ct. granted.
Kenneth Crook v. the City of Madison – Madison’s ordinance regarding rental property – Crook was found guilty of two violations of a Madison City Ordinance requiring landlords to obtain licenses for their rental houses as well have them inspected. “To obtain the rental license, owners must submit a written application with a licensing fee of $100 per rental unit to the City’s building official. Further, owners must post a $10,000 bond, collateral, or letter of credit per rental unit as surety for any future correction orders that may be issued by the building official pursuant to RIPLA. The rental license is valid for one year. Upon obtaining a rental license, owners must be issued a current and valid certificate of compliance that must be displayed at each rental property.” The City cited Crook for not getting a license for a property on Cypress Drive. Crook contended he did not need to get a license because the property was being leased via a rent to own contract. He also challenged the ordinance as unconstitutional. The Court of Appeals affirmed the conviction. The cert. petition raises several interesting constitutional issues with regard to the Madison ordinance.
Joe McGinty v. Grand Casinos – The McGintys fell ill from Mallory-Weiss syndrome after eating pork chops and eggs at Grand Casino. Grand Casino filed for summary judgment. The McGintys argued that circumstantial evidence was sufficient to withstand summary judgment on their negligence and breach of warranty claims. The trial court threw out the case. The Miss. Court of Appeals affirmed on the negligence claim but reversed on the breach of warranty. Grand Casino filed a petition for cert. asking the Court to affirm trial court’s ruling on the breach of warranty claim.
Richard Chapman v. State – destruction of evidence – Chapman was convicted by a jury of rape and was sentenced to life imprisonment in 1982. That same year Chapman he also pleaded guilty to robbery and was sentenced to ten years. Chapman did not file a direct appeal of the rape conviction. But over the years, Chapman filed numerous motions in the Hinds County Circuit Court and in the Mississippi Supreme Court. Apparently Chapman contacted the Innocence Project seeking to have the DNA from the rape kit tested only to find out that the State no longer had any of the evidence from the rape case. He then filed a pcr on these issues: (1) the destruction of evidence violated his due-process rights, (2) the trial court erred in finding his motion was time-barred, (3) the indictment was defective, (4) the jury was not properly sworn, (5) the State failed to comply with discovery, (6) his trial counsel was ineffective, and (7) the State’s closing argument was improper. The Miss. Court of Appeals found all of Chapman’s claims time-barred. Chapman filed a pro se petition for cert. which the Miss. S. Ct. granted.