At 1:30 on Wed., Feb. 25, 2015, the Miss. S. Ct. will hear the death penalty case of David Dickerson v. State. Dickerson was accused of killing Paula Hamilton. Dickerson and Hamilton had had a romantic relation for about a year and a half some years ago. They had a daughter, Courtney, who was 16 when her mother was killed.
Dickerson had a long history of mental illness and after he and Paula broke up she got several restraining orders against him. There was a hearing scheduled on the latest of these for Jan. 25, 2011. That morning, Dickerson showed up at the property on which Paula, Courtney, Paula’s husband and several relatives lived. Dickerson assaulted Paula and Paula and Courtney sought refuge in a travel trailer occupied by Linda Austin. Dickerson broke in and poured gasoline on Paula. Courtney and Linda fled. The trailer exploded. Dickerson and Paula came out. Paula’s clothes were on fire and she had suffered knife and bullet wounds. She died at the scene from a gunshot to the head.
On appeal, Dickerson argues that the judge should not have found him competent to stand trial. And even if competent, his mental illness should have precluded imposition of the death sentence. The trial court erred in allowing the arson count to go to the jury; in allowing prejudicial evidence (a 911 call, autopsy photos and testimony of prior bad acts) into evidence; and in refusing to allow the jury to decide whether Dickerson’s mental disabilities should have ruled out the death penalty. He also argues that the judge should not have imposed death where the jury’s death verdict did not include the finding of any aggravating circumstances.
Dickerson’s rebuttal brief
Oral argument can be viewed here.
Update – looks like this argument has been postponed. It is no longer listed on the Miss.S.Ct. website for argument today and it looks like most state offices are closed because of this weather.