Decisions – COA – March 31, 2015

Twonia Williams v. State murder/manslaughter – Williams was found guilty of killing her ex-boyfriend’s new girlfriend.  She testified that she shot Katrina out of anger during a heated argument and with no premeditation but the jury rejected her heat of passion defense.  On appeal she raises insufficient evidence and weight of the evidence.  The COA affirms.

David Paul Anderson v. State –  pcr alleging mental retardation – Anderson was convicted of sexual battery of his eleven-year-old daughter.  His convictions and sentences were affirmed on direct appeal. Anderson v. State, 62 So. 3d 927 (Miss. 2011).  He filed a motion for post conviction relief alleging that he lacked the mental capacity to commit the crimes or assist in his own defense.  The Miss.S.Ct. allowed Anderson to proceed to a hearing.  The parties provided their evidence to the trial court and Anderson consented to have the case decided based on the pleadings.  The trial court denied relief.  Anderson appeals arguing that he had been found to be borderline mentally retarded. The COA affirms. “Neither of Anderson’s experts found that he was legally insane or incompetent to stand trial. Instead, each stated authoritatively that nothing could be reliably concluded from the evidence available to them.”

Branden Keogh v. State –  failure to appeal for trial de novo from city court –  In  2010, Keogh was found guilty in city court of simple assault. Keogh appealed his conviction to the Oktibbeha County Circuit Court but failed to appear for his trial de novo.  The City of Starkville moved to have  an order for a writ of procedendo and to  dismiss the appeal and remand the case to the municipal court for enforcement of the municipal court’s judgment. Several months later, Keogh filed a notice of appeal with the COA  asserting that the circuit court erred by issuing the writ of procedendo.  He asks for the COA to  reverse the circuit court’s denial of his motion to reconsider and to remand the matter for a trial de novo.

Freddie Dobbs v. William Crawford et al. –  reformation of deeds –  This is a land dispute that arose after Nellie Pruitt died intestate and the 24.12 acres ended up being divided equally among her five daughters.   The property was surveyed, divided into five tracts, and sisters executed five deeds which were recorded in the land records of Tishimingo County.  SOme thirty years’ later, it was discovered that there was an error in the deed descriptions.  Freddie, the son of one of the sisters disputed that the deeds were incorrect.  He bulldozed several trees, razed some land and tore down a fence.  The other landowners filed a complaint to reform the deeds.  The chancellor found for the plaintiffs inasmuch as Freddie’s “evidence” was just his testimony.  Freddie appeals again representing himself.  The COA affirms.

Dennis Hutchens v. State –  requirements to be charged as an habitual – Hutchens pleaded guilty to several charges.   In exchange for his plea, he was allowed to plead as an habitual under MCA Sect. 99-19-8(1) instead of 99-19-8(3).  The latter would have meant a sentence of life without parole.  Hutchins later filed a motion for post conviction relief arguing that his trial counsel was ineffective for failing to object to the state’s amending the indictment to charge him as an habitual under 99-18-8(3) because Hutchins did not serve one year or more on two convictions arising out of separate incidents.  The COA agrees with the state that because Hutchens served more than one year on two separate convictions, it did not matter that he served them concurrently.

Stephanie Dobson v. John Dobsoncustody –  John and Stephanie married in 2004, had one child, Hayden, in 2010.  In 2012, Stephanie moved out and into her parents’ home taking Hayden with her.  John filed for divorce.  After a trial, the court awarded John and Stephanie joint legal custody of Hayden, and awarded John primary physical custody. Stephanie was content to rely on her parents for support so that she could stay at home with Hayden.  She is also bipolar. Stephanie appeals.  The COA affirms.

Gene Smiley v. Eunieca Smiley – custody – Gene and Eunieca were married in 1998.  They became custodians of two children, Christopher and Alaina.   Alaina (the child of Euneica’s cousin), was relinquished to their custody in 2005. The couple separated in 2009 but filed a joint petition to adopt Alaina in 2010.  The adoption was set aside in 2011. Christopher went to live with Gene in Tennessee.  The parties agreed to an ID divorce and left custody to the chancellor.  Meanwhile,  Christopher was removed from Gene’s home because of a “nonsexual physical abuse incident.”  Alaina was residing with Eunieca and she eventually cut off contact between Alaina and Gene.  The court, after a trial in which members of a church Gene and Eunieca attended testified that Gene acted inappropriately, awarded custody to Euniece and denied visitation to Gene.  The COA affirms the custody decision but reverses on visitation because “[t]he record indicates that the chancery court did not consider whether adequate provisions could be made that would allow Gene to have visitation with Alaina.

Isaac Parker v. Ashley Furniture Indust. – workers comp. –  Parker worked assembling wooden furniture at Ashley furniture.  In 20112, while assembling furniture, he  Isaac felt a sharp pain in his hands. PArker was sent to  an orthopaedic surgeon who diagnosed him work-related bilateral carpal tunnel syndrome.  The surgeon  performed a bilateral carpal tunnel release and prescribed  physical therapy and braces.  Parker was released to light duty but continued to complain of pain.  Nine months after the incident, Parker was released to regular work and his doctor placed him on maximum medical improvement with a 3% impairment rating to each hand.  Parker filed a petition to controvent arguing that he was entitled to permanent disability benefits.  Meanwhile, he obtained work at Kentucky Fried Chicken.  The AJ found that Parker failed to prove that he suffered an industrial loss of use of either extremity. The full Commission affirmed as does the COA.

Darrell Brooks v. State –  sufficiency of evidence/murder – Brooks was convicted of murdering David Shivers  and sentenced as a habitual offender to life without parole.  Shivers had been dating Brooks’ estranged wife and Brooks had told a coworker that he was going to kill Shivers a few days before Shivers was shot. On appeal he argues sufficiency and weight of the evidence. The COA affirms.

Orvin Harris v. State – prior bad acts in child abuse case; intro. of statements made by child  – Orvin Harris was convicted of two counts of gratification of lust, the victim being a ten-year-old neighbor. When the child’s mother discovered bumps on her genitals, she took her to a doctor.  The child was asked whether anyone had touched her and she stated that Harris had placed his hands on her genitals. On appeal, Harris contends the trial court erred in allowing Harris’s two adult stepdaughters to testify that he molested them when they were children. The court allowed the testimony in to show “motive, opportunity, intent, knowledge, and absence of mistake specifically in this case.”  The COA finds that the trial court did not abuse its discretion in admitting the prior bad acts evidence. Harris also alleges it was error to admit testimony of the statements the child made to various persons that Harris molested her.

Prior to trial, the trial court conducted a hearing to determine whether T.M.’s statements to Sharon, Officer Oster, and Clark provided substantial indicia of reliability. Sharon, Officer Oster, and Clark each testified during the hearing. The trial court reserved ruling until after T.M.’s direct examination during trial. After excusing the jury, the trial court conducted a lengthy analysis of Rule 803(25), applying the list of factors from the comments to the rule. Upon review of the trial court’s extensive findings, we can find no abuse of discretion in allowing statements made by T.M. to Sharon, Officer Oster, and Clark concerning the abuse into evidence. This issue is without merit

Pro se PCR denials

Johnny Yearby v. State

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