Decisions – Miss.S.Ct. – May 21, 2015 – circumstantial evidence instruction survives

This has been a big day in the Mississippi Supreme Court.  It issued an opinion in the absorbing Weill-HCPD dispute (covered in a separate post) and decided not to scuttle the circumstantial evidence instruction – an idea the Court came up with on its own in Burleson v. State.  

Charles Burleson v. Statecircumstantial evidence instruction –  Charles David Burleson and Jeremy Hughes were charged with capital murder (underlying felony of robbery) in the death of Stephen Holley. The cases were severed and Burleson was found guilty and sentenced to life without parole. Although there was no direct evidence, the prosecution managed to convince the trial court that the testimony of Kayla Cartwright (Jeremy’s girlfriend), that she was sitting in a car while Charles and David went in and out of Stephen’s house (supposedly during the time when Stephen must have been murdered) was direct evidence. So, of course, the Court did what the state wanted and refused to give the jury the circumstantial evidence language.

On appeal, Burleson raised the issue of the trial court’s refusal to give the jury the standard circumstantial evidence instruction. On July 1, 2014, the Court asked for additional briefing on “whether this Court should abolish the requirement in ‘circumstantial evidence cases’ that the jury must be instructed that it must exclude every reasonable hypothesis other than that of guilt in order to convict.”  After argument, the Court did not abolish the instruction and reversed because the trial court failed to give the instruction here and further, because the trial court allowed the state to amend Burleson’s indictment to charge him as an habitual pursuant to M.C.A.  § 99-19-83  which involves prior crimes of violence.  The prior crimes submitted by the state were all burglaries which the law at the time did not designate as crimes of violence.  Therefore, it was error to allow the state to amend the indictment.

Mississippi Judicial Performance Commission v. Rickey Thompson – justice court judge misbehaves – the Court ends up removing Justice Court Judge (Lee County) Rickey Thompson.  I never find these interesting because I don’t really consider them judges and they’re always doing crazy shit. But there was a long list of Thompson doing crazy shit and if you want to read about it, here it is.

In the Matter of the Dissolution of James Hanlin and Melanie Hanlin –  res judicata in post divorce contempt/military health coverage – The Hanlins; were granted an ID divorce in  2007.  The PSA required that James maintain military healthcare coverage “allowable by statute” for Melanie. After the divorce, Melanie incurred significant medical expenses, which James’s insurer initially paid. In 2009, however, Melanie learned that she had not been covered and she was sued for  her unpaid medical bills.  The chancellor found that each party was obligated to pay half of Melanie’s medical expenses. The Court of Appeals affirmed. The Miss.S.Ct. granted cert. and reverses and renders because Melanie had filed a previous petition for contempt and she knew, at that time, that there was a problem with the med pay.  “Because those “could and should have been litigated” during the prior proceedings, at which time Melanie was aware that her health insurance provider was not paying her medical bills, Melanie’s contempt claims are res judicata with respect to the claims for 7 medical expenses which could have been sought in the 2010 proceeding.” The opinion also discusses PSA provisions for medical coverage of military persons.  Yet another indication that anyone drafting PSAs needs to know a lot about a zillion different laws that could affect the ability of the parties to effectuate a PSA’s provisions.

John Mallette, M.D. v. Amy and Tod Dye – the court splits four four on this one and tie goes to affirming the lower court.

2 thoughts on “Decisions – Miss.S.Ct. – May 21, 2015 – circumstantial evidence instruction survives

  1. It’s all I can do not to write about the family law cases the same way. “Woman had 8 children by dude she now claims is a deviant piece of shit.” If I were the judge I’d be like “nunc pro tunc abortions for everyone involved.” People need to procreate more intelligently. It might eventually lead to world peace (if we weren’t about to destroy the planet so, yeah, too late).

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