Miss. Comm’n on Judicial Performance v. Talmadge Littlejohn – judicial misconduct – The case arises out of a divorce heard by the judge in February 2012. The order required the husband, Ronald Brooks, to pay $15,000 to his ex to buy a car for their child. He was also ordered to pay $1750.00 in attorneys fees. The first was to be paid within 90 days and the latter within 60 days. Because this was a sum certain, Brooks’ attorney obtained a supersedeas bond which was approved by the chancery clerk. Four months later, the ex wife filed a motion for contempt. The hearing was set for Sept. 25, 2012. On September 18, the court heard Brooks’ Motion for Stay of Judgment and Approval of Supersedeas Bond. The court recognized the bond as proper but held that the $15,000 and $1,750 were not stayed. At the hearing on contempt, the Chancellor ordered Brooks incarcerated for willful contempt. Brooks filed an emergency motion with the Miss.S.Ct. which was granted the very next day but not before Brooks spent three days in jail.
The Commission finds that Judge Littlejohn did not respect and comply with the law in violation of Canons 2 and 3.In the end, the Commission recommends a public reprimand, a fine of $500, and costs of $1606.47. The Miss.S.Ct. agrees that Judge Littlejohn violated the law but does not adopt the Commission’s recommendations as far as punishment. “We suspend Chancellor Littlejohn from office for thirty days without pay, fine him $1,000, order that he be publicly reprimanded, and tax him with the costs of these proceedings.”
David Dickerson v. State – death penalty case – 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. The Miss.S.Ct. affirms.
Mack Arthur King v. State – death penalty/ sentence on remand – King was convicted and sentenced to death in the 1980 killing of Lelia Patterson. After years and years of litigation, a federal court declared him ineligible for the death penalty pursuant to Atkins v. Virginia. On remand, the Lowndes CountyCircuit Court sentenced him to life without parole. King appeals since there was no lwop at the time of the original crime. The Miss.S.Ct. agrees and remands for King to be sentenced to life.