Decisions – COA – August 18, 2015

Trevor Hoskins v. State –  amendment of indictment/404(b) evidence  –  Hoskins has a bad habit of beating the shit out of his girlfriends.  In this case Hoskins got twenty years for domestic assault (he broke her  leg, arm and nose) to serve consecutive to another  case where he beat the shit out of another female companion. Just prior to trial, the  the prosecution moved to  amend the indictment by adding  the wording  “who had a romantic relationship with or was the girlfriend to Trevor Hoskins at the time of the aggravated assault” after the words “a person” in the indictment which changed the charge from aggravated assault to domestic aggravated assault, which is a completely different charge governed by a separate statute.  The COA finds this is not error.  “It is clear from the indictment’s title and its citation of the statute that the intended charge was domestic aggravated assault. The State sought to amend the indictment to correct the scrivener’s error.”   Hoskins also complains that the state was allowed to call as a witness one of his other victims, Linda Taylor.  This, too, was not error.  “Taylor’s testimony was offered to prove the knowledge, intent, lack of mistake, plan, and motive of Hoskins in committing the assault. Secondly, the probative value of the testimony outweighed the prejudicial effect on Hoskins. Taylor’s assault occurred mere months before the incident that lead to the charges in this case. Therefore, we find that the trial court did not abuse its discretion in allowing Taylor to testify.”  Between this case and the case where he brutally attacked Taylor  (beating, kicking, biting, and cutting her and trying to gouge her eyes out), Hoskins is serving forty years.

Devon Reeg v. Dr. Murray Burt Keel, Jr., D.M.D.SOL –   Reeg worked as a dental assistant for Dr. Murray Bert Keel Jr. from 2003 to 2005.  In 2014, she filed suit alleging that he had inappropriately touched her  causing her to have psychological problems. She claims she did not realize a connection between the unsolicited contact and her psychological issues until 2013, when she was diagnosed with posttraumatic stress disorder.  The trial court dismissed the case based on teh statute of limitations and the COA affirms.

Leroy Harris v. State –   speedy trial –  Harris was charged with the armed robbery of  Rosella Jing  in Greenville.  He followed her to her house and when she pulled up in her driveway, he banged on her window with a gun and demanded her purse.  The officer responding to the 911 call spotted Harris’ truck and pulled it over.  The driver and the passenger fled.  A cell phone left in the truck led the police to Harris.  Harris and Cunningham (the driver) were charged with  with armed robbery and a firearm enhancement. Harris was found guilty and given 15 years.  He argues speedy trial like that’s an issue ever. He also argues that it was error to admit the 911 call.  The COA finds that it was admissible as an excited utterance.  He then argues sufficiency of the evidence with the usual success.  That is to say, none.

Michael Ducksworth v. State –  parole – In 1989, Michael Ducksworth and Ozia Booth pled guilty to two counts of murder and one count of burglary. Twenty years later, Booth was paroled, but Ducksworth was not.  Ducksworth filed a “Petition for Order to Show Cause or In the Alternative, Petition for Writ of Habeas Corpus” in the circuit court, contending that the Parole Board acted arbitrarily and unconstitutionally when it denied him parole. The circuit court treated Ducksworth’s petition as one for post-conviction relief and dismissed it based on an erroneous belief that it was not filed in the original trial court, as required by the PCR statute. The COA holds that  Ducksworth’s petition should have been considered as an ordinary civil action.  Nonetheless, since he failed to state a claim dismissal was appropriate.

Had Ducksworth alleged that parole was denied based on his race or other factors recognized as prohibited from consideration by the United States Constitution, he may have stated a cognizable equal protection claim. See Mangum, 76 So. 3d at 770 (¶22). But he did not; he simply makes the same claims as in his due process argument – that the Parole Board acted arbitrarily in denying him parole after granting it to his codefendant.

Courtney Logan v. State –   aiding an escape/duress defense –  Logan’s cousin was serving life.  In June 2009, the cousin  and another inmate were transported to an eye clinic.  Logan came through the back door brandishing a weapon, fired a shot into the air and demanded that everyone get on the floor.  Logan and his cousin were apprehended that same day headed for Nashville.  At trial, Logan admitted to his crimes but argued that he was made to commit them by his uncle (his cousin’s father).   Logan was tried and convicted on five counts of kidnapping, one count of aiding escape, and one count of felon in possession of a firearm. The trial court sentenced Logan to seven consecutive life sentences without the possibility of parole or probation.  On appeal Logan argues that the evidence was insufficient to support kidnapping since “the confinement of the officers and the employees of the Clinic was incident to the act of aiding Jackson’s escape and was of no greater degree than necessary to accomplish Jackson’s escape.”   The COA finds no merit to this issue.  Logan also claims that the indictment was insufficient  to charge him as an habitual and the evidence was insufficient to prove he was a habitual.   One of the priors was for felony fleeing in Kentucky.   Logan argues that what he did was not a felony under Mississippi law.  The COA holds that the designation of felony versus misdemeanor is looked at under the state in which the conviction was obtained.  The fleeing was a felony in Kentucky and, thus, counted as a prior felony. Logan argues that he was erroneously denied a duress instruction.   The COA rejects this issue.

Even though Logan testified that his uncle, Jackson Sr., was ruthless, we do not find any objectively reasonable foundation in the evidence in support of Jackson Sr.’s threats to harm Logan’s child if Logan did not go through with the escape plan. No threat made by Jackson Sr. was identified at trial. No evidence was presented showing that Logan’s child was in any specific danger. In addition, Logan testified that he did not know Jackson or Jackson Sr. very well. Moreover, we do not find any evidence that Logan was without an adequate alternative to committing the crimes. Logan drove several hours alone from Kentucky to Mississippi to carry out this crime without attempting to contact authorities.

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