Decisons – Miss.S.Ct. – Feb. 4, 2016

John Hale v. State invol. intoxication/entrapment –  Lt. Aldon Helmert was executing a search warrant on an apartment in Biloxi.  He was standing on the balcony taking a break when John Hale walked by and offered to sell him some oxycodone.  Helmert purchased the drugs and Hale was subsequently convicted of four counts of sale or transfer of a controlled substance and was sentenced as an habitual offender to serve a total of sixteen years’ imprisonment without the possibility of parole. On appeal he argues that he was entitled to instructions on involuntary intoxication and entrapment.  Hale argues that his friend may have spiked a drink he consumed before the sale.   The COA finds that while there may be circumstances that warrant such an instruction, Hale did not have sufficient evidence to support the granting of an involuntary intoxication instruction.  Nor did he show evidence of entrapment.


Larry Collier v. State – impeachment of witness via former convictions –  the Court substitutes a new opinion for the one handed down April 16, 2015, but does not change the outcome Collier was charged with  four counts of selling cocaine as a subsequent drug offender. The buys were set up by Shirley Melvin, an informant oft used by the Rankin County Sheriff’s department.   Melvin testified at Collier’s trial.  The state had her trot out her many convictions.  She managed to leave out three of these which the defense then attempted to impeach her with.  The state objected on the grounds that the convictions were more than ten years old and that the defendant failed to notice the state of its intent to use these convictions pursuant to MRE 609. THe trial court ruled the priors inadmissible. On appeal, the Miss.S.Ct. finds that the judge’s ruling was error.  If a witness lies about her criminal past, 609 does not come into play. The Court, though, rules the error was harmless given that Melvin’s credibility was already tarnished  and in light of all the evidence against Collier.

City of Tchula and the City of Port Gibson v. The Miss. Public Service Comm’n.whether municipal gas systems are subject to the Public Utilities Act –  Both Tchula and Post Gibson argued that  their municipal gas systems  which were built prior to gas to the effective date of the Mississippi Public Utilities Act, March 29, 1956, are exempt from regulation by the Mississippi Public Service Commission.

Port Gibson built its system in 1954-55. In 1955, it leased the System to the Union Gas Company.   Port Gibson continued to own the System and set the rates.  In April 2002, Port Gibson executed a new lease with Miss. River Gas (MRG) for a twenty  year term.  Unlike the 1955 lease, the 2002 lease  states that rates are to be set by the PSC.  In May  2013, MRG) filed a Notice of Intent to Change Rates with the Commission  requesting that a uniform rate be established for all of MRG’s systems including  Port Gibson.  Post Gibson intervened.  “[T]he Commission found that, although Port Gibson owns the System, it is in fact ‘operated’ by MRG, and MRG should be subject to PSC regulation; furthermore, that the phrase ‘owned or operated’ is ambiguous and should be interpreted to read ‘owned and operated,”’such that a municipal system is only exempt from PSC regulation if it is both owned and operated by a municipality.”

The Mississippi Supreme Court reverses the Commission.

We find the Commission erred in assuming rate-setting jurisdiction over Tchula’s and Port Gibson’s municipally owned, but not operated, public-utility systems. Additionally, the Commission erred in assuming jurisdiction over rates charged to customers beyond one mile of the cities’ limits when these cities had not extended their gas-distribution services beyond one mile of their city limits since passage of the Public Utilities Act. We reverse the 8 Commission’s order on this narrow, specific basis and remand this case to the Commission for entry of an order consistent with this opinion.






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