Decisions – COA – April 12, 2016

Nathan Sinko v. State is covered in a separate post.

Jamar Amin Moore  v. State of Mississippi – compensation for wrongful conviction –  Moore was convicted of possession of a Schedule II controlled substance, a felony, and sentenced to sixteen years’ imprisonment  When a lab analysis showed that he possessed only a Schedule III substance, a misdemanor, the state agreed to Moore’s pcr petition and Moore was released.  He then filed for compensation for wrongful conviction.  “The circuit court reasoned that Moore was not innocent—he was just convicted of the wrong crime.”  The COA reverses and remands for a determination of the amount owed to Moore.

We conclude, however, that the statutory provision refers to innocence of all felonies for which the claimant has been indicted, convicted, and incarcerated. There is no dispute that Moore’s conduct did not constitute a felony. Nor is there any dispute that the State nolle prossed Moore’s indictment, which satisfies section 11-44-3(1)(c)’s separate requirement of a favorable outcome on the underlying indictment. We therefore reverse and render on the issue of liability. We remand the case for a determination of the amount of compensation Moore is entitled to receive.

 

Jennifer Hoffman v. State –    impeachment by prior inconsistent statement – Hoffman was convicted of armed robbery and given a three year sentence. The State claims that she conspired with others to have sex with Henry Hood for $100, after which  her co-conspirators would rob him.  On appeal, she argues that the trial court erred in letting the state impeach her with a prior inconsistent statement because she admitted to having lied to law enforcement. The COA finds she waived the issue because she did not object to it on that basis at trial.  She also argues sufficiency of the evidence.  The COA affirms.

Jeffrey Brasso  v. State of Mississippi –  competency –  Brasso pleaded guilty to sexual battery.  He filed a pcr alleging, among other things, that he was not competent to plead.  The trial court denied relief.   The COA reverses and remands finding that the court had sufficient evidence by the time of the plea to have ordered an evaluation and held a competency hearing.  Prior to the plea, Brasso’s lawyer and the state had agreed to have him evaluated.  During the plea, the court learned that Brasso was in special ed in school and that there was a family history of mental illness.  And between the plea and sentencing Brasso did have a mental evaluation where it was found he suffered from  organic brain syndrome.  The Court reverses and remands.  “Brasso should be either retried or institutionalized following a mental evaluation and competency hearing under Rule 9.06.”

Nathaniel Hampton  v. State of Mississippi defendant shackled –  Hampton and Gerod Nellum were indicted for capital murder in the death of  David Melton. They beat him to death and took his wallet because he owed them $120.  On appeal Hampton argues sufficiency of the evidence and that the court should have granted a mistrial after several jurors  saw him shackled and behind cars in the court’s holding cell. This was brought to the court’s attention and the transportation officer told the court she had blocked the jurors’ view.  Defense counsel never moved for a mistrial.  The COA affirms.

 

 

Joshua Wayne Prokasy  v. State of Mississippi – competency – Prakasy was convicted of armed robbery and conspiracy to commit armed robbery and sentenced to 25 years with 5 suspended.  His wife, Samantha Jo Brumfield robbed a Kangaroo convenience store in Poplarville, Mississippi. Prokasy  was parked behind the building in their car. On appeal he argues that the trial court erred in denying him a competency evaluation.  The COA finds no error.

The court conducted an extensive examination of Prokasy and asked about his background, military service, medication, disability, and general knowledge as to the 4 proceedings before the court. In his response to these questions, Prokasy indicated that he clearly understood the role of the attorneys and the role of the judge. He testified that he recently completed his training to become a motorcycle tech before his arrest. Prokasy was able to articulate complete answers to all of the questions and able to explain his medical problems to the judge. He testified that he would be able to provide his attorneys with everything they needed to defend him. Counsel was allowed to participate and offer any additional information for the court to consider.

He also claims that the instruction on conspiracy lacks the element of venue but the COA finds that venue was provided in the armed robbery instruction. Finally, he argues that the court erred in answering no to the jury’s question   “Can we find him guilty of aiding/planning in the robbery and not guilty of armed robbery?”

Prokasy argues that the second question and the subsequent answer implied that the jury should convict Prokasy of armed robbery if he aided or planned the robbery without 6 consideration of intent. The supreme court has reversed cases where the given instructions seemed to direct the jury to convict if they found the defendant guilty of only one element. Berry v. State, 728 So. 2d 568, 571 (¶9) (Miss. 1999). However, here, the jury instructions, when considered as a whole, cure any error that may have occurred from a misleading instruction.

Clint D. Ferrara v. Melissa Kay Bowers Ferrara, Marcus Bowers and Mary Carole Bowersmarital debt – Clint and Melissa married in  1996, had two children and separated in 2011.  Shortly after their marriage they borrowed money from Melissa’s trust fund to buy a house in S.C. When they moved to Mississippi, they paid Melissa’s parents $125,000 for their $350,000 house.  Clint filed for divorce on the grounds of adultery and requested temporary use of the marital domicile.  Melissa’s parents, the Bowers, sent him a bill for $225,000 – the difference between what was paid for the house and what it had been listed for. Clint filed suit against the Bowers asking for the court to declare the house the property of Clint and Melissa.  The divorce case and the suit over the house were consolidated. The chancellor found that (1) the Bowerses were entitled to an equitable lien on the Beaver Run house and that the lien secured a marital debt in the amount of $225,000; and (2) the money borrowed from the trust constituted a marital debt in the amount of $125,000. The court  awarding Clint primary physical custody of the children and ordered  Melissa to pay child support in the amount of $780 per month.  On appeal, Clint argues that the chancellor erred in (1) finding that certain financial transactions resulted in the accumulation of marital debts, (2) failing to identify and classify all of Melissa’s separate assets, and (3) failing to properly weigh Melissa’s responsibility for the destruction of the marriage when dividing the marital estate.  The COA affirms.

 

Maurice Townsend v. State of Mississippi –  sufficiency of the indictment/Batson – Townsend was convicted of simple assault on a law enforcement officer.  The officer encountered Townsend after he was escorted from a bar in Oxford. “Officer Sabin testified that Townsend was fighting with the bouncers and was kicking, screaming, cursing, and trying to spit on the bouncers.” Townsend ended up pushing Sabin.  On appeal, Townsend argues his indictment was defective because it failed to state that Officer Sabin was “acting within the scope of his duty, office[,] or employment” when the alleged assault occurred. “In the present case, the record reflects that the heading of Townsend’s indictment plainly stated that Townsend was being charged with aggravated assault on a law enforcement officer under section 97-3-7(2).”  He next argues that the Court should extend Batson to require the trial court to include minorities.  Townsend had an all-white jury.  The Court declines.  He also challenges strikes to two potential jurors, one of whom was black, who stated they would not pay attention to the evidence.   The COA affirms.

Dr. Arenia C. Mallory Community Health Center, Inc. v. Stellanda Davis-Cornelius – arbitrationDavisCornelius was hired as the  chief executive officer of the Community Health Center.  Six years later she was fired.   Under the terms of the employment contract, if the Health Center fired Davis-Cornelius for cause, an arbitration panel shall be formed immediately to determine whether or not there was “Cause” for the discharge by the Board of Directors.   The contract specified the makeup of the panel and stated the panel must reach a decision within thirty to sixty days. When Davis-Cornelius was fired, an arbitration panel was not immediately formed. Instead, more than sixty days later she sued the Health Center in circuit court.   The Health Center moved to compel arbitration.  The trial court denied the motion on the basis that the panel did not conduct proceedings within 60 days. “[Q]uestions of timeliness and whether a party fulfilled the procedural requirements of the arbitration provision are ones of ‘procedural arbitrability’ And questions of procedural arbitrability are for the arbitrator, not the courts, to decide.”

Pro se PCRs affirmed:

Vernon Brown, Jr. v. State of Mississippi

Charles McLaurin, Jr. v. State of Mississippi

Derrick Stokes v. State of Mississippi 

Curtis Evans v. State 

Courtney Elkins  v. State of Mississippi

 

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