Decisions – Miss.S.Ct. -Aug.4, 2016

William Christopher Tucker v. Gay St. Mary Williams and Larry Williams – default judgment – Gay St. Mary Williams and her husband Larry Williams sued William  Tucker and two insurance companies for injuries arising from a car accident in Jackson.  The insurance companies answered but when Tucker did not, the Williams got an entry of default and moved for  a default judgment against him. Approximately four months after that, Tucker filed a motion to set aside the entry of default.  This was litigated over the next year during which Tucker demonstrated that he had filed suit against the Williams in federal court for the same accident and the case had been settled for $400,00.  The trial court ended up deciding against Tucker and awarded almost $3 million to the Williams. On appeal, and after much discussion about the difference between MRCP 55(c) and 60(b) the Miss.S.Ct. reverses.

Charles Ray Crawford  v. State of Mississippi – ineffective of assistance – Crawford is on death row for the  kidnapping, murder and rape of Kristie Ray.  His first pcr was denied.  He now argues that he was provided ineffective assistance with regard to his first pcr raising the folowing claims:  (1) whether Crawford received ineffective assistance of first post-conviction-relief counsel for failing to conduct an adequate investigation into Crawford’s claims, (2) whether trial counsel was ineffective in presenting evidence related to Crawford’s mental state, so that the jury did not hear about Crawford’s untreated epilepsyand brain trauma, (3) whether Crawford’s right to counsel was 6 violated in 1993 when his then-attorney assisted law enforcement, agreed to a mental evaluation, and then withdrew from the case, (4) whether Crawford received ineffective assistance of counsel due to trial counsel’s failure to suppress evidence used against him in the penalty phase, and (5) whether newly discovered evidence shows that law enforcement ignored Crawford’s assertion of his Fifth-Amendment right to counsel.  The Miss.S.Ct. denies relief.

 

David McFee v. State of Mississippi – illegal sentence – thirty years after  being sentenced for perjury, “while also serving life sentences for murder and rape, McFee presents a claim that his perjury sentence is illegal.”  The Miss.S.Ct. finds that “his claim is devoid of a legal basis and, therefore, is time-barred. Accordingly, the Court concludes that this application should be denied.”

 

And the Court grants cert in  James Johnson, Jr. v. State of Mississippi  (the link is to teh COA opinion).  Johnson was convicted of  aggravated domestic violence.  He was accused of strangling  his ex-wife.  At trial the court allowed the state to introduce police reports related to Johnson’s prior bad acts (including two convictions)  and convictions for domestic violence involving four different women and spanning a thirteen-year time period.  The offense reports contained information that  Johnson engaged in other criminal conduct than just the four past bad acts.  the State proffered during the pretrial hearing.  The COA reverses because the “circuit court admitted the four offense reports without determining whether, under Rule 404(b) of the Mississippi Rules of Evidence, the State offered the additional offenses in the police reports for proper purposes.”  “Furthermore, the circuit court admitted the offense reports without scrutinizing whether, under Rule 403 of the Mississippi Rules of Evidence, the probative value of the additional allegations contained in the reports outweighed the prejudice to Johnson.”

The State filed for certiorari.   It argues that 1) The court of appeals’ finding that the trial court did not examine the contents of the offense reports in making its 404(b)/403 ruling is based on a clear misapprehension of critical facts; 2) The court of appeals’ finding that the details of the prior bad acts constituted bad acts in addition to those deemed admissible by the trial court is in conflict with this court’s opinions in Green v. State, 89 So. 3d 543 (Miss. 2012) and Stone v. State, 94 So.3d 1078, 1085 (¶20) (Miss. 2012).

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