Decisions – Miss.S.Ct. – Dec. 15, 2016

The Court adopts new rules of criminal procedure that will be effective as of July 1, 2017.

Aubrey Mitchell, Individually and on Behalf of All The Heirs at Law and Wrongful Death Beneficiaries of Devin R. Mitchell, Deceased, and Myrtle Mitchell, Individually and as the Natural Mother and Next Friend of Aubreonna D. Mitchell, a Minor v. Ridgewood East Apartments, LLC, UAH Property Management, L.P. and Tavaris Franshay Collinspremises liability -n the early-morning hours of January 1, 2012, sixteen-year-old Devin Mitchell was shot to death outside the apartment of his cousin, Queenie Walker, at Ridgewood East Apartments in West Point, Mississippi, in the early morning hours of January 1, 2012.  He was shot by Tavaris Collins a man who had been living with another tenant of the apartment building.  Mitchell’s family sued.  The trial court granted summary judgment because there was no atmosphere of violence on the premises – no murders or  robberies armed or otherwise.  And the complex had no reason to know that Collins was dangerous. While Collins  was a felon,  there was nothing to put the complex on notice that he was dangerous.  The COA affirms.

Ceasar Johnson, III  v. State of Mississippi – sufficiency of the evidence –  Ceasar Johnson was convicted for the murder of Gregory Johnson and for felon in possession.  The evidence against Johnson was purely circumstantial.  Johnson argues that the evidence was insufficient.  The Court affirms.

William Michael Jordan  v. State of Mississippi –   intro. of rap video about snitches –  William Jordan and his codefendant, Charles Henderson, were charged with killing their acquaintance  Aaron Coleman.  On appeal they argue that it was error to admit into evidence that they  participated in a rap video about killing snitches—a video published on YouTube after the two witnesses had implicated Jordan and Henderson but before Jordan’s trial commenced.  The COA finds this was not error.  Nor was Jordan entitled to an accomplice instruction with regard  to the testimony of the two eyewitnesses since they were charged as accessories after the fact and not as accomplices. The Miss.S.Ct. granted cert but affirms since “four of the justices of this Court are of the opinion that the judgment of the Court of Appeals should be affirmed, and four are of the opinion that it should be reversed.”

Charles Ray Crawford v. Marshall L. Fisher, Commissioner, Mississippi Department of Corrections, in his Official Capacity; Earnest Lee, Superintendent, Mississippi State Penitentiary, in his Official Capacity; the Mississippi State Executioner, in his Official Capacity; and Unknown Executioners, in their Official Capacities – challenge to execution drugs – Two death-sentenced inmates filed a lawsuit in Hinds County  against the state alleging that  “MDOC’s plan to execute Mr. Crawford ‘with compounded drugs that may be counterfeit, expired, contaminated, and/or sub-potent,” which presents an unnecessary risk of causing excessive and gratuitous pain to Plaintiffs if and when they are executed.’”The case was filed in Chancery Court which transferred it to the Circuit Court.  The Circuit Court granted the State’s Motion to Dismiss but not on the grounds argued by the State but rather on the basis that the same claims were being pursued by Crawford on post-conviction. The Miss.S.Ct. reverses. “In his motion for leave to file a successive petition for post-conviction relief, Crawford presented no argument relating in any manner to the method-of-execution issue that is pled in his Section 1983 suit. The circuit court’s order therefore is factually mistaken.”

The Court grants cert in the following cases (the links  in the case name take you to the COA opinions).

Brandon Smith and Kimberly Wolfe Smith v. Milton Martin and Geneva Martin –   visitation for grandparents –   After the parents divorced, the father committed suicide. The mother remarried and her new husband adopted her two sons.  They allowed the paternal grandparents visitation but stopped it after it appeared the grandparents were displeased with the adoption and alienating the two boys from their adoptive father. The grandparents sued for visitation which the court granted.  The parents have appealed. The COA affirms.


Steve Altom and Sheree Altom v. Harland JonesNatural parent presumption – When Hayden was born to Harl;and and Jessica Jones  in June of 2008, the Jones had marital problems and Jessica had severe health problems.  Hayden went to live with Jessica’s parents, the Altoms. when he was nine days old. A few months later, the Jones’ divorced.  Jessica got sole legal and physical custody of Hayden but he spent most of his time with the Altoms.  Jessica had another child, Zoey, after her divorce. In  November  2012, Jessica died in an automobile accident and  Zoey came to live with the Altoms. (The Altoms eventually got permanent custody of Zoey).  On the day after Jessica’s death, Harland filed a wrongful death lawsuit on behalf of Hayden. The Altoms went to  Youth Court  and got an order granting them temporary custody of Hayden and Zoey.   Harland then filed for custody.  At a temporary hearing, the Chancellor found that the natural parent presumption had been rebutted by clear and convincing evidence and determined that it was in Hayden’s best interests for the Altoms to have custody.  When the final hearing was held a year later,  the Court ruled that the natural parent presumption again applied,  reversed his previous decision and awarded  custody of Hayden to Harland. The Altoms appealed arguing that  the natural parent presumption cannot be applied after a previous finding that the presumption was rebutted by clear and convincing evidence.  The COA affirms. 

Altom cert petn.pdf

David Jackson  v. State of Mississippi –  motion for transcripts – Jackson was convicted in 1997 of possession of cocaine.  He is appealing the denial of a motion for transcripts.  The Court dismisses the appeal for lack of jurisdiction.




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