Oral arg. – COA – April 12, 2017

At 10:00 the Court of Appeals will hear the case of Matthew Pierce v. State of Mississippi.  Pierce was a massage therapist on the coast who was convicted of  secretly photographing one of his massage therapy clients without her permission and in violation of her expectation of privacy, in violation of M.C.A. Section 97-29-63.  When one of his clients got off t he massage table, she spotted his phone propped up nearby.  She looked at it, noticed the video was running, turned it off and texted it to herself.   That same day she reported the taping to the police.

Pierce was convicted.  On appeal he argues that the trial court violated his right to a public trial by closing the courtroom to the public during the victim’s testimony so that the public could not see the minute and a half video which was played during her testimony.   While it might have been justifiable to keep the public from seeing the video, there was no reason to throw the public out for the entirety of the victim’s testimony. The State argues that  “the trial court clearly explained its decision to close the courtroom, and also explained that there were no viable alternatives to closure. The Appellant has not pointed to any evidence that contradicts those findings. Therefore, both of these arguments are without merit.”

He also argues that he was not allowed to present his defense when the trial court refused to give the jury an instruction on his theory that the taping was an accident.  The State argues that this was not error because other instructions given the jury explained that intent was an element of the crime.

Pierce brief

State’s brief in Pierce

Pierce reply brief

Watch the argument here.

(The Appellant is represented by Robert McDuff and Jake Howard.  They are always worth watching.)

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