Decisions – Miss.S.Ct. – May 11, 2017

James Cobb Hutto, III  v. State of Mississippi – death penalty appeal – Hutto was sentenced to death in the killing of  Edith Simpson.  The two had gone to  a Vicksburg casino.  On the way back to Clinton, Hutto killed Simpson, left her body in a field, and  fled the state in her automobile. On appeal, Hutto raises 14 issues, the first being that the prosecution abused its discretion in seeking the death penalty against Hutto when it did not do so in the case of George Affleck when the facts in the Affleck case were worse.  The Miss.S.Ct. affirms.

Dillon Williams v. State of Mississippiguilty plea and sentencing enhancement –  Williams pleaded guilty to burglary and aggravated assault.  The  Court sentenced him to twenty years’ imprisonment for the aggravated assault and twenty-five years’ imprisonment for the burglary. In addition, it tacked on a  twenty-year enhancement to the aggravated-assault charge because Williams’s victim was an elderly woman. Dillon filed a petition for post-conviction relief claiming he was denied his right to be sentenced by a jury to the twenty-year enhancement.  “We hold that Williams waived his right to sentencing by a jury when he pleaded guilty. Accordingly, his claims have no merit.”

Tunica County, Mississippi v. Town of Tunica, Mississippi, Tunica County School District, Jim Hood, Attorney General and State of Mississippi –  gaming taxes – Tunica County challenged the constitutionality of the  Local and Private Laws of 2004  which authorizes the Tunica County Board of Supervisors to impose a fee of up to 3.2 percent of gross gaming revenue on all gaming vessels located within or contiguous to Tunica County.  The law further provides that  ten percent of the fee is to be distributed to the Town of Tunica “for deposit into the general fund of the municipality,  twelve percent of the fee must be expended for “educational purposes in Tunica County,” and two percent must be expended for “teacher’s salary supplementation and teacher training.”  When gaming revenue declined starting in 2007, Tunica County asked the legislature to reduce the fee to be paid to the town of Tunica to 5%.  When the legislature refused, Tunica County filed suit filed suit challenging the statute.  The trial court granted summary judgment to the defendants.  On appeal the Miss.S.Ct. affirms but vacates the award of attorneys fees to the defendants. “Because the trial court made no specific findings concerning the appropriateness of an award of attorney’s fees or the amount of that award, we must find that the trial court abused its discretion in awarding attorney’s fees to the Town and the School District.”

Rickey W. Thompson v. Attorney General of the State of Mississippi, in His Individual and Official Capacities, Lee County Democratic Party Executive Committee, and Lee County Election Commission, and Marcus Crump –  eligibility to run for justice court judge after removal from office –  Rickey Thompson was a three-term Justice Court judge in Lee County Mississippi who had no clue what being a judge entails.   He was removed from office in May 2015 by the Mississippi Supreme Court for numerous violations including abuse of the contempt power. Mississippi Com’n of Judicial Performance v. Thompson, 169 So.3d 857 (Miss. 2015). This was at least the third JPC case against Thompson and it seems pretty clear Thompson has no business being a judge.  Undaunted by the ruling, Thompson ran for the same position and, despite that fact he is completely unfit for office,  he received 55% of the vote over four opponents in the Democratic primary.  The  Lee County Democratic Executive Committee refused to nominate him based on the fact that he had been removed from office.  Thompson filed suit against the Democratic Party Executive Committee.  The trial court denied relief.  Thompson argues that he meets the qualifications for office set forth in the Constitution.  He also argues that the neither the Lee County Election Commission nor the Judicial Performance Commission had the authority to disqualify him.  The Miss.S.Ct. affirms. “Persuaded that the phrase ‘remove from office’ found in Section 177A means a permanent separation between the individual and the judicial office, we affirm.”

Jane Doe v. Hallmark Partners, LP, SJP One, LLC, Veronica Moore, New Horizons Management, LLC and Security Engineers, Inc.arbitration clause and premises liability – he morning of April 19, 2014, Jane Doe was kidnapped by two men while walking to her car at her apartment complex in April 2014. She was forced her into her car at gunpoint, pistol-whipped, and raped repeatedly in her car in the parking lot near the apartment leasing office. She filed suit against the apartment complex, Hallmark Gardens in Jackson.  The apartment moved to arbitrate based on an arbitration clause in the lease.  The trial court granted the motion.  On appeal the Mississippi Supreme Court finds the arbitration agreement to be valid but also finds that it does not apply to Jane Doe’s complaint since t he clause limits it to  disputes significantly related to Jane’s “occupancy and leasing of the subject property”  with the subject property being the apartment and not the parking lot.

 

The Court grants cert in two cases: 

Dale Patrick Miller v. Jessica Dawn Smith – custody –  (the link is to the COA opinion) When Dale and Jessica divorced, they had two children. The GAL recommended that Dale get custody but the judge awarded custody to Jessica in a detailed opinion.  The chancellor also cut off Dale’s parental rights with regard to a child Jessica had in a previous relationship.   The COA affirms.   The cert petition argues that the court erred with regard to the findings of in loca parentis.

Dale Patrick Miller ptn for cert

Lacy Dodd and Charles Dodd v. Dr. Randall Hines, Mississippi Reproductive Medicine, PLLC and Dr. Paul Seagomedical malpractice/informed consent –(the link is to the COA opinion).   In 2011 Lacy consulted with fertility specialist Dr.  Hines.  He recommended she have an ovarioan cyst or cysts removed.  Lacy signed a release stating, in part, “I further consent and authorize the performance of such additional surgeries and procedures (whether or not arising from presently unforeseen conditions) considered necessary or emergent in the judgment of my doctor or those of the hospital’s medical staff who serve me.”  Hines operated, saw that the ovaries appeared cancerous, consulted with Dr Seago ( a specialist in gynecological cancers)  and removed them.  A subsequent biopsy showed that  they were not cancerous but suffered from  non-cancerous, serous cystadenofibroma (Serous cystadenofibroma is a condition in which a benign tumor appears cancerous).  Lacy sued.  The trial court granted summary judgment for the defendants based on the release  Lacy signed. The COA reverses holding that there are two types of consent issues:  the battery based analysis and the medical malpractice based analysis.  Mississippi has not directly addressed when it is appropriate to apply which type. The COA further finds that  Lacy did not give express consent for the removal of her ovaries and that the consent form signed by Lacy did not summarily provide consent to remove her ovaries. As the circuit court’s decision did not reach whether or not the removal of her ovaries became necessary or emergent during the medical procedure that was consented to by Lacy, nor did the judgment address any other analysis of consent pertinent to theories of medical liability, the COA reverses and remands.

The defendants filed cert arguing that where a patient signs an agreement authorizing a physician to perform any procedures deemed necessary in his professional judgment,  the patient has consented to those procedures.

Dr Seago cert ptn

Dr Hines cert ptn

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