Decisions – COA – June 27, 2017 – part 1

Larry Watts, Jr.  v. State of Mississippisuppression of statements –  Watts was convicted of two counts of felony child abuse involving his girlfriend’s four year old son.  The child complained of stomach pain. Doctors found  abdominal trauma to his liver and that his pancreas was bleeding into his abdomen. The injuries were commensurate with child abuse.  Watts was taken to the police station based on a misdemeanor warrant from another jurisdiction.  He was questioned and denied having abused the child.  Later he stated that his son was playing with the child and accidentally hit him in the stomach with a flashlight.  Later  he admitted to accidentally punching the child in the
stomach.  He also admitted to having accidentally breaking the child’s arm when pulling him out of a recliner. Twelve hours later he admitted to having punched him and kneed him in the stomach out of frustration.  On appeal he argues that these statements should have been inadmissible as the fruit of a warrantless arrest.  The COA affirms finding that regardless of whether law enforcement  had probable cause to arrest Watts for felony child abuse, the outstanding warrant in another jurisdiction permitted the officers to detain him for the purpose of questioning him regarding the suspicion of felony child abuse.  Watts was given his Miranda warnings several times.   Watts’ claim that he was arrested without a warrant is meritless.

Elnora Holmes and Irma Venson v. Teresa Grisbydismissal for failure to prosecute – In July 2011, Holmes and Venson filed suit against Grisby for allegedly rearending them on Highway 61 in Tunica County.   Grisby answered and propounded discovery.  The depositions of Homes and Venson took place in February  2012.  The trial was to take place in December 2013 but that date was continued.  In December 2014, Grisby filed a motion to dismiss for want of prosecution.  The court granted it and Holmes and Venson appeal.  The COA affirms.
Shawn Labarron Davis  v. State of Mississippi life sentence for juvenile – In 2004, Shawn Davis pleaded guilty to murdering Dorian Johnson. Davis was 16 at the time and he and two other teens planned to rob Dorian. They ended up stabbing him over 30 times and he died several hours later.  Davis was sentenced to life which, in Mississippi, is without parole.   After Miller v. Alabama was decided, Davis was granted a new sentencing hearing.  After a new sentencing hearing, the court again sentenced Davis to life.  He appeals. The COA affirms.  While Davis may have had a dysfunctional family, he was the one who plotted the crime and he was the one who stabbed Johnson to death.

Jeffrey Jack Stroh v. Nancy Jane Zehr Strohproperty division/alimony – The Zohrs agreed to an ID divorce with the chancellor to decide the division of property and alimony, if any. Jeffrey owned two businesses: Eldorado Storage, LLC  and Outdoor Graphics.  On appeal, Jeffrey disagrees with the property division and the award of periodic permanent alimony to Nancy. The COA affirms partos the trial court’s order but reverses and remands on the issue of the court  not including Nancy’s residence in the equitable distribution of the marital estate despite finding that the home was marital property and in  awarding Nancy $750 per month in periodic alimony.


Tabatha Kalmon v. Brent Kalmon –  custody – The Kalmons were married for three years and had one child when they filed for divorce. After a trial, the court awrded primary custody to Brent with visitation for Tabatha who was to pay $447 per month in child support.  Tabatha appeals.  The COA affirms finding that the chancellor’s Albright analysis was sufficient and his findings of fact were supported by sufficient evidence.  Tabatha had allowed the child to ride in the car without being in a car seat and had cursed in front of the child. And once when Brent had denied her overnight visitation Tabatha had taken four Ambien and three Flexeril pills and been hospitalized for two days and received  mandatory mental-health counseling for ten months.

Jermaine Crump v. State of Mississippilimitation on defendant’s evidence
Crump and his mother Mary Crump owned a house near Coffeeville.  Crump’s brother Richard and his wife Crystal and their two children were staying there also. Crump believed that Crystal had been damaging his property so he retaliated by damaging her property.  He tried to evict her and/or prosecute her multiple times without success. Crystal was found dead on the front porch  from multiple gunshot wounds.  Crump was questioned and gave several statements. At first Crump was found not competent to stand trial but he was eventually cleared by Whitfield and guilty after a three-day trial. On appeal he argues that the court erred in not letting him testify as to what Crystal told him before he shot her.  Here, first of all, Crump did not proffer what it was Crystal allegedly said.  Furthermore, there was evidence that Crystan was angry and mad and the initial aggressor.  “It was not necessary for Crump to quote Crystal in order for the jury to understand his claim that he killed her in self-defense. Accordingly, even if this issue were not procedurally barred, we would find that the circuit court’s error was harmless.” He also argues that a law enforcement officer  should not have been allowed to testify that there was nothing at the scene that indicated that Crystal had assaulted Crump. Finally, Crump argues the verdict was against the weight of the evidence.  The COA affirms.

Karanja L. Cobbert v. State of Mississippi –   probation revocation – In 2008, Cobbert pled in 2008 to  commercial burglary and was sentenced to serve  seven years  with six years suspended and five years of supervised PRS.  The sentence was to be served consecutively to another sentence that Cobbert was then serving.  In December 2014, Cobbert’s PRS was revoked because he had violated three conditions of his PRS: he failed to report to his probation officer, he failed to pay required supervision fees to MDOC, and he failed to pay court costs. The circuit court imposed a period of imprisonment of ninety days to be served at a TVC.   After he was released,  he again failed to report to his probation officer. He was also  charged with residential burglary and receiving stolen property. At his subsequent revocation hearing, Cobbert admitted that he failed to report to his probation officer as required by the terms of his PRS. The circuit judge revoked Cobbert’s PRS and ordered him to serve the remainder of his suspended sentence.  In August 2015, Cobbert filed a PCR motion arguing that the  court lacked authority to impose a period of imprisonment in excess of 120 days at a TVC because his PRS was revoked based on a “technical violation.”  The court denied the motion and Cobbert appealed. The COA affirms.

Cobbert’s PRS was revoked for his fourth technical violation. At Cobbert’s first revocation hearing, the State established three technical violations: that Cobbert failed to report to his probation officer, that he failed to pay required fees, and that he failed to pay court costs. At Cobbert’s second revocation hearing, the State established that Cobbert had failed to report once again, his fourth technical violation. Cobbert thus committed four separate acts or omissions that violated a condition or conditions of his PRS. Therefore, under the plain language of the statute, the circuit court was within its authority to impose the remainder of the suspended portion of Cobbert’s sentence.


Pro se PCR appeals affirmed:

Marquez Hickenbottom v. State of Mississippi

Allen Goul v. State of Mississippi

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