Decisions – COA – July 18, 2017

In the Interest of VMH, VMH, VMH and VMH; Vonrio Hawkins v. The Youth Court of DeSoto Countychildren placed with DHS based on abuse – Vonrio Hawkins’ four children were found by the Youth Court to be abused and were placed in the custody of DHS after three of the children testified that Hawkins  slapped them in the head with an open hand, punched them in the head, face, or chest with a closed fist, choked, struck them with a broom, “bodyslammed” them onto a concrete floor, and kicked them  in the chest or stomach.  On appeal Hawkins claims that the Youth Court lacked jurisdiction because he had been awarded custody of the children by the Chancery Court in 2012. “The boundary between the jurisdiction of chancery courts and youth courts under our law has been somewhat unclear at times, and indeed may still be under certain circumstances; but for the specific facts of this case, we see no difficulty finding jurisdiction in the youth court.”  Hawkins also challenges the sufficiency of the evidence. The COA affirms.

Henry Orlando Brown v. State of Mississippi –   multiplicitous indictment –    Brown was charged with one count of burglary of a camp house, two counts of grand larceny for the theft of two fourwheelers, and one count of felony malicious mischief for damage to multiple fourwheelers.  His daughter Bridget Harris and another person, Oshee Moore,  were also charged. After he was arrested Brown eventually provided a four-page statement asserting that he never entered onto the victim’s property but that Harris and Moore had called him asking to store the four-wheelers and other items at his mother’s house and asking for help selling the stolen items.  Harris and Moore entered into plea deals in exchange for testifying against Brown.  Brown moved to suppress his statements  arguing that officers made a promise that he would receive a bond setting if he confessed. The court denied the motion.  On appeal he argues that the indictment should not have contained both burglary and larceny charges. The COA affirms.


Tasha Michelle Fox v. William Jeremiah Fox  – contempt –  The chancellor granted William Fox unsupervised visitation with the son he had with Tasha Fox.  Tasha moved for 60(b) relied from that order which the trial court denied. The chancellor also found Tasha in criminal contempt for failing to allow William to have visitation pursuant to the Court’s April 2015 order.  The COA affirms the denial of Tasha’s 60(b) motion but reverses the finding of criminal contempt . “On this point, we agree: William’s petition only alleged civil contempt, and Tasha was not afforded any of the procedural protections required to support a conviction of criminal contempt.”

Merle George Smith, Jr. v. Carla Ann Pettigrew –  title to property – Merle Smith Jr.  provided his father, Merle Smith Sr.  funds to purchase property on which to put a trailer.  The deed for the property conveyed the land to “Merle George Smith.”
Merle Sr. paid the taxes on the property and maintained it. Before he died,  Merle Sr. deeded the property to his live-in companion, Carla Pettigrew.  When Merle Sr died, Carla continued to reside on the property and pay the property taxes.  Merle Jr. brought an action against Carla to confirm title and to remove clouds on title—claiming that the property was actually deeded to him and not Merle Sr. and Merle Sr. would not have conveyed title to Carla.  The trial court found in favor of Carla and the COA affirms.

Amy Clemons Plummer v. James Jeffrey Plummertermination of alimony –  In 2005, James and Amy Plummer were divorced and  James was ordered to pay Amy $100 per month in alimony, and $850 per month in child support. In 2014, Amy filed for  contempt and for an increase in child support. James counterclaimed asking that his child support be reduced or terminated and alimony terminated. After a hearing the chancellor  terminated James’s alimony obligation (Amy’s income had risen), and modified his child-support obligations. The COA affirms.

Gerry Love v. State of Mississippi  –  Batson – Gerry Love was convicted of the  first-degree murder of his neighbor Glandra Williams.  Williams was found stabbed to death in her home.  Four security cameras showed Love in her yard and Love had scratches on his face when he next went to work.  On appeal he argues that the trial court should not have disallowed three peremptory strikes against white persons under Batson.  “The trial judge did not find defense counsel’s reason credible – that bankers and farmers would be more security conscious, and thus more likely to find Love guilty.”  Love also objects to the court allowing Glandra’s friend to testify to hearsay that Glandra had told him  she was seeing someone who lived down the street (Love lived down the street).  The COA affirms.


John David Foreman v. Kristy Lynn Foreman –  division of marital property/alimony – John and Kristy were married in 1996 and had one child.  John’s job had him travelling to China a lot and he had an affair with a woman there and fathered a child.  John and Kristy separated in  2012 and both filed for divorce. The chancellor granted a divorce to Kristy on the grounds of  uncondoned adultery.  The chancellor awarded physical custody of the child to Kristy and divided the marital property. John was ordered to pay $700 per month in child support, $3,300 per month in periodic alimony, and $3,500 of Kristy’s attorney’s fees. The chancellor also ordered that John provide twenty-four consecutive months of health insurance for Kristy and assume all responsibility for the child’s dance classes. On appeal  John argues that the property division was inequitable because the chancellor failed to support the division of the marital property with legal authority.  The COA agrees ,and reverse and remand for an application of the Ferguson factors. The Court also reverses and remands on alimony.  On remand the court “should specify the type of alimony, apply the Armstrong factors, and consider John’s other financial obligations along with his ability to maintain a decent standard of living.”  The Court affirms the award of child support.

Wendell Duncan a/k/a Wendell Avery Duncan v Raniece Matthews, Latresia Stewart, Richard Pennington, Mississippi Department of Corrections, and State of Mississippiservice of process –   In 2015, Duncan filed a pro se complaint against MDOC and others. It was eventually dismissed for failure to serve the summons and complaint.   Duncan objected on the grounds that he had asked the sheriff to serve the summons.  The trial court found that he did not show good cause for failure to serve the summons within 120 days.  The COA reverses and remands finding that the circuit clerk’s failure to deliver the summons to the sheriff was good cause for Duncan’s failure.

Pro se PCR appeal affirmed:

Latrai Spraggins v. State of Mississippi 

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