Decisions – Miss.S.Ct. – July 27, 2017

Adofo Minka v. State of Mississippi – criminal contempt – Hinds Co. Public Defender Minka was held in direct criminal contempt by Judge Jeff Weill during his closing argument.   Minka was fined $100 and ordered to pay the cost of the jury, $1350, after the court declared a mistrial.  Minka’s client was being tried for felon in possession of a firearm. During opening argument,  Minka was making an emotional appeal to the jury and the court ordered him to stick to telling the jury what the  facts would show.  The court admonished Minka several times.  On closing argument he argued that the charges were a cover up.  The state objected and the court sustained the objection. Minka then told the jury he wasn’t being allowed to tell the truth.  The court admonished Minka, Minka insisted he would do what was necessary to represent his client,  and the state moved for a mistrial which Minka said he did not oppose.  Minka appeals. The Mississippi Supreme Court affirms.
Groundworx, LLC v. Thomas A. Blanton and City of Hattiesburg, Mississippimunicipal contract – Hattiesburg’s  wastewater treatment system has been in violation of the federal laws and pollution standards incorporated in its federal operations permit since 2010. In 2014, in an effort to fix the situation,  Groundworx, LLC  and the City of Hattiesburg, Mississippi entered into an Agreement for Groundworx to construct and  operate a land-application system for treatment of wastewater.  The Agreement contained a provision allowing either side to terminate if Groundworx did not close financing by June 2014. Groundworx did not close financing by the required date, and Hattiesburg terminated the Agreement.  Groundworx then filed suit against the City.  A Hattiesburg resident named Thomas A. Blanton moved to intervene and dismiss the  case on the grounds that the agreement was  unconstitutional since it called for the City to lend its credit in aid of a private business. The chancellor   granted Blanton’s motion and dismissed all of Groundworx’s claims against the City. The Miss.S.Ct. affirms.

After reviewing the contract between Groundworx and the City, which Groundworx
attached to its complaint, we are left with no doubt that Groundworx’s complaint was properly dismissed for failure to state a claim. Even when we take all of Groundworx’s allegations as true, Groundworx can cite no contractual provision the City allegedly breached. Even if Groundworx expended millions of dollars preparing to perform under the contract, it did so before securing the necessary financing to complete the project. And unfortunately for Groundworx, the contract was clear—if Groundworx did not secure financing by a certain date, the City had the right to terminate the contract. So Groundworx can prove no set of facts to show the City breached the contract.

 

Trevioun Lamont Cornelius Briggs v. State of Mississippi – indictment – Briggs was charged with robbery and tampering with a witness.  A woman shopping at  Northpark Mall was robbed of her bags in the parking lot in 2013.  Briggs was arrested when he tried to return some of the items that night.   While in jail he was recorded talking to acquaintances and requesting them to provide him  an alibi for the time of the robbery, or ask a third person to do so. At trial he represented himself with a  public defender’s assistance. He was convicted and sentenced to fifteen years for robbery and two years for tampering with a witness  with the sentences to run consecutively. On appeal he argues he argues that (1) the circuit court erred by not properly instructing the jury regarding the case being circumstantial; (2) his counsel was constitutionally ineffective for failing to request a proper circumstantial-evidence jury instruction; (3) the indictment for witness tampering was flawed; (4) the evidence was insufficient to convict him of witness tampering; and (5) the two charges are subject to reversal for retroactive misjoinder. The COA affirmed.  The Miss.S.Ct, granted cert on the issue of whether the indictment for witness tampering was defective.  The statute states that “a  person commits the crime of tampering with a witness if he intentionally or knowingly attempts to induce a witness or a person he believes will be called as a witness in any official proceeding to . . . .”  Briggs’ indictment replaced “will be called” with “may be called.”  The instruction used the phrase “would or could be called.”  The Miss.S.Ct. affirms.

The court grants cert in Marvin Rerockus Demond Carver  v. State of Mississippi (the link is to the COA opinion).  – constructive possession –  Carver was  convicted of possessing  more than thirty grams of marijuana and sentenced as an habitual offender  and subsequent drug offender to six years. Carver and his half brother  were driving from North Miss. to the coast when they were stopped for speeding in Madison.  The officer claimed he could smell marijuana and asked to search the vehicle. One of them consented and marijuana was found in the trunk.  On appeal he argues the evidence was insufficient and that the court erred in allowing in his prior convictions.  The COA affirms but 5 justices dissent and would reverse on sufficiency of the evidence.  (in a tie, the Court affirms).

Carver cert petn Carver argues that the car was rented by his half brother, it was found in the trunk, and there was no evidence to show that Carver knew it was there. He also argues it was error to admit his prior convictions.

 

 

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