Decisions – Miss.S.Ct. – Nov. 9, 2017

Ralph Arnold Smith, Jr. v. Mississippi Department of Mental Health and James G. Chastain, Director of the Mississippi State Hospital –  involuntary commitment – Smith was a doctor in  the Delta when, in 2012, he was arrested and indicted in a bizarre murder-for-hire plot that left one of the hired killers dead. Smith avoided charged by being committed.  In this appeal, he challenges his continued commitment at Whitfield.  The Court dismisses the appeal as moot because Smith has since been discharged to an outpatient program.

Justin Barrett Blakeney  v. State of Mississippi denial of continuance/use of state agents to obtain inculpatory statements – Blakeney was accused of killing his girlfriend’s two year old daughter who died of blunt force trauma to the head.  Blakeney was watching her when she collapsed and  was arrested three months later.   Blakeney was convicted and sentenced to die.   While Blakeney was  in jail awaiting trial,  a man named  Gregory Hancock  contacted the sheriff’s office claiming that Blakeney had confessed to killing the child.  Law enforcement wired Hancock up and instructed him to visit  Blakeney in jail.  The ensuing conversation was about the child being biracial and the “88 precepts” (the state claimed Blakeney was a member of the Aryan Nation, the dead girl’s mother was Mexican).  Blakeney said something about the killing being  negligent manslaughter if anything.  Afterwards law enforcement obtained a search warrant for Blakeney’s person cell and found various tattoos on Blakeney’s body including swastikas.  Much publicity ensued.  Then, just before trial, the state disclosed that it had a new witness – a jailhouse informant to whom Blakeney had confessed.   The state also had three new experts.  Blakeney’s motion for a continuance was denied.  The Miss. S.Ct finds that the denial of the continuance as well as the introduction of evidence gained through Hancock as well as the jailhouse informant – both of whom were working as state agents – was error.

Monica Ashbrook Darby and Andrew Ross Darby v. Harold Combs, Karron Combs and Crystal Johanna Combs – custody – Addie, born in February 2013, is the child of Crystal Combs and Drew Darby.  A few months after she was born,  Monica (Drew’s mother) filed a petition for custody  or  visitation with Addie on the grounds her parents could not care for her. A GAL was appointed and substantiated abuse.  Crystal was arrested for drugs.  Crystals parents intervened. The chancellor awarded joint custody of Addie to both Monica and the Combses. Monica and Drew appealed. Monica asserts that joint custody is not an appropriate remedy between two nonparent third parties. The COA disagrees.  She also complains she got no holiday visitation.  The COA finds no problem with the trial court’s decison with regard to who has Addie when.  Finally, she argues that it was unfair to make her pay one-half of the GAL fees when she did not request a GAL. Again, the court finds no error.  The Miss.S.Ct. granted cert. and also affirms.  “After review, we find Section 93-5-24 allows joint-custody awards among third parties. Thus, the chancellor did not abuse his discretion, and the Court of Appeals was right in recognizing as much.”

The Court grants cert. in Deveaux Carter v. Allen Davis  (the link is to the COA opinion) – credits for child support –   Deveaux and Allen were divorced in 1993.  They agreed Deveaux would have custody of the two children.  In 1998, they agreed to child support of $400 a month and Allen was to pay an arrearage of over $22,000. In 2013, Deveaux filed a motion for contempt claiming that Allen was in arrears for back child support of over $23,000, interest of over $35,000, $88,000 in college expenses, $12,000 in medical expenses, etc.  At trial, the court credited Allen with payments made by his mother to the tune of $197,911.  That left $3,276.66 owed by Allen along with $7500 in attorneys fees.  Deveaux appealed arguing that Allen should not be given credit for payments made by his mother.  However, the mother testified she would not have made those payments if Allen had been able to.  She also argues that Allen should not have been given credit for direct payments he made to his daughters.  The COA finds no error.  Allen cross appeals arguing that he was not in willful contempt. The COA agrees and finds that Allen should not have been ordered to pay Deveaux’s attorneys fees. Devaux requests attorneys fees on appeal which the COA denies.

Carter cert petition


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