Decisions – Nov. 21, 2017

Alison Nicole Williams v. State of Mississippi pcr/involuntary plea – Williams pleaded guilty to armed robbery in  June of  2012. She was sentenced to ten years. In November of 2013 she filed a pcr claiming that there was no factual basis for her plea and that her attorney was ineffective.  The trial court denied the motion and the denial was affirmed  on appeal.  She filed a second pcr in 2015 alleging that  her plea was involuntary due to her mental state (apparently she was a drug or alcohol addict). The trial court denied relief finding that the motion was not allowed as a successive petition and that the information she attached (her medical records, etc.)  was information available to her at the time of her plea.  Williams appealed. The COA affirms.

Shuntez Johnson  v. State of Mississippiserious bodily injury – Johnson was convicted of aggravated assault for attacking a woman who was working at the Pita Pit restaurant in Oxford, Mississippi, in August of 2013.  The woman whose jaw and eye socket were broken, recognized her assailant as the man who had caused a disturbance the week before.  On appeal he argues that the trial court erred when it changed one of the jury instructions submitted by the defense defining  “serious bodily injury.”  The instruction submitted used only the term  “permanent disfigurement.” The trial court changed it to  add  “or temporary.”   On appeal the COA affirms.

As previously stated, Amber, like the victims in Bright, Fleming, Harbin, Rickman,
and Brown, suffered multiple broken bones. In this case, Amber suffered a broken nose and broken eye socket, in addition to other injuries. Thus, in following this line of cases, no reasonable juror could characterize Amber’s injuries as less than serious bodily injury, since her injuries included broken bones and loss of consciousness. See id. Therefore, any error in the trial court’s modification of the jury instruction defining serious bodily injury constitutes mere harmless error.

William A. McDaniel and Kim McDaniel v. Wayne E. Ferrell Jr. and Law Offices of Wayne E. Ferrell Jr., PLLC –  legal malpractice – William McDaniel  hired attorney Wayne Ferrell
Jr. to represent him in a case against his employer after McDaniel was electrocuted on the job.  The case was eventually dismissed for failure to prosecute.  McDaniel then sued Ferrell for legal malpractice. Ferrell moved for summary judgment arguing that
McDaniel’s admission that he failed to de-energize the transformer before attempting to
change the fuse precluded him from succeeding in the underlying litigation. The trial court granted the motion and McDaniel appealed arguing that despite his admission, the case would have gone to the jury on a theory of comparative negligence.  The COA affirms. “It is undisputed that McDaniel failed to de-energize the system before attempting to change the blown fuse. This was the sole proximate cause of McDaniel’s electrocution. Thus, McDaniel could not succeed in the underlying litigation and, in turn, could not prevail against Ferrell in his legal-malpractice suit.”

Domiano Ratcliff  v. State of Mississippi –  pcr/disproportionate sentences –  In April of 2012, four people including Ratliff robbed a couple in their home at gunpoint.  Two of them, including Ratliff, shot the husband five times before leaving.  Ratliff pleaded guilty without a recommendation and was sentenced to 50 years.  He filed a pcr in 2006 and 2013.  The second pcr takes issue with the fact that he and another codefendant got mush greater sentences than did the other two codefendants.  The trial court denied relief and the COA affirms holding that  the trial judges are to examine each case independently and that “[s]entences between co[]defendants are, often times, different.” In this case, the defendants who got the stiffer sentences were the ones who shot one of the victims five times.

Bryan Morton v. State of Mississippiattempted murder –  Morton was convicted of attempted murder, armed robbery and burglary after he and Kimberly Chapman broke into a home and beat the homeowner over the head with a walking stick and a shotgun.  Chapman was arrested later when she was spotted walking down Highway 80 holding an infant and covered in blood. On appeal Morton argues that the indictment was deficient because it failed to state whether he failed to complete the murder or whether he was prevented from completing the murder. He argues that the jury instructions were defective.  He argues that his attorney was ineffective in failing to request an alibi instruction.  He also assigns as error the testimony by Chapman that she contacted Morton because she knew he had broken into a house before.  The COA affirms.

Thomas Holder v. State of Mississippi revocation of suspended  sentence/banishment as condition of guilty plea  – Thomas Holder pled guilty to touching a child for lustful purposes.  He was sentenced to 15 years but all were suspended subject to Holder’s good behavior and compliance with certain conditions. Holder violated one of those conditions by providing a false address on his sex offender registration form. The circuit court revoked his suspended sentence and ordered him to serve the full sentence.   Holder  filed a motion for post-conviction relief which was denied and affirmed on direct appeal.   Holder  filed a second PCR motion which was also denied.  He appealed arguing that his  “original sentencing to an illegal banishment condition rendered his guilty plea void.” This is based on the trial court’s ordering him to stay at least 100 miles from Hattiesburg for the duration of the suspended sentence.  On appeal the COA affirms.

 The banishment condition was a condition of Holder’s suspended sentence, but his suspended sentence has now been revoked, and he will serve the remainder of his sentence in MDOC custody. Therefore, the banishment condition has no continuing
effect on Holder, and the issue is moot because a ruling in Holder’s favor would be of no practical benefit to him. Hunt v. MDOC, 217 So. 3d 789, 791 (¶6) (Miss. Ct. App. 2017). We decline to require the circuit judge to adjudicate or make findings on a moot question.



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