Decisions – COA – 1/30/18

C.D. Pulliam v. Alfa Insurance Company and Angela Nance insurance beneficiary – In 2008 Annie Patterson was appointed the guardian of her 14 year old nephew Christopher Nance, who was then fourteen years old. She took out an insurance policy on the life of Christopher.  Annie was the owner and primary beneficiary of the policy, and Christopher’s mother Angela  was listed as the  contingent beneficiary.  Annie died in 2013.  Annie was survived by her father, C.D. Pulliam, and siblings, Otis Pulliam and Willie Mae Townsend.   Otis completed an Alfa “Change of Ownership” form that purported to make Otis the owner of the policy, C.D. the contingent owner, Otis and C.D. the primary beneficiaries, and Willie Mae a contingent beneficiary. In 2014, Christopher died.   Alfa filed an interpleader complaint to determine  the proper beneficiaries of the policy. The chancery court found for Angela holding that C.D. and Otis lacked authority to change the ownership and beneficiaries of the policy following Annie’s death. C.D> appealed. The COA affirms on the court’s decision to allow ALFA to interplead the funds as well as its decision that Angela was the owner.  There was never any estate for Annie opened and no one was given the authority to change the beneficiaries of the policy. The COA reverses and remands the court’s decision to dismiss C.D.’s counterclaims against Alfa for negligence, fraud, and other torts. The chancellor dismissed them as moot. While they may not have any merit, the COA states, C.D. was entitled to pursue t hem.

Malcolm Horton  v. State of Mississippi –  12 peremptories versus 6 – Horton was convicted of armed robbery in Hinds County.  In January  2012, the Burger King on Robinson Road was robbed by a masked gunman.  When police arrived on the scene, they got a call that the Popeye’s was being robbed.  Horton was arrested a few days later and confessed on video to robbing the Popeyes and a Waffle House.  He was convicted for the Popeye’s robbery but acquitted on the Burger King. On appeal he argues that he should have been given 12 instead of six peremptory challenges. Since the judge made it clear that Horton was not facing a possible life sentence, he was not entitled to 12 peremptory challenges. He next argues that it was error to give him a five year firearm enhancement because the jury  was not instructed to find he “used or displayed” a firearm during the commission of a felony.  But the jury did have an instruction that they had to find that took money from Cross “by violence to her person or putting [] Cross in fear of immediate injury to her person by the exhibition of a deadly weapon, to wit: a handgun.”

Matthew Edward Pierce  v. State of Mississippi –  closing the courtroom/defendant’s right to an instruction on his theory of the defense – Pierce was a massage therapist on the coast who was convicted of  secretly photographing one of his massage therapy clients without her permission and in violation of her expectation of privacy, in violation of M.C.A. Section 97-29-63.  When one of his clients got off t he massage table, she spotted his phone propped up nearby.  She looked at it, noticed the video was running, turned it off and texted it to herself.   That same day she reported the taping to the police. Pierce was convicted.  On appeal he argues that the trial court violated his right to a public trial by closing the courtroom to the public during the victim’s testimony so that the public could not see the minute and a half video which was played during her testimony.   While it might have been justifiable to keep the public from seeing the video, there was no reason to throw the public out for the entirety of the victim’s testimony. He also argues that he was not allowed to present his defense when the trial court refused to give the jury an instruction on his theory that the taping was an accident.  The State argues that this was not error because other instructions given the jury explained that intent was an element of the crime. The COA finds that the trial court erred in both closing the courtroom and denying Peirce’s instruction and remands for a new trial.

Cardie B. Blackwell v. Howard Industries, Inc. –  workers comp – In May 2002, Cardie sustained a work-related injury to his left elbow. He was denied total disability benefits.  He appealed and Howard Industries cross-appealed. The COA affirms.

Kacy Williams v. State of Mississippi felon in possession – After Alonzo Williams identified Williams as the person who shot him twice in the stomach, Williams was indicted in separate indictments for felon in possession and  attempted murder.  He opted for a bench trial on the felon in possession.  The trial court found him guilty and sentenced him as an habitual to life without parole. On appeal he argues that  (1) his  sentence is disproportionate to the crime, and (2) the evidence was insufficient to support the guilty verdict,  (3) defective indictment; (4) the trial court erred by granting the State’s motion to amend the indictment; (5) the State failed to disclose a witness; and (6) ineffective assistance of counsel. The COA affirms.

Pro se PCR appeals affirmed.

Thomas Matney  v. State of Mississippi

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