Decisions – MSSC – 3/1/2018

Ralph Arnold Smith, Jr., Individually, and Ex Rel. the State of Mississippi v. James M. Hood, III, who Purports to be acting as Attorney General for the State of Mississippimore Ralph Smith – Smith is the doctor who was arrested in 2012 for a bizarre plot to murder a Delta attorney that ended in the hitman getting killed. Smith was deemed incompetent to stand trial.  He has spent the years since being arrested in serial, pointless litigation.  In this one, he sued the Attorney General of Mississippi, Jim Hood,  claiming that  the AG is  a judicial officer, and thus, not authorized to carry out law-enforcement or prosecutorial duties.  The circuit court agreed with the AG that the AG  is within the executive branch of the state government.  Smith appealed.  The MSSC affirms.

Biel Reo, LLC v. Lee Freyer Kennedy Crestview, LLC and Lee Freyer Kennedy –  guaranty – Biel Loan Co. was the assignee of two notes.  LFK Crestview was the borrower and Kennedy guaranteed the indebtedness under a Continuing Guaranty Agreement. In 2011, Biel filed suit for breach of contract on the two notes and guaranty.   Biel also filed in Florida to foreclose a property in Crestview, Florida,  that secured note 1. Biel did not sue Kennedy in the Florida case. Biel purchased the property at the foreclosure sale for $100 and obtained a post-foreclosure defeciency judgment against LFK Crestview of almost $6,000.000.  The Mississippi case on the notes and guaranty went to trial in April 2016. The court entered a Rule 41(b) on Note 1 finding that Biel could not pursue that claim having obtained a final judgment on Note 1 against LFK Crestview in the Florida litigation.  The Court did find LFK Crestview liable for breach of contract on Note 2 in the amount of $472,653.14 and Kennedy liable under the guaranty. Biel appealed the Court’s ruling with respect to Note 1.  Kennedy cross-appealed the Court’s ruling with regard to Note 2.  Kennedy argues that the assignments to Biel were not effective.  The Court reverses and remands on Biel’s appeal finding that the trial court erred in its determination that Biel REO was required to amend its pleadings to include the Florida judgments in order to recover against Kennedy individually. The court affirms on Kennedy’s cross appeal.

The Matter of the Estate of Frankie Don Ware, Deceased: Carolyn Ware, Executrix v. Richard Ware estate/standing – When Frankie Ware died, his will directed that his  shares in three closely held corporations were to go into a testamentary trust.  The bylaws of the corporations  required any outstanding shares of stock be offered to the
corporations prior to any transfer.  Frankie’s wife Carolyn, the executrix, filed a petition to close Frankie’s estate and to distribute Frankie’s assets (including the shares) to the trust. Their son Richard, who was also a shareholder,  filed an objection to the closing of the estate, asserting the corporate bylaws of the three corporations. Carolyn argued that  Richard lacked standing to object. The chancellor found for Richard and required Carolyn to offer the shares back to each corporation prior to transferring the shares to the trust. Carolyn subsequently appealed. The MSSC reverses finding that Richard lacked standing to object to the closing of Frankie’s estate.





Casey Sheldon Woods  v. State of Mississippi –  sufficiency of the evidence/Castle doctrine – Woods was convicted of second degree murder in the killing of his girlfriend’s estranged husband Pierre Tenner. Pierre did not take Woods’ dating of his wife Doris lightly.  Pierre had previously broken down his wife’s door when he saw Woods’ truck parked there. He had stormed into the house and fired a shotgun through the bedroom door. After that Doris got a no contact order.   Three weeks later Pierre called  Doris that he was coming over. She called 911.     Woods was outside when Pierre drove up and they began arguing. Pierre told Woods that he had missed him the first time but would not miss him this time. Woods ran into the house and grabbed a shotgun and went back outside and stood under the carport. When Pierre got halfway up the driveway, Woods shot once hitting him in the leg.  Neighbors carried Pierre to the hospital where he was dead on arrival. His blood alcohol was .242. On appeal he argues sufficiency of the evidence.  The Court finds that this issue is waived because “[a]t the close of all evidence, Woods did not renew his motion for a directed verdict, request a peremptory instruction, or file a post-trial motion for a judgment notwithstanding the verdict (JNOV).” However, the Court reverses on the grounds that his trial counsel was ineffective in failing to preserve the issue.

Had the trial court been presented with a motion for a new trial, it would have
evaluated the evidence and the applicability of the Castle Doctrine. Based on the evidence presented at trial, a reasonable probability exists that the trial court would have found that the overwhelming weight of the evidence showed that Woods was in a place where he had a right to be; Pierre was the immediate provoker and aggressor; and Woods was not engaged in unlawful activity. As a result, Woods had no duty to retreat under the Castle Doctrine. See Miss. Code Ann. § 97-3-15(4) (Rev. 2014). Moreover, the Castle Doctrine forecloses the jury from considering Woods’s lack of retreat as evidence that Woods’s use of force was unnecessary, excessive, or unreasonable. See id.


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