Decisions – COA – 4/17/2018

Hand down list

Earnest Stuckey v. State of Mississippi –  murder vs imperfect self defense – Stuckey lived with his girlfriend Jennifer Triplett in Greenville.  In January 2015, Jennifer’s brother Arthur  and several others were visiting when Arthur and another guest Cliff got into an argument about the music Cliff was playing.  Then Stuckey and Arthur started yelling at each other. The others left only to return and find Arthur in the street dying from gunshot wounds. Stuckey told a police officer that he shot Arthur after he lunged at him twice.   After a trial, he was convicted of second degree murder and sentenced to forty years. On appeal he argues that he should have been convicted of imperfect self-defense manslaughter (an unreasonable fear that one is in danger). Unfortunately Stuckey testified that he was not afraid when Arthur lunged at him which pretty much torpedoed his imperfect self-defense argument.

John Battle, Jr.  v. State of Mississippi murder – Battle was convicted of the murder of Patrick Williams.   Williams was visiting his girlfriend, Tanedra Christian, in Jonestown.  They were on the front porch when a white car drove by.  Williams walked towards his house.  A few minutes later, Christian heard gunshots. Williams was found lying on the ground.   When Christian asked who shot him, he replied: “Those mother f***ers from Friars Point.”   He later told his aunt that “Little Clyde and them” had shot him and that they were driving a “white car.”  Williams died at the scene.  Three people,  Chatman,  Reginald Cox, and John Battle were arrested.  When Battle was arrested, he told law enforcement that  he was in a car with Chatman and Cox on the night that Williams
was killed. Battle claimed that Williams reached inside their car and hit Chatman. Battle
then “heard a gunshot,” and Williams ran away. Battle  then “reached out of the car and . . . took a couple of shots at Williams” as Williams fled. On appeal Battle challenge sthe weight and sufficiency of the evidence. He also argues ineffective assistance. The COA finds the evidence sufficient and passes on the ineffectiveness claims to be raised on PCR.  The COA affirms.

United Airlines, Inc., Improperly Named as United Airlines Corporation v. Martin H. McCubbins –  setting aside default – Two Jackson businessmen Martin H. McCubbins and  Tommy Tann flew to Panama to play golf.  Once McCubbins arrived in Panama, it was discovered that his passport, which would expire in less than 6 months, did not meet Panama requirements. He was held overnight in Panama and placed on a return flight the next day.  He blamed, of course, United Airlines whose employees failed to notice that his passport was insufficient for travel purposes.  So he sued United Airlines Corp. (instead of the proper United Airlines, Inc.) located in Illinois.    He ended up getting a default judgment of  $70,000 plus 8% interest per an order entered in November 2015.  In February  2016, United appeared and removed the case to federal court.  The case was remanded and United moved to set aside the default which the court denied.  United appealed arguing that it was not properly served and, assuming it was properly served, the default should have been set aside for good cause. (Meanwhile, McCubbins filed a second identical lawsuit in federal court that is still pending).  The COA reverses.  While service was proper on United’s agent for service of process, “[u]nder the three-part balancing test, the default judgment in this case must be set aside so that the case may be heard on the merits.”

Sarah Hodnett, Individually and as Trustee of The Hodnett Land Trust, and Bank of Anguilla, a Mississippi Banking Corporation v. Tim Hodnett undue influence –  In 2013, after both her parents had died,  Sarah Hodnett became the sole beneficiary under the family land trust. Her brother was essentially disinherited.  Sarah was an attorney and she acted pursuant to a power of attorney to deed her father’s land to  her mother and after the father died, to deed the land from the mother to a family trust benefiting only herself.  After their mother died, Sarah used the land to secure twe loans from the Bank of Anguilla.  Tim had to hire an attorney to file a bill of discovery to obtain the documents by which the land was conveyed.  He then filed to set aside the two deeds and the Family Trust.  He also sued the Bank of Anguilla. The chancellor set aside the deeds and the Trust and found that Tim’s claims against the Bank were not barred by the three year statute of limitation because of the fraudulent conduct of Sarah.  Sarah and the Bank appeal. The COA affirms.

Lori Griffin  v. State of Mississippi –  witnesses’ character for truthfulness/out of time appeal – Griffin was convicted of aggravated assault after she beat up her landlord’s agent Dean Loftis who came to check on the heat in Griffin’s apartment.  Griffin testified  that Loftis was the one who assaulted her.  The prosecution called several witnesses to testify as to Loftis’ character for truthfulness.  The COA finds that Griffin waived any objection to this testimony because she never objected at trial.  Griffin also objects to having been questioned at trial about  having put her child up for adoption.  Griffin testified at trial that she didn’t jump bond prior to her trial  but rather moved to Cullman Alabama because “Bloomberg Business Week” had listed that city “as the number one place to raise children.”  As it turns out, though, Griffin had put her younger son up for adoption prior to moving.  Griffin’s testimony opened the door to being questioned about the adoption. She also argues that it was error for the curt to not allow her to testify that one reason she put her child up for adoption was that she was facing a long sentence if convicted. She failed to preserve this issue because when the trial court stated that the sentence was not something the jury could consider, her attorney agreed.  Finally, she argues that the evidence was insufficient to prove that  Loftis suffered from serious bodily injury. The COA finds that  this issue, too,  was not preserved. The state argues that Griffin’s appeal should be dismissed.  When her motion for new trial was denied, Griffin stated on the record that she did not wish to appeal. Six months later she filed a motion for appointment of appellate counsel.  The circuit court denied it. She then filed a motion in the MSSC which dismissed it but “without prejudice to [her] right to seek an out-of-time appeal by filing a petition for post-conviction collateral relief in the trial court.” Griffin filed a pcr asking for an out of time appeal which the court granted.  The COA points out that “The State could have moved for reconsideration or appealed from  the judgment in the post-conviction case.” Since it did not, the COA will not look behind the lower court’s order granting the out of time appeal.

Pro se PCR appeal affirmed: 

James Howard Gray  v. State of Mississippi 






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