Criminal Appellate Decisions – Court of Appeals of Mississippi – 4/25/2023


4/25/2023 – Hand Down List and Published Opinions

Steven L. Lewis v. State of Mississippi – Impeachment/Castle Doctrine – The Court held that it was harmless error for the trial court to limit Lewis’ cross-examination of a state witness who was indicted but not convicted of felon in possession of a firearm. After the witness testified that he did not regularly carry a gun with him, Lewis asked if it was true that he was under indictment for having a gun. The Court held that Lewis was properly prohibited under Rule of Evidence 609 from attacking the witness’s character for truthfulness by evidence of a conviction, because the charge was still pending. The Court held, however, that the trial court erred by restricting Lewis from questioning the witness regarding bias and whether he had incentive to testify in a certain way given his pending indictment (MRE 616). The Court cited Suan v. State, 511 So. 2d 144, 146 (Miss. 1987). Ultimately, the Court found the error to be harmless, because it did not impact the result at trial.

The Court additionally held that the Castle Doctrine is inapplicable absent an “unlawful and forcible entry or trespass.” In the present case, the trial court refused to grant a castle doctrine jury instruction, because the facts showed that Lewis invite the victim onto his property. The Court found no error and affirmed.

Avery Underwood v. State of Mississippi – Underwood pleaded guilty to second degree murder as a lesser offense to murder. Following his conviction, he filed a motion to vacate his sentence and permit him to withdraw his guilty plea. The circuit court denied the motion. On appeal, the Court held that Miss. Code Ann. 99-35-101 prohibits a defendant from appealing a conviction or sentence following entry of a guilty plea. As a result, Underwood must file a motion for post-conviction collateral relief under Miss. Code Ann. 99-39-5. The Court dismissed the appeal without prejudice in order for Underwood to file a PCR motion if he chooses.

Jeremy Christian v. State of MississippiLindsey Brief – Christian was convicted by a jury of aggravated assault. Lindsey v. State, 939 So. 2d 743, 748 (Miss. 2005) establishes the procedure to govern cases where appellate counsel represents an indigent criminal defendant and does not believe his or her client’s case presents any arguable issues on appeal. In this case, Christian’s appointed appellate counsel determined there were no arguable issues for appeal. Christian’s counsel sent Christian a copy of the brief stating there were no arguable issues and advised him that he could file a pro se brief.
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