1/17/2023 - Hand Down List and Published Opinions
Roy L. Jones a/k/a Roy Lee Jones v. State of Mississippi – Claiborne County jury convicted Jones of capital murder during the commission of a robbery. He was sentenced as a habitual offender to life imprisonment without eligibility for parole. Among other things, Jones argued on appeal that the circuit court erroneously denied his motion for a mistrial. During voir dire, the State asked whether any of the potential jurors would be unable to return a guilty verdict even if the State met its burden of proof beyond a reasonable doubt. In response, one potential juror, who was Jones’s former sister-in-law, stated that she would not be able to find Jones guilty even though “he has done wrong in the past.” The circuit court immediately stopped the response and granted the defense’s motion to strike the response. The COA found that the statement was isolated and vague, and when coupled with the circuit court’s action, did not result in irreparable harm or prejudice to Jones. Finding no error, the Court affirmed the conviction.
Christopher H. Creel a/k/a Christopher Houston Creel v. State of Mississippi (Pro Se PCR)
Doris Smith v. State of Mississippi – Voluntariness of Guilty Plea – PCR – Smith was indicted on one count of first-degree murder and one count of burglary of a dwelling. Smith ultimately filed a petition to plead guilty to the lesser crimes of second-degree murder and attempted robbery. Smith’s plea hearing was held on the same day that she executed her sworn guilty plea petition. Language in the petition and the plea colloquy established that Smith knowingly and voluntarily waived her constitutional rights to a trial and decided to enter a guilty plea. She also acknowledged in both the petition and plea colloquy that she was not under the influence of any drugs or intoxicants. In her PCR motion, Smith asserted that she did not actually commit the crimes, but that she was coerced and intimidated by threats of violence from the actual perpetrator to both confess and plead guilty. She additionally claimed that she was under the influence of drugs when she made her confession to law enforcement and entered her guilty plea. The court of appeals found that Smith’s claim of coercion was only supported by her “own self-serving affidavit” and that her claim of intoxication was in direct conflict with her sworn statements in the plea petition and statements made during the plea hearing. As such, the Court of Appeals affirmed the Circuit Court’s denial of Smith’s PCR motion without an evidentiary hearing.
George Anderson a/k/a George Yahim Anderson v. State of Mississippi – Other Bad Acts – Anderson argues on appeal that his trial was unfair because of the admission of other-bad-acts evidence. Clarence Parker arrived home one day where he encountered a silver Tahoe driving down his driveway. He spoke briefly to the driver of the Tahoe, who later was identified as Anderson, and noted the Tahoe’s license number. When Parker entered his home, he found several items missing. Parker contacted the Union County sheriff’s department and provided the vehicle description and license plate number. The Union County sheriff’s department placed a BOLO alert for the Tahoe. A few weeks later, the Marshall County Sheriff’s office responded that similar incident involving a silver Tahoe. From that incident, law enforcement identified the owner of the Tahoe who then identified Anderson as the individual driving the Tahoe in still photographs taken from Parker’s home-surveillance footage. During the investigation, the Lafayette County sheriff’s department also responded to the BOLO alert. Lafayette SO reported a burglary a few days after Parker’s home where a neighbor saw a silver Tahoe driving by the home. The Lafayette county victim identified a piece of her property in a photograph of items recovered during Anderson’s arrest. At trial, and over Anderson’s objection, the circuit court permitted the State to introduce testimony of the Marshall County burglary investigation that involved a silver Tahoe and testimony from the burglary victim in Lafayette County. On appeal, Anderson argues that Marshall and Lafayette county burglaries were “other bad act” evidence that is prohibited under Mississippi Rules of Evidence 404(b) and 403. The Court of appeals held that “where another crime or acts is so interrelated to the charged crime so as to constitute a single transaction or occurrence or a closely related series of transactions or occurrences, proof of the other crime or act is admissible.” The conviction was affirmed.
Kelton K. Hathorne, Sr. a/k/a Kelton K. Hathorne v. State of Mississippi – Defective Indictment – PCR – The Forrest County grand jury indicted Hathorne for possession of “Ethylone, a Schedule I controlled substance.” At trial, the jury convicted Hathorne, and the trial court sentenced him to serve 30 years, with 10 years suspended and 20 years to serve. Hathorne filed a motion for post-conviction relief claiming that the indictment was defective in that it did not assert a crime because ethylone is not listed as a schedule I controlled substance under Miss. Code Ann. § 41-29-139, and the state did not connect the drug to the ones listed in the statute. The Court of Appeals agreed that the indictment did not sufficiently charge a crime, but ultimately held that Hathorne’s claim is barred by the Uniform Pos-Conviction Collateral Relief Act (UPCCRA). Justice McCarty dissents noting that the Court previously held that “a challenge to an indictment for failure to charge the essential elements of a criminal offense affects a fundamental right, and may not be waived.” He ended his minority opinion with the following: “This is not a hard case. We have made it hard. For it is not hard to see that when a citizen is convicted of a crime, and we learn it is not actually a crime, he must not stay imprisoned. This does not take precedent or review of statutes to figure. It is just doing what is right.”