Criminal Appellate Decisions – Supreme Court of Mississippi – 4/4/2024


4/4/2024 – Hand Down List and Published Opinions (MSSC)

Joshua Archie v. State of Mississippi – Alibi Instruction - (5-4 decision) Archie was convicted of conspiracy and capital murder.  He appealed his convictions and argued among other things that the trial court erred by denying his requested alibi jury instruction. 

The majority found that the trial court erred by not granting the alibi instruction, but found the error to be harmless.  The MSSC reasoned that the trial court permitted Archie to present his theory of defense, the evidence supported the jury’s verdict, and that the lack of an alibi instruction did not contribute to the jury’s verdict. 

The dissent referenced that the State tried Archie twice before the instant case resulted in his conviction.  In the first two trials, the trial court declared a mistrial because the juries could not reach unanimous verdicts.  In both of those trials, the court granted an alibi instruction.  The dissent contended that harmless error analysis is inappropriate when the trial court fails to instruct the jury on a defendant’s theory of the case. 

The dissent cited authority from the US Supreme Court, Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals and MS Supreme Court.  This authority stood for the proposition that a defendant is “entitled” to present a theory of defense and that right is “absolute.” The dissent also dismissed the majority’s holding that failure to give the alibi instruction is harmless in part because Archie was allowed to present and argue his alibi dense; the dissent contends that argument by counsel cannot take the place of a warranted jury instruction and the majority cited no legal authority to support its position on this point. 

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