Criminal Appellate Decisions – Court of Appeals of Mississippi – 3/26/2024


3/26/2024 – Hand Down List and Published Opinions (COA)

Recardo Frazier v. State of Mississippi – Murder trial – Heat of Passion Manslaughter Jury Instruction – Ricardo Frazier was convicted of first-degree murder.  On appeal, Frazier argued that the trial judge erred in refusing to give a heat-of-passion manslaughter instruction.  Frazier owned and operated a construction company.  Ellis Pittman hired Frazier to complete construction projects at Pittman’s home and law office.  At some point during the construction work on Pittman’s home, Pittman failed to pay Frazier for the work that had been done which resulted in Frazier placing a lien on Pittman’s property.  Pittman then sued Frazier for compensatory and punitive damages and threatened to sue him in federal court under the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act.  Frazier responded to the complain and asserted a counterclaim for punitive damaged due to Pittman’s bad faith.  Almost a year into litigation, Frazier attended a deposition at Pittman’s law office.  Frazier’s lawyer described the tone of the deposition as normal.  At the conclusion of the deposition, Frazier shot and killed Pittman.  Frazier argued that the history of the case between he and Pittman supported his request of a heat-of-passion instruction.  The MSSC stated that past acts are usually insufficient to warrant a heat of passion instruction, because it requires immediacy.  The Court affirmed the conviction and held that “[b]eing involved in the court system as a litigant, while uncomfortable and at times nerve-racking, is not a reasonable provocation sufficient to mitigate a murder to manslaughter.”

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