While in the middle of working on a very tedious and lengthy federal court brief, a former client stopped by to meet with my partner, Merrida Coxwell. The client, Roger Harris, was indicted for triple murder in 1993. Merrida tried the case in Hinds County Circuit Court. At the end of the State’s case, Judge William Coleman ruled that the State had failed to prove that Roger was responsible for killing anyone. He directed a verdict in Roger’s favor on all three murder counts. However, Judge Coleman held that the jury could consider whether Roger committed the “lesser included offense” of aggravated assault against these three victims. The jury convicted Roger of all three counts and he was sentenced to serve 60 years. (Digressing a bit, it is important to note that Roger maintained that he was acting in self defense when he returned fire and denied being the aggressor in the events that night.)
On appeal, I found cases that precluded the State from trying a defendant on a lesser included offense when he is acquitted of the greater crime. Thus, we argued that when Judge Coleman directed a verdict in Roger’s favor on the murder charge, it was improper to allow the jury to consider the aggravated assault charges since they were lesser included charges. This is known as double jeopardy, not to be confused with the final round on the popular game show Jeopardy!
The Mississippi Court of Appeals rejected our argument and called it “specious”. After looking this word up in the dictionary to ascertain it’s meaning, we then filed an appeal to the Mississippi Supreme Court.
In an en banc opinion (en banc simply meaning that the entire court heard the appeal), the Supreme Court agreed with our argument and reversed and rendered Roger’s conviction, meaning his convictions were thrown out and the State could not retry him.
I will never forget where I was when I heard the news about Roger winning his case. I was on vacation in Destin, Florida when Merrida called me. At first, he told me that the Supreme Court had issued an opinion sanctioning us for our “specious” legal arguments. After allowing me to suffer for what seemed like an eternity he let me in on the good news.
Charles R. “Chuck” Mullins has been making “non specious” legal arguments for clients for over 16 years. If you would like to read more about Chuck, go to the Coxwell & Associates website.
Disclaimer: This blog is intended as general information purposes only, and is not a substitute for legal advice. Anyone with a legal problem should consult a lawyer immediately.