Miss. Supreme Court set to open new term

Published 12:54 am Tuesday, January 6, 2009

The first term of the new year for the Mississippi Supreme Court includes oral arguments in cases held over from 2008.

The first court term of 2009 begins Monday with the swearing in of three new justices — David Anthony Chandler, Jim Kitchens and Randy Pierce. All three defeated sitting justices, including Kitchens who defeated Chief Justice Jim Smith.

Also taking the oath will be Justice Ann H. Lamar, who was appointed to the court in May 2007, was elected to a full term in November.

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Oral arguments are scheduled beginning Jan. 12, with the first three cases rescheduled from the November-December term.

On Jan. 12, the justices are scheduled to hear arguments in the city of Jackson’s appeal of a decision that would allow residents of the community of Byram to incorporate into a town of about 20 square miles.

Hinds County Chancery Court Judge William Singletary ruled in 2006 for Byram’s incorporation.

Jackson officials and Byram community residents have been battling in court for more than a decade over the land in southern Hinds County. The 20 square miles that Byram would incorporate, if the ruling is upheld, is about four more square miles than Jackson officials said they anticipated.

Byram, which roughly includes 7,300 residents, has been trying to gain city status for years. Byram was originally a city but lost that status in the 1920s.

The Supreme Court also will hear from residents of three Byram-area subdivisions who were part of four square miles that Singletary ruled Jackson could annex.

On Jan. 14, the court will referee a jackpot dispute between a Biloxi woman and IP Casino.

Florida Eash claims she won $1 million at IP Casino Biloxi. Gaming regulators agreed. The casino and a judge said no.

In 2007, Harrison County Circuit Judge Roger Clark overturned a Mississippi Gaming Commission decision that sided with Eash in her dispute with IP.

The IP casino argued Eash was only owed $8,000 — the top winning amount showed on the machine’s sign. The casino said a technician for International Game Technology mistakenly programmed the slot machine to be a stand-alone progressive.

The $5 Double Top Dollar machine notified Eash on Feb. 19, 2006, that she had won $1 million and sent a signal to the casino’s slot accounting system indicating a progressive jackpot was pending.

The Gaming Commission in March 2006 agreed with Eash. IP went to court.

Clark overturned the regulators’ decision. “When a patron sits down to play a slot machine, such as the slot machine at issue, and looks at the payout schedule of that machine, the patron cannot expect the recovery of anything other than what it shows at that time on the faceplate of the machine,” he wrote.

He said, “In this case, the commission based its decision entirely on the perception of fairness” but ignored its own precedent.

On Jan. 26, the Supreme Court will hear the appeal of death row inmate Joseph Bishop Goff. The Theodore, Ala., man was sentenced to death in George County in 2005 for the slaying of Brandy Stewart Yates at a George County motel.

Goff was convicted of arson and capital murder for the death of Yates, 29, of Irvington, Ala. Her body was found burned and mutilated in her room at the Rocky Creek Inn on Aug. 27, 2004.

Goff was sentenced to death for capital murder and 10 years for arson.

Prosecutors alleged Goff crushed Yates’ head using a nightstand drawer and later used the drawer’s metal track to mutilate her body.

The Mississippi Highway Patrol arrested Goff near Vicksburg the same day of the killing after a traffic stop. Authorities said items taken from the hotel room were later found in Goff’s car.

Also, the Supreme Court will review a judge’s dismissal of a lawsuit filed by Julie Hines, the former wife of ex-Gov. Ray Mabus, against a priest whom she had accused of taping her admission of an affair.

The case is not scheduled for oral argument.

Hines alleged that Jerry McBride, who was a priest then but is no longer in the priesthood, knew about and participated in taping her 1998 meeting with Mabus, in which she admitted to an affair. A Hinds County judge dismissed the lawsuit in 2006.

McBride doesn’t live in Mississippi.

Hines claimed she did not consent to the taping, and that the information was later used in the couple’s divorce. Ray Mabus said neither the tape nor a transcript of the meeting was ever introduced in the divorce proceedings.