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Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Latest Rulings in Mississippi Following Miller v. Alabama

There have been a couple of cases on appeal in Mississippi that have been decided by the Court of Appeals recently. The cases of Terry Hye, Jr. and Lester Lavon Parker, Jr. both are directly related to the interpretation of the U.S. Supreme Court's decision in Miller v. Alabama by the courts here in Mississippi.

Hye had appealed his conviction on the grounds of jury instructions that weren't made or were inaccurate, insufficient evidence, refusing an accomplice instruction, the trial court's statement to the jury panel, the indictment, and cumulative error. When the U.S. Supreme Court handed down its decision in Miller, Hye's attorney filed a supplement to the appeal to include that Hye was now serving an illegal sentence. A prime example of Mississippi justice is that Darwin Wells, the actual trigger man in this case, was convicted of deliberate-design murder and sentenced to life imprisonment. Hye was convicted of capital murder and sentenced to life without parole.

On May 28, 2013 the Mississippi Court of Appeals confirmed Hye's conviction because they found no reversible errors, but they did away with his sentence in the light of the Miller ruling. So now he has to go back to his trial court in Jackson County where the judge is to consider his "chronological age and its hallmark features" at the time of the crime, "family home and environment," "circumstances of the homicide offense," and "the possibility of rehabilitation" before resentencing Hye. Justice Carlton disagreed with the majority opinion, arguing that Miller should only apply to future cases and not be applied to cases that were ruled on before Miller.
Parker's case deals with a murder charge instead of capital murder, so it is a bit different than Hye's case. Parker appealed on grounds of abuse of discretion, conviction against the overwhelming weight of evidence, and illegal sentence. Parker's conviction was affirmed, but his sentence was vacated as illegal and he will have to return to his trial court in Copiah County for resentencing. This is important because the Miller decision was specific in dealing with cases where a juvenile is sentenced mandatorily to life without the possibility of parole. The Court of Appeals justices determined that if Mississippi law is applied as it currently reads, Parker's sentence is tantamount to life without parole.

Technically someone sentenced to life imprisonment for homicide is eligible for conditional release at the age of 65 if they have served 15 years. However, this is closer to clemency, which the U.S. Supreme Court has held as a matter of law to be different from parole. Conditional release would not be determined by the sentencing authority, which would go against the Miller decision. The Court's opinion in Parker recognizes Miller and attempts to provide a "stopgap mechanism" to annul application of Section 47-7-3 (1)(h), should the trial court determine that the juvenile should be eligible for parole after Miller consideration. This is an unnecessary measure in my opinion. The State suggested that if it was determined that Miller applies, the juvenile "would be subject to the general provisions of the parole statute which permit parole eligibility after serving ten years." The Court remanded Parker's case for a hearing to determine whether he should be sentenced to "life imprisonment" or "life imprisonment with eligibility for parole notwithstanding the present provisions of Mississippi Code Section 47-7-3 (1)(h)."

Justice Kitchens agreed in part and disagreed in part with the majority ruling, but made a lot of sense in his seperate opinion. Justice Kitchens agrees that Parker's sentence was tantamount to life without parole and because he was 15 years old when the crime was committed, the mandatory sentence is "cruel and unusual" in light of Miller. Justice Kitchens disagreed that the Court was required to modify two statutory provisions so a juvenile convicted of murder will face the same sentencing options as a juvenile convicted of capital murder. The simplest remedy is to adopt the State's previously mentioned suggestion.

Retroactivity of Miller has only come up once and the Court of Appeals said that because Miller was decided after Parker's conviction, sentence, and notice of appeal, Parker's case was pending on direct review and Miller therefore applies. When the U.S. Supreme Court makes a decision that results in a "new rule," that rule applies to all criminal cases still pending on direct review.

That is the update for now. As decisions are made, we will try to keep you notified and explain as best we can. If you have any questions or comments, please do not hesitate to leave them here on the blog. Any feedback is appreciated.

Thursday, June 20, 2013

Prison Glossary - ILAP Request Forms

ILAP Request Forms- These are used by a MDOC prisoner to request services from the Inmate Legal Assistance Program (ILAP) through the law library of their respective facility. Services listed on the form are:

  • Packet on Post-Conviction Collateral Relief
  • 42 U.S.C.A. 1983 Form (civil litigation)
  • 28 U.S.C.A. 2254 Habeas Corpus Form
  • Conference because I cannot read or write.
  • Conference because I need clarification on a certain area of the law, or my case has advanced to a point where I cannot proceed alone.
  • I need emergency assistance in meeting a deadline
  • Copy of cited cases
  • Copy of statutes
  • Rules of court
  • Supplies- pen/paper
  • Copies
  • Mail services
  • Notary services
The prisoner must be listed as indigent to receive some of these services. In most instances the ILAP is operated as an "exact-cite paging system," meaning that the prisoner must know exactly what they need and how to request it specifically.

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Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Prison Glossary - Law library

Law library- This varies from facility to facility, and usually the space set aside for the law library is only minimally large enough to pass as such. The law library is part of a set of standards that statutory law outlines the prison must provide, such as access to courts and access to counsel. There will be a certain amount of legal research a prisoner must be able to do, and many facilities no longer keep actual legal tomes, relying instead solely on services online like Thompson WestLaw and Lexis-Nexis. Both of these are good, but the prisoner must know how to ask the law library staff for exactly what he/she wants. To request law library services, a prisoner completes an Inmate Legal Assistance Program (ILAP) request form and gives it to a CO or turns it in to the control tower. If the prisoner is in general population and the services they request require it, they will be called out to the law library on the scheduled day for their housing unit unless it is shown they must meet an emergency deadline. For prisoners in a lockdown setting, they must rely on what is termed as an "exact-cite paging system." Meaning, if they do not know exactly what they need and exactly how to request it on an ILAP Request Form, then they will not receive it.

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Monday, June 17, 2013

Review of "By Hook or Crook" just published on The Writing on The Wall

Steven's friend, Chris Roy, has published two books now and Steven wanted to review them and let the public know about these books. The following is a link to Steven's review of "By Hook or Crook: the Criminal Ventures of Razor and Blondie", Chris' breakout novel. We hope you'll read the review and decide to give the book a try. Steven will be following up with a review of Chris Roy's second book, "Shocking Circumstances." 

The book can be purchased here.

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Sunday, June 16, 2013

Prison Glossary- Sick Call

Sick Call/ Sick Call Request: If a prisoner is having any kind of medical issue and needs medical attention, unless it is an emergency, the prisoner is required to fill out a Sick Call Request form. This form asks for the prisoner's name, DOC#, housing area, nature of the complaint, and if the prisoner agrees to a $6.00 co-pay fee, if they are not indigent. The Sick Call Request is given to a C.O., or either deposited into a designated box or turned in to the control tower. After the Sick Call Request is collected the next day, it is processed and -depending on the backlog- the prisoner is called out for Sick Call. In a general population setting, the prisoner is informed by the control tower that he is wanted at the clinic. He is given a slip of paper stating his destination and the time of departure from his housing unit, and is cleared to walk to the clinic. In a lockdown setting, the  prisoner must be escorted by at least one officer (sometimes two), after being restrained in waistchains and shackles.

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Saturday, June 15, 2013

Prison Glossary - Places - Clinic

Clinic: This is the name of the medical department where a prisoner is taken when they have a medical issue. Unless it is an emergency, the prisoner must complete a Sick Call Request form and turn it in. When it is processed the prisoner will be called out for Sick Call, varying on the prisoner's housing situation. The clinic at WCCF is stocked with the equipment to do triage and handle all the basic medical issues, as well as X-ray films, dental work, optometry work, and tele-conference with a psychiatrist.

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Friday, June 14, 2013

Prison Glossary - Places - Dayroom

Dayroom- In a general population setting, the dayroom area is outside of the cells in a central area of the pod or zone. Often there are a couple of tables, and maybe a TV to watch or a microwave, but not much else.

Please also check this post with a description of a dayroom at WCCF.

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Thursday, June 13, 2013

Prison Glossary - Places - Control tower

Control tower- These "towers" are inside the prison and are manned by a guard who observes two or three pods and controls the cell doors, cell lights, pod lights and pod access doors with an electronic control panel.

Please also check this post with a description of a control tower at WCCF.

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Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Prison Glossary - Places - Housing Unit/ Section

Housing Unit/Section- These are made up of groups of pods. For example, if C-pod, D-pod and E-pod are accessed from the hallway through the same "sally port" and observed by the same control tower, this would be considered Housing Unit/Section CDE.

Please also check this post with a description of a Housing Unit at WCCF.

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Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Prison Glossary - Places - Pod

Pod- This is a term used by private prisons mostly. A pod is made up of at least twenty-four cells and up to thirty-two cells, with a central dayroom area and a set of shower stalls all of which can be observed from a control tower. In state prisons, pods are often referred to alternately as zones.

Please also check this post with a description of a pod at WCCF.

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Monday, June 10, 2013

Prison Glossary- General Population

General population- Prisoners in the general prison population are housed in that setting because they have been classified "open" C-custody or any of the less restrictive custodies (B- med. & min.; A- med. & min.). In this environment prisoners can be around those prisoners of the same custody status or those of less restricted status without being in restraints. Prisoners classified to "open" C-custody can be housed in the same cell as those of the same custody. B-custody and A-custody prisoners can be housed in the same cell, but not with C-custody.

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Sunday, June 9, 2013

Prison Glossary - Yard Call

Yard call- Respective of the housing of the prisoner, this refers to mandated recreation time. In general population where prisoners are housed two per cell, they are to be allowed out in a dayroom area or outside of the housing unit, in a gymnasium or on an actual yard on the prison grounds. A yard on the prison grounds sometimes has things like a volleyball net, maybe a basketball goal or two, a set of dip/pullup bars. In an open dorm setting, the prisons get a lot more leeway in providing yard call, especially with "open" C-custody. Closed C-custody (long term segregation) yard call is mandated at five hours per week, which is provided in recreation pens made of steel mesh and are approximately the size of the prisoner's cell. The prisoner is escorted to and from the recreation pens while wearing waistchains and shackles.

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About Steven

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Steven Farris is a prisoner who has been incarcerated since a month after his 16th birthday in 1998. Currently serving a life sentence without the possibility for parole, he is seeking to educate the public about the true nature of prison and the widespread and negative effects of the prison industrial complex. Steven has worked with both the National Prison Project of the ACLU, as well as the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund in furthering this effort.

You can contact him directly at:
Steven Farris #R5580
P.O. Box 1889
Woodville, MS 39669-1889

Check out my other blog:



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