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CAROLYN ROBERTS AND DANA ROBERTS v. WESLEY GRISHAM

AUGUST 20, 1986

CAROLYN ROBERTS AND DANA ROBERTS
v.
WESLEY GRISHAM



BEFORE ROY NOBLE LEE, P.J., AND ROBERTSON AND ANDERSON, JJ.,

ANDERSON, JUSTICE, FOR THE COURT:

The question before us is whether the appellee, Wesley Grisham, was divested of his rights to claim homestead exemption by virtue of his conviction for murder and sentence of life imprisonment. The Circuit Court of Clay County held that such conviction and imprisonment did not deprive appellee of his right of homestead exemption. We affirm.

On May 19, 1982, appellee Wesley Grisham shot and killed Wesley Roberts, father of appellant Dana Roberts and husband of appellant Carolyn Roberts.

 On October 6, 1982, the grand jury of the Clay County Circuit Court indicted appellee for the murder of Roberts. On this same day, appellants filed a civil suit against appellee seeking damages for the wrongful death of Wesley Roberts.

 On September 9, 1983, the appellee Grisham was convicted of the murder of Roberts and sentenced to life imprisonment.

 On January 18, 1984, a jury verdict was returned in the wrongful death action against Grisham awarding appellants

 $2 million in actual damages and $30,000 punitive damages.

 Appellee's home, worth approximately $30,000, is his only asset from which the wrongful death judgment can be satisfied. Appellee's wife died in November 1983 and the home (at time of filing) was unoccupied. The appellee also owned two cars - both of which he transferred to other parties - one on the date the wrongful death action began. These were transferred under the $6,500 personal property exemption permitted by Mississippi Code Annotated, Section 85-3-1 (1982).

 Grisham instituted an action for declaratory judgment in Chancery Court, naming appellants as defendants and seeking an adjudication that appellee's residence was homestead property and therefore exempt from execution under Mississippi Code Annotated, Section 85-3-21 (1982).

 The circuit court entered judgment sustaining Grisham's motion for summary judgment finding that he was entitled to homestead exemption on the residence in question.

 Appellee, who was 73 years of age, testified that he intended to return home, but evidence was introduced that he had asked a realtor to sell the house while he was in prison and also that he had executed a deed of trust on the home to his attorney, while having no other assets to satisfy this debt except the home.

 Appellants bring this appeal mainly on the ground that appellee's conviction for murder and life sentence effectively divests him of his right to homestead exemption on his residence.

 The only issue this Court find it necessary to address is appellant's contention that Grisham was not entitled to the homestead exemption because he had no legal right to occupy the property and that by voluntarily murdering Wesley Roberts, Grisham abandoned any claim to homestead that he would otherwise have.

 Appellants' claim that appellee had abandoned his homestead by virtue of his imprisonment is not supported by law. Lindsey v. Holley, 105 Miss. 740, 63 So. 222 (1913), addressed the issue of homestead exemption where the exemptionist was in jail and his spouse had moved from the land. This Court cited the 1906 ...


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