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Spore v. State

Supreme Court of Mississippi, En Banc

March 9, 2017

GREG SPORE
v.
STATE OF MISSISSIPPI

          DATE OF JUDGMENT: 07/14/2015

         COURT FROM WHICH APPEALED: HINDS COUNTY CIRCUIT COURT, HON. JEFF WEILL, SR.

         AFFIRMED

          ATTORNEYS FOR APPELLANT: JEFFREY M. GRAVES DENNIS C. SWEET, III

          ATTORNEY FOR APPELLEE: OFFICE OF THE ATTORNEY GENERAL BY: JOSEPH SCOTT HEMLEBEN

          WALLER, CHIEF JUSTICE

         ¶1. Attorney Greg Spore appeals the order finding him in direct criminal contempt by Judge Jeff Weill Sr. of the Hinds County Circuit Court for displaying willful, contemptuous behavior that interfered with the orderly administration of justice. Finding that the record supports the trial court's order beyond a reasonable doubt, we affirm.

         FACTS AND PROCEDURAL HISTORY

         ¶2. On July 13, 2015, Greg Spore, Hinds County Assistant Public Defender, appeared in the Circuit Court of the First Judicial District of Hinds County before the Honorable Jeff Weill Sr., Circuit Judge, to represent Jeremy Cowards in an adjudication hearing, following the violation of his probation. Cowards had been indicted for house burglary and was ordered on January 11, 2011, to Regimented Inmate Discipline (RID).[1] On October 31, 2011, when Cowards had completed the RID program, he was sentenced to five years of nonadjudicated probation. Thereafter, on May 6, 2015, Cowards was convicted of domestic violence in Jackson Municipal Court for punching a woman while she held a young child.

         ¶3. At Coward's hearing on the probation violation before Judge Weill, he was found guilty of burglary for which he previously had received nonadjudicated probation. After the pronouncement of guilt, Judge Weill asked whether the defense had any argument for the court to consider for sentencing. Spore enumerated various reasons for the court to consider allowing Cowards to remain out of jail. Spore stated:

There are many factors at play here Your Honor concerning both employment, family -- he's got the support of both immediate and extended family in the community, much accountability. He has two daughters, one an infant daughter; in fact born in December, December 24th, his Christmas miracle I believe he refers to her as. Johneia I believe her name is. And he's trying, he wants to get back to his family. He wants to get back to his employer. I left a message trying to get up with Mr. Tony Lofton here in the security service here in Jackson, Mississippi. He's employed Mr. Cowards in the past, and it's my understanding that he's willing to employ him in the future, as soon as he is released.

         ¶4. Following Spore's argument, Judge Weill asked whether the defense had "anything further in argument on the sentencing to be imposed" and whether the defendant wanted to say anything. Spore responded that he was speaking on Cowards's behalf.

         ¶5. Judge Weill asked a third time whether Spore had "fully made [his] argument, " and Spore again replied, "[y]es, Your Honor." Spore continued: "[a]nd again, we would just implore the Court to . . . allow him to maintain his non-adjudicated status."[2] Judge Weill then stated that "the reason I'm asking if you've fully made your argument, is after I pronounce sentence I'm not going to hear further argument -- [.]" Spore replied, "[u]nderstood, Your Honor." Judge Weill then again told Spore to "finish your argument." Spore continued:

Yes, Your Honor. I believe, and on the outset I did make mention of the preliminary hearing. That was a concern only insofar as we don't know if indeed one took place. And if one did take place we don't know the date of that particular hearing. That would just give us a better sense of the timeline of how things have run from his arrest, the initial arrest for the alleged --excuse me -- simple domestic. As well as I believe a warrant in this instance was filed mid June. And we're just trying to gauge if that was early on. I have a suspicion that the preliminary hearing may have taken place in March in the immediate wake of his initial arrest, prior to an affidavit being filed with the Court for a warrant for his arrest for the revocation, for the violation allegation.

         Judge Weill then asked "anything further?" and Spore responded "[n]o, Your Honor."

         ¶6. Judge Weill then sentenced Cowards to ten years in prison with three years suspended, after which the following colloquy took place between Spore and Judge Weill:

MR. SPORE: Your Honor we just have one -- it's not an argument Your Honor.
THE COURT: Excuse me.
MR. SPORE: We had one last point. We'd assumed the reason why -
THE COURT: Excuse me Mr. Spore.
MR. SPORE: Yes, sir.
THE COURT: I gave you ample opportunity, twice, to make all of ...

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