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Chambliss v. State

Supreme Court of Mississippi

December 12, 2017

ROTHELL CHAMBLISS A/K/A ROTHEL CHAMBLISS Appellant/Petitioner
v.
STATE OF MISSISSIPPI Appellee/Respondent

          ORDER

          MICHAEL K. RANDOLPH, PRESIDING JUSTICE

         This matter is before the Court on the Petition for Writ of Certiorari filed by Rothell Chambliss. The Court has considered the petition and finds that it should be denied.

         IT IS THEREFORE ORDERED that the Petition for Writ of Certiorari filed by Rothell Chambliss is denied.

         SO ORDERED.

          TO DENY: WALLER, C.J., RANDOLPH, P.J., COLEMAN, MAXWELL, BEAM, AND CHAMBERLIN, JJ.

          TO GRANT: KITCHENS, P.J., AND KING, J.

          SEPARATE WRITTEN STATEMENT OBJECTING TO THE ORDER BY KITCHENS, P.J., JOINED BY KING, J. NOT PARTICIPATING: ISHEE, J.

          KITCHENS, PRESIDING JUSTICE, OBJECTING TO THE ORDER WITH SEPARATE WRITTEN STATEMENT:

         ¶1. I would grant Rothell Chambliss's Petition for a Writ of Certiorari. Chambliss was indicted for burglary of a dwelling in Jefferson County, Mississippi. During voir dire, the trial judge inquired whether any of the venire members knew the defendant. William Marks, Prospective Juror Number 7, after explaining that he hadn't known who the defendant would be when he came to court that day, went on to say, "Well, I'm not sure if it's been a year and a half, two years ago I had to be here in court to testify against [Chambliss] for breaking in . . . ." It was the prosecutor who instantly recognized the extreme hazard of the prospective juror's revelation that Chambliss, in the fairly recent past, had been in the same courthouse under an accusation of the very same kind of felony for which he was about to be tried. The assistant district attorney, Daniella Shorter, instantly interrupted the venireman in mid-sentence with, "Your Honor, may we approach?"

         ¶2. This prompted the trial judge to say, "You don't need to say anything else. You don't think you could be fair?" Mr. Marks responded, "Well, I don't think it would be - I couldn't say I wouldn't lean one way or the other." The court then said to him, "Well we need jurors that will be right on the 50 yard line and won't lean one way or the other. Thank you, sir." The court, with apparent oblivion to the likelihood that Marks's statement had contaminated the entire panel, proceeded with his part of the voir dire examination.

         ¶3. Upon the court's tendering the panel to the State for its voir dire examination, defense counsel Pamela Ferrington approached the bench, and, outside the hearing of the venire, moved for a mistrial on the following grounds: "Number 7 [Marks] said that he had been up here a year and a half ago when he had to testify against Rothell [Chambliss]. Everybody laughed. And we're ready to go and everything but not with this jury." There was no opposition to the motion voiced by the prosecutor.

         ¶4. Apparently deeming the incident insignificant, the trial judge said:

I don't see . . . there was no explanation, there was no charge I think that in a situation where . . . I think in a situation where there was any indication, I would consider your request more harmful, but in this situation, the Court finds that there was nothing said that would create or cause any prejudice to the defendant. There was no mention of what kind of case it was, civil, criminal or anything else. Of course, the record will indicate what was said, but the juror merely indicated that he was up here testifying in a case that Mr. Chambliss was involved in, and that's all that was said and I . . . I don't believe that there had been any prejudice that has been created that would inhere against the defendant, so I'll overrule your motion.

         ¶5. Defense counsel attempted to provide clarification for the court as follows: "Your Honor, I don't mean to argue with you, but I wanted to make it clear that what I heard was that he did specifically say for breaking in my place or whatever, but it's the same kind of case that he specifically said that." The judge went on to say that he had heard what was said, adding, "[h]e was stopped immediately." The defense lawyer asked, "[c]an we see what the recorder picked up?" The judge reiterated, "I overrule your motion, Counsel." Defense ...


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