Law School Case Brief
Hawthorne v. State - 835 So. 2d 14 (Miss. 2003)
The standard of review for a denial of a directed verdict, peremptory instruction, and a judgment notwithstanding the verdict are identical. A motion for judgment notwithstanding the verdict, a motion for directed verdict, and a request for peremptory instruction challenge the legal sufficiency of the evidence. Since each requires consideration of the evidence before the court when made, an appellate court properly reviews the ruling on the last occasion the challenge was made in the trial court.
Tony Darel Hawthorne was mad at Aaron J. Seldon because he had been told that Seldon took money from Hawthorne while the latter was sleeping. Hawthorne confronted Seldon with a gun and demanded his money. While Seldon was giving the money, Hawthorne shot the victim. Hawthorne claimed at trial that Seldon had grabbed the gun, causing it to fire. However, none of the other witnesses at trial corroborated Hawthorne’s story. Hawthorne claimed the trial court erred in granting a jury instruction, that his trial counsel provided ineffective assistance, and that the evidence was legally insufficient to support the verdict.
Was Hawthorne properly convicted of the crime, notwithstanding the alleged defects in his trial?
The Supreme Court found that because Hawthorne did not make the jury instruction objection at trial, the issue was procedurally barred on appeal. Furthermore, the decision of Hawthorne’s counsel to submit a jury instruction did not constitute ineffective assistance of counsel, as Hawthorne did not demonstrate how the instruction operated to result in actual prejudice to his defense. Finally, according to the Court, the evidence met the legal sufficiency test and the weight of the evidence test, as sufficient testimony was offered to support the murder conviction.
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