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Mississippi Supreme Court Denies Equity Court Review of Death Penalty Cases

By Derek Gilna

The complaint of sixteen death-row inmates in Mississippi which sought Chancery Court review of the adequacy of their legal representation has been denied by the Mississippi Supreme Court for lack of jurisdiction based upon the Uniform Post-Conviction Collateral Relief Act (UPCCRA).

The prisoner claims revolved around the alleged deficient performance of the Mississippi Office of Capital Post-Conviction Counsel (MOCPCC) that deprived them of their right to obtain meaningful state post-conviction and federal habeas corpus review of their convictions and death sentences. They sought that the chancery court enjoin the State from opposing the filing of a successive petition for post-conviction relief in each prisoner's case, from requesting execution dates for any of them, and from opposing a stay of execution in any case involving one of the inmates.

The chancery court did not agree, ruling that it lacked subject matter jurisdiction over the claims, and that UPCCRA claims should be decided under that statute. The Supreme Court agreed, noting that the "chancery court's power to grant injunctive relief rests upon the inadequacy of a remedy at law. A-1 Pallet Co. v. City of Jackson, 40 So. 3d 563 (Miss. 2010).

The Supreme Court stated that the UPCCRA "promulgates specific procedures for the adjudication of ineffective-assistance-of-counsel claims... when this Court already has affirmed or dismissed a petitioner's direct appeal, the motion for post-conviction relief must be presented to a quorum of justices to determine whether to allow filing of the motion in the trial court," Miss. Code Ann. Section 99-39-7 (Supp. 2011).

The court concluded: "The relief requested by the (prisoners) would require the chancery court to interfere with their statutory procedures... the claims... are embraced by the UPCCRA; therefore, the chancery court lacked subject matter jurisdiction. We affirm." See: See: Knox v. State, 75 So. 3d 1030 (Miss: Supreme Court, 2011).

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Related legal case

Knox v. State