Rowsey v. State, No. 2014–KA–00501–SCT.

CourtUnited States State Supreme Court of Mississippi
Writing for the CourtKITCHENS, Justice, for the Court
Citation188 So.3d 486
Parties James Robert ROWSEY a/k/a James R. Rowsey a/k/a James Rowsey v. STATE of Mississippi.
Docket NumberNo. 2014–KA–00501–SCT.
Decision Date03 December 2015

188 So.3d 486

James Robert ROWSEY a/k/a James R. Rowsey a/k/a James Rowsey
v.
STATE of Mississippi.

No. 2014–KA–00501–SCT.

Supreme Court of Mississippi.

Dec. 3, 2015.
Rehearing Denied Feb. 25, 2016.


188 So.3d 490

Office of State Public Defender by Mollie Marie McMillin, George T. Holmes, attorneys for appellant.

James Robert Rowsey, appellant, pro se.

Office of the Attorney General by Ladonna C. Holland, attorney for appellee.

EN BANC.

KITCHENS, Justice, for the Court:

¶ 1. On February 25, 2014, James Rowsey was convicted of aggravated assault in the Circuit Court of Greene County for throwing scalding water on a fellow inmate at the South Mississippi Correctional Institution. Rowsey was sentenced to serve ten years of incarceration to run consecutively to the life sentence he already was serving for murder. Finding no error, we affirm Rowsey's conviction and sentence.

STATEMENT OF FACTS AND PROCEDURAL HISTORY

¶ 2. On January 28, 2010, James Rowsey was imprisoned at the South Mississippi Correctional Institution in Leakesville, serving a life sentence for murder. During the course of the day, Rowsey became concerned that Fate Santee, a man who was assigned to a bed, or "rack," near Rowsey's and who was associated with the Crips,1 a gang, was going to beat him up. As Santee was resting on his assigned rack, Rowsey heated up two cups of water in a microwave oven. Rowsey then walked back to the racks and dumped the hot water on Santee's head.

¶ 3. Santee was severely injured by the attack. He was moved from the prison's infirmary to the burn center at River Oaks Hospital in Flowood. Santee had burns on his trachea, face, and shoulders, which required treatments that included skin grafts, a tracheotomy, and the use of a feeding tube.

¶ 4. On February 22, 2011, a Greene County grand jury returned an indictment against Rowsey for aggravated assault. On May 16, 2011, Rowsey appeared before the Greene County Circuit Court for arraignment. He informed the court that he could not afford an attorney. The circuit court judge appointed Brandy Hambright, the public defender for Greene County, to represent Rowsey. On May 17, 2011, Rowsey signed a waiver of his right to an arraignment.

¶ 5. That same day, May 17, 2011, Rowsey sent a complaint to the Mississippi Bar, in which he protested Hambright's recommendation that he waive arraignment. Rowsey sent a similar letter to the

188 So.3d 491

Mississippi Bar on May 25, 2011, in which he informed the Bar that "[t]here is no need for a District Attorney. My attorney and the Court are prosecutors. " (Emphasis in original.) As a result of Rowsey's letters to the Mississippi Bar and the Bar's conclusion that this matter was a "communication situation between a client and an attorney," on June 6, 2011, Hambright filed a motion to withdraw as Rowsey's attorney.

¶ 6. On July 26, 2011, the Greene County Circuit Court granted Hambright's motion to withdraw as counsel and appointed attorney David Futch to represent Rowsey. Although trial had been scheduled for August 8, 2011, Rowsey was not transported from prison to the courthouse. The trial court ordered a continuance on this basis. On September 27, 2011, Rowsey's counsel filed a motion for a continuance, averring that he had not been given discovery by the State. On November 28, 2011, the State filed a motion for a continuance, which was granted. The reason the State needed this continuance is not apparent from the record. On February 21, 2012, the State requested a continuance because the prosecuting attorney had a "personal medical problem in his family." This continuance was granted.

¶ 7. On May 15, 2012, the parties made a joint ore tenus motion to reset the trial in the case, which the trial court granted. On the defendant's motion, on June 5, 2012, the trial court ordered that Rowsey should be given a mental evaluation at the State Hospital at Whitfield, Mississippi's mental hospital.

¶ 8. On November 19, 2012, the court ordered another continuance because the State Hospital at Whitfield had not yet performed Rowsey's mental examination. On December 4, 2012, Rowsey's defense counsel advised the circuit judge that Rowsey had not yet been scheduled for an evaluation at the State Hospital. On February 11, 2013, the trial court ordered another continuance because Rowsey still was waiting to get a mental examination. After the circuit court ordered that Rowsey be provided public funds for evaluation by a private doctor, Dr. Criss Lott, a psychologist, completed Rowsey's mental examination on May 17, 2013.

¶ 9. On June 27, 2013, Futch filed a motion to withdraw as Rowsey's counsel, stating that he had been "continually berated and harassed" by Rowsey and that Rowsey had filed a complaint against him with the Mississippi Bar. Futch asserted that "the Defendant has filed numerous motions and filings and will not follow any guidance whatsoever from the attorney and has created such a state of conflict that the appointed attorney cannot effectively represent the best interest[s] of ... [Rowsey] in any manner." Further, Futch averred that "[b]ased upon the attorney's and the Defendan[t]'s feelings and animosity against each other[,] ... a conflict of interest has developed that is insurmountable." The trial court did not rule on this motion.

¶ 10. Also, on June 28, 2013, Rowsey entered into an agreed motion for a continuance, because Dr. Lott had not yet completed his written report about Rowsey's mental evaluation. On August 8, 2013, Dr. Lott completed his mental evaluation report. On August 19, 2013, Rowsey's counsel requested another continuance, saying that he had not had time to review Dr. Lott's report.

¶ 11. Prior to trial, Rowsey asserted his right to a speedy trial on multiple occasions. He first did so in a pro se pleading filed on April 25, 2011, before he had waived his arraignment. Rowsey's trial counsel, Futch, invoked Rowsey's speedy trial rights in a motion for discovery filed on September 21, 2011. On February 10

188 So.3d 492

and 21, 2012, Rowsey filed pro se motions to dismiss the indictment against him because he had been deprived of his constitutional right to a speedy trial. The trial court never ruled on those motions. When given an opportunity to argue these motions before the trial court, Rowsey's trial counsel asserted that "I've reviewed most of his motions .... I have no reasonable legal basis to argue them."

¶ 12. Rowsey's trial was scheduled to commence on November 12, 2013, with Futch serving as Rowsey's court-appointed counsel. However, before voir dire examination, ten to fifteen potential jurors saw Rowsey being escorted by South Mississippi Correction Institution officers in his yellow prison jumpsuit, chains, and shackles, leading to concerns by the circuit clerk and defense counsel that the jury would be prejudiced against Rowsey. Consequently, Rowsey's trial counsel requested a new trial on a different date, which resulted in another continuance.

¶ 13. Rowsey's trial commenced on February 24, 2014, forty-nine months after the incident, thirty-six months after indictment, and thirty-three months after arraignment. On February 25, 2014, the jury returned a guilty verdict against Rowsey for aggravated assault against Santee. The Greene County Circuit Court sentenced Rowsey to ten years of incarceration to run consecutively to the life sentence he was serving for murder.

¶ 14. On appeal, Rowsey's counsel, who was appointed from the Indigent Appeals Division of the Office of the State Public Defender, raises two issues:

I. Whether the trial court erred by failing to dismiss the indictment against Rowsey because he had been deprived of [his] constitutional right to a speedy trial.

II. Whether the trial court erred by failing to dismiss the indictment against Rowsey because his statutory right to a speedy trial had been violated.

¶ 15. Rowsey has filed a pro se supplemental appellant's brief, in which he raises the following issues:

III. Whether Rowsey's counsel was constitutionally ineffective.

IV. Whether Rowsey's trial counsel had an actual conflict of interest, rendering him ineffective under this Court's precedent in Kiker v. State, 55 So.3d 1060 (Miss.2011).

V. Whether Rowsey was forced to testify at trial in violation of his constitutional rights.

VI. Whether the trial court erred in sanctioning Rowsey for filing his "Defendant's Talleying [sic] of Some Legitimate Rules the Trial Court has Failed to Follow And Motion to Dismiss for the Violation/Error Thereof. "

VII. Whether the record on appeal is incomplete or tainted.

DISCUSSION

I. Whether the trial court erred by failing to dismiss the indictment against Rowsey because he had been deprived of constitutional right to a speedy trial.

¶ 16. The right to a speedy trial is secured by the Sixth Amendment to the United States Constitution:

In all criminal prosecutions, the accused shall enjoy the right to a speedy and public trial, by an impartial jury of the State and district wherein the crime
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30 practice notes
  • Thomas v. State, NO. 2016–KA–01146–SCT
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of Mississippi
    • June 14, 2018
    ...Harrell , 134 So.3d at 270 (citing Kolberg v. State , 829 So.2d 29, 46 (Miss. 2002), overruled on other grounds by Rowsey v. State , 188 So.3d 486 (Miss. 2015) ).¶ 71. This Court held that "[i]t is the trial court's responsibility to assure that the jury is ‘fully and properly instructed on......
  • Courtney v. State, NO. 2017-KA-01267-SCT
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of Mississippi
    • May 2, 2019
    ...holding to a criminal charge ." Johnson v. State , 235 So.3d 1404, 1417 (¶ 45) (Miss. 2017) (emphasis added) (quoting Rowsey v. State , 188 So.3d 486, 495 (¶ 24) (Miss. 2015) ); Perry v. State , 419 So.2d 194, 198 (Miss. 1982) (The constitutional right to a speedy trial attaches "at the tim......
  • Collins v. Comm'r, Miss. Dept. of Corr., Civil Action 2:18-CV-46-TBM-RPM
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 5th Circuit. Southern District of Mississippi
    • August 3, 2021
    ...speedy trial right. Doc. [9], Ex. 6, at 21. Instead, Collins merely discussed a Mississippi Supreme Court case, Rowsey v. State, 188 So.3d 486, 492-96 (Miss. 2015), that, in relevant part, involved a straightforward analysis of the Barker factors and addressed the Walton test solely under i......
  • Clark v. State, 2019-DP-00689-SCT
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of Mississippi
    • May 12, 2022
    ...to their sentencing decisions. Wells v. State, 160 So.3d 1136, 1146 (Miss. 2015), overruled on other grounds by Rowsey v. State, 188 So.3d 486 (Miss. 2016). A competent trial judge will be aware of the consequences of each available sentencing choice, including eligibility for parole or ear......
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29 cases
  • Collins v. Comm'r, Miss. Dept. of Corr., Civil Action 2:18-CV-46-TBM-RPM
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 5th Circuit. Southern District of Mississippi
    • August 3, 2021
    ...speedy trial right. Doc. [9], Ex. 6, at 21. Instead, Collins merely discussed a Mississippi Supreme Court case, Rowsey v. State, 188 So.3d 486, 492-96 (Miss. 2015), that, in relevant part, involved a straightforward analysis of the Barker factors and addressed the Walton test solely under i......
  • Thomas v. State, NO. 2016–KA–01146–SCT
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of Mississippi
    • June 14, 2018
    ...Harrell , 134 So.3d at 270 (citing Kolberg v. State , 829 So.2d 29, 46 (Miss. 2002), overruled on other grounds by Rowsey v. State , 188 So.3d 486 (Miss. 2015) ).¶ 71. This Court held that "[i]t is the trial court's responsibility to assure that the jury is ‘fully and properly instructed on......
  • Courtney v. State, NO. 2017-KA-01267-SCT
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of Mississippi
    • May 2, 2019
    ...holding to a criminal charge ." Johnson v. State , 235 So.3d 1404, 1417 (¶ 45) (Miss. 2017) (emphasis added) (quoting Rowsey v. State , 188 So.3d 486, 495 (¶ 24) (Miss. 2015) ); Perry v. State , 419 So.2d 194, 198 (Miss. 1982) (The constitutional right to a speedy trial attaches "at the tim......
  • Galloway v. State, NO. 2018-CA-01427-SCT
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of Mississippi
    • May 7, 2020
    ...assistance of counsel," requiring automatic reversal, regardless of the defendant's ability to demonstrate prejudice. Rowsey v. State , 188 So. 3d 486, 498 (Miss. 2015) (citing Kiker , 55 So. 3d at 1067 )).¶66. The majority expresses "great consternation with the obvious lack of diligence o......
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