Nation - Mississippi High court won't hear appeal in deadly crash Says decision to review case was 'improvidently granted'

By Jack Elliott Jr.

Associated Press Writer

JACKSON, Miss. (AP) -- The Mississippi Supreme Court is now saying it won't hear appeals in two cases, including a high-profile felony DUI case from Harrison County involving the traffic deaths of three college students.

The Supreme Court reversed a decision last week to hear an appeal from Ray Thomas Gore, who was given a life sentence in Scott County for the 2008 slaying of a Forest woman.

Two weeks earlier, the justices in a 4-3 order reversed a decision to hear the appeal of Krystal Marie Teston in the DUI case. The decision came after the court heard oral arguments in the case in July.

In both instances, the court said its decisions to review the cases were "improvidently granted," meaning the cases should not have come to the justices in the first place.

Gore was convicted of murder in the shooting death of Jacqueline Ford at a Forest apartment complex. Prosecutors said the shooting occurred during an argument between the two.

On appeal, Gore contended jurors should have been told they could have considered a conviction for manslaughter instead of murder. Manslaughter carries a maximum 20-year sentence.

The state Court of Appeals, in upholding the conviction last year, said Gore confessed to the crime in a statement to authorities and testimony at the trial did not support a manslaughter instruction to the jury.

Gore's attorney, Edmund J. Phillips Jr. of Newton, could not be reached for comment on the decision.

In a 7-2 ruling released Thursday, the Supreme Court dismissed Gore's appeal, which allowed his conviction to stand.

However, Justice Jim Kitchens expressed concerns that Gore's jury did not get to hear Gore's side of the case. Kitchens said Gore contended the shooting was an accident and that option was not presented to the jury.

Kitchens said while the defense didn't ask for the jury to be given an accident instruction, the evidence was such that the trial judge should have stepped in and done so.

"It is neither for us nor the trial court to speculate whether Gore's claim of an accidental discharge was truthful, or even whether it was reasonable," Kitchens wrote. "It is, however, as a matter of due process or law, incumbent on the judiciary to ensure that each and every party's theory of a case is properly laid before the jury for its decision."

In the Harrison County case, Teston was convicted of four counts of felony DUI in 2007. She was sentenced to 60 years in prison with 30 years suspended. The Appeals Court upheld her conviction in 2008.

Prosecutors claimed she was on drugs at the time of a 2004 traffic accident on Interstate 10 that killed three Mississippi College students and injured two others.

Teston's attorneys contended Teston was so distraught because of the crash that she took the pain medication Lorcet, or hydrocodone, after the accident to calm her nerves. That's why, they said, the medication was in her blood system when checked by authorities three hours later.

The Supreme Court, in a 4-3 order, reversed a decision to hear the case.

Teston's attorney, Tim C. Holleman of Gulfport, said he plans to appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court.

"We were obviously very upset at the (Mississippi) court's decision, but we appreciated the four justices who filed a written objection ... stating that she had been a denied a fair trial," Holleman said Friday.

In disagreeing with the order, Justice Jess H. Dickinson said there was information that the jury should have heard.

Dickinson said jurors didn't hear evidence about a third interview Teston conducted and recorded with authorities during which she reportedly gave more information on when she took the Lorcet. He said the trial judge erroneously refused to allow the jury to hear testimony about the third interview.

Dickinson said defense attorneys should have been allowed to use the third interview to counter the prosecution's contention that Teston took the Lorcet before the accident.

Published: Wed, Oct 20, 2010

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