Payton v. MississippiAnnotate this Case
Defendant Howard Payton was convicted for the 2010 kidnapping and rape of a university student. At trial, inter alia, the State presented definitive scientific evidence of guilt: Payton’s DNA matched the DNA sample obtained from N.B.’s rape kit so closely that the probability of finding someone other than Payton with the same DNA profile was less than one in 999 trillion. It was not until January 25, 2016, that Payton filed a twelve-page pro se motion for a judgment notwithstanding the verdict (JNOV), or, in the alternative, a new trial. The State did not raise the untimeliness of the motion. In fact, the State did not respond to the motion. The trial judge considered the substantive issues raised in the motion and, finding no merit, denied Payton’s requests for relief one week later on February 1, 2016. Payton made five filings regarding appealing his motion for JNOV. On March 9, 2016, the trial court granted Payton in forma pauperis status; at that time, he was appointed counsel who entered an appearance on Payton's behalf. A few days before the appeal brief was due, however, Payton died. Appellate counsel moved for abatement ab initio, asking. He asked that the Court allow a thirty-day period or other reasonable amount of time to allow any personal representative of Payton to come forward and to move for a substitution for the deceased appellant. If no such motion was made, counsel requested the Court enter an order of abatement voiding the entire criminal proceeding against Payton from its inception, nullifying the petit jury’s verdict and the circuit judge’s judgment of conviction and remanding the case back to the same trial court with instructions to dismiss the grand jury’s indictment, all without notice to the victim. "Because of the increased recognition of crime victims in our constitution and statutory law, and because the policies undergirding stare decisis are not served by continued application of the abatement ab initio doctrine, we expressly overrule Gollott [v. Mississippi, 646 So.2d 1297 (1994)]." Since no motion was filed for substitution pursuant to Rule 43(a), the Mississippi Supreme Court dismissed Payton’s appeal as moot and left his conviction intact. Appellate counsel's motion to abate Payton’s conviction ab initio was denied.