Court of Appeals to visit University of Mississippi April 25

April 24, 2018

The Mississippi Court of Appeals will convene on the campus of the University of Mississippi on April 25 at 1 p.m. and again at 3 p.m. to hear oral arguments.

The proceedings will be held in Room 2035 at the Robert C. Khayat Law Center, 481 Chucky Mullins Drive in Oxford.

The cases to be heard are Welford Lee McCarty v. State of Mississippi, Cause Number 2017-KA-00414, on appeal from Greene County Circuit Court, and Skylar O'Kelly v. State of Mississippi, Cause Number 2016-KA-01147, on appeal from Oktibbeha County Circuit Court. McCarty v. State is set to be heard at 1 p.m., and O’Kelly v. State is scheduled for 3 p.m.

The campus visit, among several that the court is expected to make this year to universities, is part of its Court on the Road educational program for students and the public. The Court of Appeals visits the University of Mississippi campus each spring.

Judges will talk with students after the oral arguments and answer their questions, although they won’t talk about the pending cases. Having an opportunity to see the court at work provides a valuable learning experience for students who may have an interest in careers in law as well as those who simply want to better understand how each branch of government works.

Court of Appeals Judge Donna Barnes of Tupelo said, “While most citizens are aware of trial court proceedings, very few understand the appellate process. Our Court on the Road program in part is designed for citizens to be able to attend appellate proceedings which normally take place only in Jackson.” She said, “We most often have Court on the Road proceedings at institutions of higher learning because we are hopeful that students who are contemplating law as a profession will have the opportunity to observe these arguments firsthand.”

Oral arguments are webcast and may also be viewed in archived appellate court records. But, Judge Barnes said, “There is just something about being in the courtroom and witnessing the exchange between counsel and the panel firsthand to have a full understanding of the proceedings.”

Third-year law students participating in the Criminal Appeals Clinic at the University of Mississippi School of Law are assisting in representing McCarty. Law students Alison Guider, Blake E. Brookshire, W. J. Lee Owen and Sarah Richerme are admitted to limited practice of law under the supervision of attorney Phillip W. Broadhead, clinical professor and director of the Criminal Appeals Clinic. The Mississippi Office of Indigent Appeals associated the Criminal Appeals Clinic to help with Welford’s case.

Judge Barnes said, “We have been most fortunate when we have oral arguments at the University of Mississippi and Mississippi State University usually to include at least one case in which students from the University of Mississippi Criminal Appeals Clinic are arguing on behalf of the defendant. This not only provides the students with the opportunity to represent actual clients in a very real situation, but also allows undergraduate students to see how far law students progress in less than three years.”

People wishing to watch the oral arguments are asked to be in their seats 15 minutes before a proceeding are scheduled to begin in each case.

McCarty was convicted on Feb. 16, 2017, in the Circuit Court of Greene County of capital murder and desecration of a human corpse in the slaying of Donovan Ray Cowart. Circuit Judge Dale Harkey sentenced McCarty to life without parole on the capital murder charge and three years for the charge of desecration of a corpse. Court records and testimony show that Cowart was shot and buried sometime between Jan. 13 and March 20, 2013. The body was later dug up, dismembered and hidden in a culvert at a pond.

The appellant brief on behalf of McCarty is at this link:

The appellee’s brief on behalf of the State of Mississippi is at this link:

Special Assistant Attorney General Jeffrey A. Klingfuss represents the state in McCarty’s case.

At 3 p.m., the panel will hear the appeal of Skylar O’Kelly v. State of Mississippi, Appeal No. 2016-KA-01147-COA. O’Kelly was convicted in Oktibbeha County Circuit Court on Aug. 4, 2016, of depraved heart murder and trafficking of a controlled substance. Mississippi State University student Parker Rodenbaugh of Madison died on Aug. 9, 2014, after taking two hits of synthetic hallucinogenic acid that O’Kelly sold him for $20, according to trial testimony. Circuit Judge Lee J. Howard sentenced O’Kelly to 20 years in prison on the depraved heart murder charge and 10 years on the drug charge, with the sentences to run concurrently.

The appellant’s brief on behalf of O’Kelly is at this link:

The appellee’s brief on behalf of the State of Mississippi is at this link:

Kelly is represented by attorney Rodney A. Ray of Columbus. Special Assistant Attorney General Laura H. Tedder represents the state.

The oral arguments will not be broadcast via the court’s Internet website, since the Court of Appeals is convening a special session away from its camera-equipped courtroom.

Any media organization which may wish to photograph or videotape the arguments must file a Camera Coverage Notice. Camera Coverage Notices should be directed to Clerk of the Court Muriel Ellis, fax 601-359-2407, and to Assistant Court Administrator Camille Henick Evans, fax 601-576-4708. The Camera Coverage Notice form is at

Photographers and videographers must be familiar with and follow the Rules for Electronic and Photographic Coverage of Judicial Proceedings. The camera coverage rules are available at