Court of Appeals to visit Mississippi University for Women on Feb. 19

February 14, 2019

The Mississippi Court of Appeals will convene on the campus of Mississippi University for Women in Columbus on Feb. 19 to hear oral arguments.

A three-judge panel will convene in Cochran Hall at 11 a.m. and 2 p.m. to hear two criminal appeals. People wishing to watch the oral arguments are asked to be seated 15 minutes before proceedings begin. The proceedings are each expected to last about an hour.

The scheduling of oral arguments on campus is part of the Court on the Road program. The Court of Appeals regularly meets in Jackson, but each year the court hears a few cases on college campuses. Court on the Road helps educate students and the public about the judicial system and appeals court proceedings. Judges will answer questions from students after the oral arguments, but won’t talk about the pending cases.

Court of Appeals Chief Judge Donna M. Barnes of Tupelo said, “The educational benefits go beyond seeing how the appellate system operates. Students also have an opportunity to learn substantive issues of the law which will be discussed.”

The case scheduled for oral argument at 11 a.m. is the appeal of Melissa Cruz v. State of Mississippi, Cause Number 2018-KA-00277.

A Forrest County Circuit Court jury convicted Cruz of first degree murder in the July 1, 2016, death of Larry Keith Phillips, 45. Testimony at the September 2017 trial showed that Cruz told police that she ran over Phillips, her boyfriend, in a Toyota Tacoma pickup as Phillips walked along Old Highway 49 after they had argued. Circuit Judge Jon Mark Weathers sentenced Cruz to life in prison.

The brief filed on behalf of Cruz is at this link:
Cruz is represented by Hunter N. Aikens of the Office of the State Public Defender.

The brief of the Attorney General’s Office is at this link:
Special Assistant Attorney General Katy Gerber represents the State.

The case scheduled for oral argument at 2 p.m. is the appeal of Kelvin Bell v. State of Mississippi, Cause Number 2017-KA-1280. A Warren County Circuit Court jury convicted Bell in August 2017 of two counts of aggravated domestic violence in the Dec. 26, 2014, assault on his girlfriend. Circuit Judge M. James Chaney Jr. sentenced Bell to two concurrent 20-year terms with five years suspended, meaning Bell is serving a 15-year prison sentence.

The brief filed on behalf of Bell is at this link:
Frank G. Vollor of Vicksburg represents Bell.

The brief filed by the Attorney General’s Office is at this link:
Special Assistant Attorneys General Joe Hemleben and Matthew Walton represent 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 Jeremy Whitmire, fax 601-359-2407, and to Assistant Court Administrator Camille 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 Photo-graphic Coverage of Judicial Proceedings. The camera coverage rules are available at