Court of Appeals to visit MSU on Nov. 9, Rust College on Nov. 15

November 1, 2022

The Mississippi Court of Appeals will convene on the campus of Mississippi State University on Nov. 9 and at Rust College on Nov. 15.

The Court of Appeals’ Court on the Road program schedules oral arguments on college campuses and occasionally at other locations as a teaching tool to give students and the public opportunities to watch proceedings in cases on appeal. Court on the Road offers a unique learning experience for students with an interest in law, government, journalism and a variety of other fields. The general public may attend to gain a better understanding of appellate court proceedings.

Court of Appeals Chief Judge Donna Barnes of Tupelo said, “Our court is fortunate that statutes permit us to convene in places other than the Capital. That allows anyone, especially school groups, to attend in person and see first-hand how the system works.”

Court of Appeals Presiding Judge Jack L. Wilson of Madison, who coordinated arrangements for the visit to MSU, said, “Court on the Road is an excellent opportunity for college students, especially those considering a career in law, to learn more about our court system and our appellate courts. We look forward to meeting students and answering their questions in between and after the scheduled arguments. We always have an excellent turnout for Court on the Road at Mississippi State, and we appreciate Professor Whit Waide’s efforts to support this event.”

Court of Appeals Judge Latrice A. Westbrooks of Lexington, who coordinated arrangements for the visit to Rust College, said, “The Court on the Road program offers the opportunity for transparency and education. It elevates the public’s understanding of Mississippi’s judicial system. It also encourages civic engagement and exposes the students to the Court in a way that is not adversarial. There are no witnesses and no jury.”

A three-judge panel of the Court of Appeals will hear two appeals at the Hunter Henry Center, 1 Hunter Henry Boulevard in Starkville on Nov. 9. Oral arguments are scheduled to begin at 12:30 p.m. and 2:30 p.m. The 12:30 p.m. oral argument is in the appeal of Christopher Smith v. State of Mississippi, cause number 2021-KA-01003-COA. The 2:30 p.m. oral argument is the appeal of Steven L. Lewis v. State of Mississippi, cause number 2021-KA-00472-COA.

A three-judge panel will convene on Nov. 15 at 11 a.m. at Rust College in the Doxey Auditorium, 150 Rust Avenue in Holly Springs. The panel will hear oral arguments in the appeal of Truitt Thomas Pace v. State, 2022-KA-00046.

In each case on appeal, attorneys for both sides will have 30 minutes to make their arguments and answer questions from the judges. Judges will talk with students after each oral argument and answer students’ questions, although they won’t talk about the pending cases.

People wishing to watch an oral argument are asked to be seated 15 minutes before a proceeding is scheduled to begin.

Members of the news media, including student journalists, who 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, e-mail, fax 601-359-2407; and to Assistant Court Administrator Camille Evans, e-mail, fax 601-576 - 4708.
The Camera Coverage Notice form is at this link:

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

The oral arguments will not be broadcast via the Mississippi Judiciary website, since the Court of Appeals is convening in special sessions away from its camera-equipped courtroom.

Here are brief descriptions of each case and links to documents:

Christopher Michael Smith was convicted of first-degree murder in the Aug. 20, 2013, shooting death of Nakisa Benson. Benson was shot multiple times with a high-powered rifle. The shooting happened on Monticello Road in Copiah County. Court records show that Smith was declared mentally incompetent to stand trial and was committed for mental health treatment on Oct. 20, 2016. After a competency hearing held on Oct. 20, 2020, Smith was declared competent to stand trial. A Copiah Country Circuit Court jury found Smith guilty on Aug. 20, 2021, and Circuit Judge Tomika H. Irving sentenced Smith to life in prison.

The appellant’s brief filed on behalf of Smith is at this link:

The appellee’s brief filed by the Mississippi Attorney General’s Office is at this link:

Steven L. Lewis was convicted of one count of first-degree murder of Alex Jennings, Sr., and one count of second-degree murder for the death of Alex Jennings, Jr. The shooting happened on Nov. 27, 2017, during a fight in front of Lewis’ home in Rolling Fork. Circuit Judge Toni Walker Terrett changed venue for trial from Sharkey County to Warren County. The trial concluded on March 19, 2021. Judge Terrett sentenced Lewis to consecutive terms of life in prison plus 40 years as a habitual offender.

The appellant’s brief filed on behalf of Lewis is at this link: 8.0.pdf&c=93468&a=N&s=2.

The appellee’s brief filed by the Mississippi Attorney General’s Office is at this link: 8.0.pdf&c=93468&a=N&s=2.

Truitt Thomas Pace was convicted of first-degree murder in the June 15, 2018, shooting death of his wife, Marsha Pace. The trial in Lauderdale County Circuit Court concluded on Dec. 17, 2021. Circuit Judge Robert Bailey sentenced Pace to life in prison.

The appellant’s brief filed on behalf of Pace is at this link:

The appellee’s brief filed by the Mississippi Attorney General’s Office is at this link: