Court of Appeals to visit Mississippi Valley State University Feb. 22

February 14, 2018

The Mississippi Court of Appeals will convene on the campus of Mississippi Valley State University on Feb. 22 at 10 a.m. to hear oral arguments.

The proceedings will be held in the auditorium in the W. A. Butts Social Science Building. The address of the university is 14000 Highway 82 West, Itta Bena. 

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. It will be the court’s third visit to MVSU in recent years.

Presiding Judge Tyree Irving said, “The Court on the Road program helps educate students and the public about appellate court proceedings and gives appellate judges an opportunity to answer questions about how the court operates.”

Judges will talk with students after the oral arguments and answer their questions, although they won’t talk about the pending case. 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.

The case to be heard is the appeal of John L. Phinizee Jr. v. State of Mississippi, cause number 2016-CA-01230-COA. Court records show that Phinizee was arrested Dec. 9, 2003, in Crawford on one count of sale of cocaine and two counts of possession with intent to distribute cocaine. He was convicted in Lowndes County Circuit Court on Feb. 16, 2006, and sentenced to 60 years in prison. 

The subject appeal is the second for Phinizee. The Court of Appeals affirmed his conviction and sentence on Sept. 25, 2007, and the Mississippi Supreme Court refused to review the appeal in an order issued May 29, 2008. Now before the Court of Appeals is Phinizee’s post-conviction appeal.

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

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

Attorney Blewett William Thomas of Columbus represents Phinizee. Special Assistant Attorney General Billy Gore represents the state.

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

The oral arguments will not be broadcast via the court’s Internet web site, 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