Supreme Court rules for Howell in old drug case

Marlon Howell mug
November 26th, 2019     General News

The Mississippi Supreme Court has granted an appeal from convicted murdered Marlon Howell concerning a previous drug case.

Howell, who has also gone by the names of Marvin Latodd Howell and Marlon Cox, was convicted of the May 2000 murder of retired postal worker and newspaper carrier David Pernell during an apparent botched robber attempt. He remains on death row despite several unsuccessful appeals in that case.

This appeal does not concern the Pernell case directly, however.

In 1998 Howell was charged with sale of marijuana. Eventually, about a year later, Howell agreed to plead guilty to the lesser charge of possession of marijuana with an agreed maximum sentence of three years in prison and $3,000 fine. He was expecting a recommendation by the prosecution of a sentence of three years with two of those years suspended and one under house arrest, plus $200 restitution.

Howell’s probation was revoked following the arrest for the Pernell murder and the court sentenced him to the full three years.

Howell appealed the drug sentence on grounds that a change in the law had lowered the maximum penalty to a $250 fine since his original petition. He asked that the prior marijuana sentence be vacated and he be sentenced instead under the lower penalty.

Circuit court rejected the request on grounds that Howell did not have standing to appeal. Primarily, he was no longer serving the three years, which had been up for some time. He was no longer on probation in the case and the court had no authority to grant him any relief in the case.

Howell countered that the law supported his right to appeal and that he had in fact been in custody since the Pernell case.

The state appeals court agreed with the lower court that Howell did not have standing, but the Supreme Court has now disagreed with the appeals court.

They cited a 2009 amendment to the statute that no longer required a person to be serving a sentence to have appeal standing.

As a result, the high court ordered the case remanded back to Union County circuit court, where Howell may formally ask for the marijuana sentence to be vacated.

No date had been set to hear the case Monday and it was not clear what practical difference potential resentencing would make.

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