Court rejects appeal over 2002 death case

Published 6:13 pm Wednesday, June 23, 2010

The Mississippi Court of Appeals Tuesday rejected a Brookhavenman’s attempt to get a new trial after he pleaded guilty in theJune 2002 murder of another city man.

In the ruling, justices upheld the circuit court’s rejection of apost-conviction relief appeal filed by Cearic Barnes, who claimedhis defense counsel was ineffective in explaining the consequencesof a plea and that it was involuntary. Barnes was sentenced in 2003to life in prison for his role in the June 2002 death of MarvinDurr.

The court found no merit in any of the seven issues raised byBarnes in his appeal.

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Barnes had been indicted on a capital murder charge, but it wasamended to murder as part of a plea agreement. In his appeal,Barnes claimed his plea was a product of coercion because of hisfear of the death penalty and the fact he was only 18 at thetime.

The court said a defense attorney has an obligation to inform hisclient of the consequences of a plea – no matter how grim they maybe – but may only urge that a particular course be taken. Theattorney may not accept a plea on the defendant’s behalf.

“Even if Barnes accepted the plea bargain entirely because he wasafraid

of the death penalty, the plea would nonetheless be voluntary,” thecourt said.

Other appeal issues raised involved court record clerical mattersand the court’s alleged failure to hold certain hearings related tothe post-conviction relief requests. The state court rejected thoseclaims.

Brookhaven’s Jerrard T. Cook, who was also indicted in the case,pleaded guilty to capital murder in 2003. He was sentenced to lifein prison without the possibility of parole.

Durr was found inside his burned car on South Washington Streetearly on June 18, 2002.

Authorities alleged that Cook and Barnes flagged Durr down and wereintent on taking his car to McComb to rob a store there. During thecourse of events, Durr was shot and his car later set afire.

Cook and Barnes were arrested the next day and charged with capitalmurder.