Appeals court upholds depraved-heart murder conviction

By Patsy R. Brumfield/NEMS Daily Journal

TUPELO – A Mississippi appeals court Tuesday upheld Christopher Brandon’s conviction in the depraved-heart murder of a 1-year-old boy.
The child was in Brandon’s care when he was fatally injured.
Although Brandon claimed the child fell off the bed and hit his head, two treating physicians and the pathologist testified the injuries were too severe to have been caused by a short fall – more likely a severe shaking.
In August 2009, a Lee County jury convicted Brandon. Circuit Judge Jim Seth Pounds sentenced him to life in prison.
Brandon’s appeal attorneys, Chip Davis of Tupelo and Valena Beety of the West Virginia Innocence Project, appealed saying his conviction should be reversed or a new trial granted because Pounds denied him a publicly funded expert to challenge the state’s experts.
Nicole Linkscales of Columbus represented Brandon at trial.
However, Court of Appeals Judge Jimmy Maxwell – writing for the 8-1 majority – said not to fault the judge for failure to approve the expert, rather, “to his trial counsel’s actions and inactions.”
Maxwell recommended that issue be taken up in a claim of ineffective assistance of counsel in a new motion for post-conviction relief.
Neither Davis nor Clinkscales responded to a Daily Journal request for comment.
Depraved-heart murder is murder committed during an act so dangerous as to disregard human life.
“Brandon had not been declared indigent – a prerequisite for a state-funded expert,” Maxwell wrote. “Further, Brandon’s counsel failed to show a concrete need for a state-funded expert.”

Click video to hear audio