Miss. high court sets docket to open 2011

By The Associated Press

JACKSON — A Pontotoc man once described by defense attorneys as a “fool in love” has appealed his manslaughter and burglary convictions to the Mississippi Supreme Court.

Curtis Wayne Gause’s appeal is among dozens of cases the Supreme Court will consider during its January-February term. Many cases — such as Gause’s — will be decided without oral argument.

Court records show Gause was convicted in 2008 in Pontotoc County of killing of a man he found in bed with his estranged wife.

Gause, of Pontotoc, was sentenced to 20 years for manslaughter and 25 years, with 15 years suspended, for burglary. The sentences were to run consecutively, meaning Gause was to serve 30 years.

Prosecutors said Gause stabbed Jeffery Swords on March 22, 2008, at Tracy Gause’s trailer in Ecru.

Defense attorneys said during closing arguments that Gause was not a cold-blooded killer but a “fool in love” when he killed Swords.

Gause testified that he went to the trailer early in the morning to help Tracy Gause prepare for a yard sale. Gause said he “just snapped” when he saw his estranged wife in bed with Swords.

Gause testified he broke out the windows of the victims truck, sliced the tires with a pocket knife an then pushed the front door in of the mobile home, went to the bedroom where his wife, Tracy, and Swords were and jumped on him. Gause described the stabbing as an accident.

Prosecutors said it would be difficult to “accidentally” stab someone five times. Prosecutors said Gause’s sole purpose that day was to assault his estranged wife and to kill Swords.

Gause was charged with burglary because he broke into the mobile home after seeing Swords’ truck in the yard and then, peeking through a window, the couple in the bedroom.

Among other cases before the Supreme Court:

— A recommendation of a public reprimand for Hinds County Justice Court Judge Houston Patton. The Mississippi Commission on Judicial Performance alleged Patton had conversations about cases outside the courtroom with litigants or their attorneys. The commission said Patton also held hearings and issued orders without notifying the parties involved in the cases.

— A recommendation of a 30-day suspension without pay and public reprimand for Stone County Justice Court Judge Theresa Brown Dearman. The Mississippi Commission on Judicial Performance cited Dearman for presiding over a criminal case involving her nephew, ordering defendants to attend church as a condition of their bond and discussing cases with parties outside the courtroom.

— A recommendation of a public reprimand for Walthall County Justice Court Judge Marion McKenzie. The Mississippi Commission on Judicial Performance has alleged McKenzie fixed tickets. The commission said McKenzie disposed of a ticket for hunting over bait for the grandson of a member of the county board of supervisors. McKenzie also allegedly returned tickets to the issuing officer for the officer to help the defendant.

Click video to hear audio