Mississippi Supreme Court rules Jackson County man wrongfully convicted due money for house arrest time

Mississippi Supreme Court
Mississippi Supreme Court
Mississippi Supreme Court

JACKSON, Mississippi (AP) — The Mississippi Supreme Court has ruled the state’s program that provides compensation to inmates wrongfully convicted of crimes covers not only time behind bars but also house arrest.

The 5-4 ruling Thursday reversed a decision entered by the Supreme Court in March that denied extra compensation to Frank Sanders Tipton for the two years he served under house arrest in Jackson County.

The justices ruled then that Tipton was due $41,097 for the 300 days he was locked up. The new ruling means Tipton would eligible for an additional $100,000.

Tipton was convicted in 2007 in Jackson County on extortion charges related to his offer to pay a woman’s fines and court costs if she modeled nude for him. He was sentenced to one year in prison and two years’ house arrest.

In 2010, the Mississippi Supreme Court threw out Tipton’s conviction. The court’s majority said prosecutors had to prove under the law that Tipton was an “employee of any contractor providing incarceration services,” which Tipton was not. Tipton worked for a company that had contracted with the city of Gulfport to monitor misdemeanor offenders.

Tipton applied for and was qualified for money from the state’s wrongly convicted compensation fund. He sued in Jackson County Circuit Court when the state refused to pay him both the 300 days he was behind bars and the two years he was under house arrest.

A Jackson County judge ruled for the state in 2013 and Tipton appealed to the Supreme Court.

The justices, in a 5-3 decision, denied Tipton’s appeal.

“The compensation statutes allow for compensation for each year of ‘imprisonment’ or ‘incarceration,’ which plainly means time spent in an actual prison,” said Justice Josiah D. Coleman.

Coleman said house arrest is considered an “alternative to incarceration” and is not covered by the compensation law.

But Justice Jim Kitchens said under house arrest, Tipton could not change his place of residence without correctional officer approval, his home was subject to inspection and search without warning or warrant, and he was required to submit to random drug and alcohol tests and to remain at his home except to go to work or perform community service.

“House arrest unarguably is a restraint upon the liberty of an individual. It entails confinement and restriction to which a ‘free world’ American is not subjected. Tipton’s liberty was restrained in multiple ways, including his being required to remain either at home or at work,” Kitchens said.

Kitchens said Tipton was imprisoned under house arrest “in the same way that he would have been at an MDOC facility, and that he should be compensated for that imprisonment because he was put there wrongfully.”