Decisions – Miss.S.Ct. – Sept. 11. 2014

Fulton v. Statesufficiency of the indictment for receiving stolen goods – this case is on cert from the Court of Appeals.  Fulton was charged with unlawful possession of stolen goods after he allegedly tried to sell truck battery box covers to Columbus Scrap in Columbus, Mississippi. The battery boxes had been reporting missing after a break-in at Sobley Excavating also in Columbus. The indictment described the goods as “tractor batteries, battery cables, mack truck batteries, and aluminum wheels” with a value over $500. Ten days before trial, the court granted the state’s motion to amend the indictment to replace the description of the goods with the following:  “tractor battery box covers and mack truck battery box covers”.  The Miss.S.Ct. reverses and vacates the conviction.  The amendment was one of substance and not form since it did not supplement the earlier description but completely changed it.  Furthermore, neither the original indictment nor the amended indictment was sufficient to provide proper notice.   “‘It is essential, in an indictment for receiving stolen property, to describe the property with the same particularity as is required in an indictment for larceny.’ Wells v. State, 43 So. 610, 611 (Miss. 1907).”

In Rutherford v. State,  17 So.2d 803, 804 (Miss. 1944), the Court held that an indictment for a “quantity of clover seed” was so vague as to be fatally defective.   While clover seed might be hard to describe, it should have at least included the weight or quantity of the seed.  In Nguyen v. State, 761 So.2d 873, 876-77 (Miss. 2000), the Court held that the description “114 items, including televisions, C.D. players, VCR’s, cameras, tools and microwaves,” “was fatally defective.
Because ‘[t]he indictment does not describe how many individual TV’s, VCR’s, cameras, tools or microwaves were received.'”  The same holds true here.

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