Decisions – COA – Aug. 4, 2015

Ebony Crisler v. City of Crystal Springs – Tort Claims Act – Student Ebony Crisler was waiting for her father to pick her up after performing as part of the school band in a football game.  When Ebony was crossing the street, she was struck by  Crystal Springs Police Officer Jerome Leflore driving his patrol car. Ebony’s family sued under the MTCA.  The trial court found that Leflore was negligent but that his conduct did not rise to the level of reckless disregard entitling Ebony to damages.  Ebony appealed and the COA affirms.  “Here, the circuit court found Officer Leflore was negligent in the operation of the patrol car but did not find that there was evidence that Officer Leflore acted with conscious indifference when he drove in front of the school. We find that there was substantial evidence to support the circuit court’s ruling and that the decision was not manifestly wrong or clearly erroneous. As a result, we must affirm the judgment.”

Elbert Davis v. State –  sexual battery instruction – Forty-four-year-old Elbert Davis was convicted of sexual battery in connection with having sex with a ten-year-old family member.  The activity happened behind a locked door.  When another relative knocked, it took a few minutes for the door to be unlocked and Davis and the child were both putting on their clothing.  The child then told what had happened. Davis was arrested and confessed.  Davis was sentenced to time already served, followed by a term of twenty-two years and six months in the custody of  MDOC.  Davis filed a motion to suppress his statement which was denied after a hearing.  The state then moved to disallow Davis from putting on any evidence at trial about alleged promises or threats that may have induced his confession. The COA finds that this ruling was not error.

Although Davis claims that the trial court’s ruling precluded him from “presenting evidence of the circumstances to show why he was afraid” when he gave his confession, the trial court did not prohibit the introduction of such evidence. Instead, the trial judge said, “I don’t think you can ask the officer anything about whether he coerced the statement or whether it was by any kind of improper inducements . . . .” The trial judge did not indicate that Davis could not testify about any alleged coercion. As a result, we find that the trial court did not prevent Davis from presenting evidence to show that he was allegedly afraid due to alleged threats from Detective O’Neal. The trial judge merely reserved ruling on the motion and said that he would “just have to wait and hear the question.”

Davis also takes issue with a detective’s testimony that a nurse told him there was penetration.  The state argued that it was not admitted for the truth of the matter.  “Here, we agree with the trial judge and find the testimony was admitted to explain Detective O’Neal’s course of investigation. Accordingly, the trial court did not abuse its discretion in allowing the testimony.” Finally Davis argues that it was error to instruct the jury  “that the unsupported testimony of a sex[-]crime victim is sufficient to sustain a conviction if that testimony is not discredited or contradicted by other credible evidence.”   The COA finds that Davis did not object at trial and this is not plain error inasmuch as the instructions as a whole fairly instructed the jury and the complained-of instruction was not a misstatement of the law.

Lorenzo Murrill v. State –  sufficiency of the evidence/ armed robbery –  Murrill and  Rico Riley were charged with the armed robbery of a Domino’s pizza-delivery man. Riley pled guilty; Murrill was tried and convicted and sentenced  to ten years, with five years suspended and five years of probation.  A pizza delivery man delivered some pizzas to a house in Clarksdale.   According to delivery man, Murrill answered the door and asked how much whereupon he was told  $49.50.  Murrill told him to wait while he and his friend got the money.  Riley then came to the door and said, “man, you could go on . . . and let us get the pizza, man.” The delivery man told him he needed the money to take back to the store.  They tussled over the bag containing the pizza when Riley pointed a gun at the deliveryman’s head and he let go.  On appeal, Murrill argues sufficiency of the evidence.  The COA affirms.

Frederick Pritchett v. State –  sufficiency of the evidence/assault on law  enforcement –  Pritchett was an inmate at the Lauderdale County Correctional Facility being held temporarily in a booking cell for medical observation based on his complaint of chest pain.   Pritchett requested a cup of water from correctional officer McCracken.  When she brought it, Pritchett grabbed McCracken’s arm and attempted to pull her into the cell. McCracken began screaming and slammed the cell door on her arm to try to release Pritchett’s hold.  Pritchett escaped the cell and put McCracken in a choke hold. She managed to get away and call for help.  When help arrived, Pritchett insisted he had done nothing and that  McCracken had thrown water  on him.  Unfortunately for Pritchett,  entire incident was captured by a surveillance camera.   McCracken was treated for  bleeding, bruising, and a black eye.  Pritchett was convicted of assualt on a law enforcement officer and robbery (he took McCracken’s phone). On appeal he argues the evidence was insufficient.  The COA affirms.

Antwine Graves v. State –  recanting witness – Graves was convicted of murder.  He filed a pcr which was granted based on the recantation of a witness who claimed at trial to have seen the shooting but later said he did not.   A hearing was had and the trial court denied relief based on discrepancies between the witness’ testimony at the hearing and his affidavit as well as the fact that the affidavit was prepared by Graves’ attorney.  Graves attempted to raise other issues as well but was not allowed.  On appeal, the COA affirms noting that courts are suspicious of recanted testimony and that the court did not err in refusing to allow Graves to enlarge the scope of the pcr hearing.

One thought on “Decisions – COA – Aug. 4, 2015

  1. Fun fact, this is Pritchett’s second time to be featured in a published opinion in as many years. His conviction was affirmed by COA in 2014. Pritchett v. State, 134 So. 3d 857 (Miss. Ct. App. 2014).

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