Oral arg – Miss.S.Ct. – June 21, 2017 – a stop based on racial profiling?

At 10:00 the Miss.S.Ct. will hear the case of Kendall Martin v. State of Mississippi 

Martin was convicted of possession of marijuana with intent to sell as an habitual and sentenced to 60 years.   The cocaine was discovered when Martin’s vehicle was stopped on I-20 in Rankin County for ostensibly passing the fog line.    On appeal he argues that the trial court should have suppressed the evidence as the fruit of an illegal stop.  The officer who made the stop had a dashcam video.  He testified that Martin passed over the fog line prior to the video starting.  Martin argued that there was no evidence that Martin did pass over the fog line and the officer admitted that he did not make the determination to stop Martin’s car until he drove up beside him.  According to Martin, he was stopped only because the officer was racially profiling – stopping a black male with an out-of-state vehicle.  And the officer did not give him a ticket for crossing the fogline. Instead the officer questioned Martin and began to search his car whereupon he found several pounds of marijuana.

The state argues that the search was the result of the officer’s  stopping the car and “smell[ing] an overwhelming odor of air fresheners coming from it, along with the odor
of marijuana.”

Martin also argues that the court erred in finding that he was an habitual because the priors were four felonies whose sentences were concurrent and, thus, were not  “separate terms of one year or more.”
Kendall Martin brief

Kendall Martin state’s brief

Kendall Martin reply brief

After the briefs were filed, the Court asked for supplemental briefs on the following:

  • Is it a crime under Mississippi law for a motorist traveling upon the
    public streets, roads, or highways of this state to permit all or part of
    his/her vehicle to touch and/or cross a “fog line” on or near the
    pavement’s edge without evidence that the vehicle or any part of it left
    the roadway? More specifically, is the misdemeanor of careless
    driving, pursuant to Section 63-3-1213 of the Mississippi Code of 1972,
    committed when a motorist permits one or more of his/her vehicle’s
    tires to touch and/or cross such a fog line while the vehicle is in motion
    without evidence that the vehicle or any part of it left the roadway?
  • What, if any, statute, rule, or regulation of the State of Mississippi
    defines and/or requires or authorizes the placement of fog lines on the
    state’s public streets, roads, or highways?
  • What statute, if any, designates a fog line as the limit of the roadway on
    which it is permissible to drive?
  •  Should a majority of this Court decide that Kendall Martin’s having
    briefly crossed an I-20 fog line without actually leaving the roadway,
    and thereafter driving “real close” to the fog line, as described in the
    testimony of Deputy Sheriff Jason Johns, did not constitute a crime,
    what lawful justification, if any, did Deputy Johns have for the traffic
    stop in this case.
  •  Is the careless driving statute, Mississippi Code Section 63-12-1213,
    unconstitutionally vague when applied to Kendall Martin’s operation
    of the vehicle he was driving at the time of, and immediately prior to,
    his arrest in this case?
  • Was Deputy Johns’ s traffic stop of Kendall Martin’s vehicle pretextual?
    More specifically, Deputy Johns testified, “I’m assigned to Rankin
    County on the drug task force and that’s all I do.” He further testified,
    “I’ve been doing drug interdiction work pretty much my entire career.”
    He explained drug interdiction thusly: “We enforce traffic violation
    laws, and as a result of that, we try to apprehend criminals during that
    process.” Given this testimony, and the fact that Martin was not
    charged with the offense of careless driving, why should this Court not
    conclude that Johns’s “traffic stop” of Martin was anything other than
    a means to the end oflooking for illegal drugs in Martin’s vehicle and,
    therefore, pretextual?

Kendall Martin supp brief

Kendall Martin States supp brief

Watch the argument here

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