754 So.2d 497 (Miss.App. 1999), 97-KA-01625, Street v. State

Docket Nº97-KA-01625-COA.
Citation754 So.2d 497
Party NameJohn D. STREET, Jr. a/k/a John David Street, Jr., Appellant, v. STATE of Mississippi, Appellee.
Case DateSeptember 21, 1999
CourtCourt of Appeals of Mississippi

Page 497

754 So.2d 497 (Miss.App. 1999)

John D. STREET, Jr. a/k/a John David Street, Jr., Appellant,

v.

STATE of Mississippi, Appellee.

No. 97-KA-01625-COA.

Court of Appeals of Mississippi

September 21, 1999.

Rehearing Denied Dec. 14, 1999.

Certiorari Denied March 23, 2000.

Page 498

[Copyrighted Material Omitted]

Page 499

Sanford E. Knott, Jackson, Attorney for Appellant.

Office of the Attorney General by Pat S. Flynn, Attorney for Appellee.

BEFORE McMILLIN, C.J., DIAZ, AND LEE, JJ.

McMILLIN, C.J.

¶ 1. John D. Street was convicted of murder by a Greene County Circuit Court jury in the shooting death of Herbert White. Street has appealed that conviction to this Court and raises five issues that he claims warrant a reversal of his conviction. For reasons we will discuss, we determine the issues to be without merit. Therefore, this Court affirms Street's conviction and ensuing judgment of sentence.

I.

Facts

¶ 2. Herbert White was shot once in the face with a 9mm caliber weapon and his body left on a public road in rural Greene County. The incident apparently took place between 11:15 and 11:45 p.m. on January 2, 1995, since a resident of the area, Claude Dickson, testified to being awakened by the report of a gunshot at about that time. Dickson further testified that, after being awakened by the shot, he observed a vehicle turning around in his driveway. Believing that the gunshot may have been the work of persons involved in illegal deer hunting, Dickson arose, got into his truck, and pursued the vehicle with the aim of obtaining a license plate number. While in pursuit, Dickson observed White's body lying by the roadside. He was unable to obtain a license plate number from the departing vehicle, but did observe the vehicle to be a light-colored Chevrolet of a model year sometime in the 1970's. He also noted that the automobile had a visible amount of rust on the body. Dickson observed that the vehicle appeared to contain three or four individuals.

¶ 3. Dickson alerted law enforcement officers, who arrived to investigate. A deputy sheriff on the scene located and retrieved a spent bullet casing from near the area of the body. The bullet itself was subsequently recovered from White's body.

¶ 4. From Dickson's description of the vehicle, the sheriff's suspicion of possible

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involvement by Street was aroused. Acting on that suspicion, the sheriff went to Street's residence and took a photograph of a light green Chevrolet automobile showing signs of rust that was believed to be owned by Street. Apparently, however, no contact was made with Street at that time. A short time later, the sheriff, by chance, encountered Street in that same vehicle and discovered that he had painted the vehicle blue.

¶ 5. Further investigation produced information that, during the 1994 Christmas holiday season, Street had been at a friend's house firing a weapon into a tree trunk. Investigating officers recovered a number of spent shell casings from that area and also were able to dig a projectile from the tree trunk. Later forensic tests indicated that the same firearm had discharged the bullets at the house of Street's friend and the bullet that killed White.

¶ 6. Based on this information, investigating officers obtained a search warrant for Street's residence to search for a 9mm weapon. No weapon was recovered, but, during the course of the search, officers discovered and seized a number of posed photographs of individuals, including Street, displaying signs or signals associated with membership in an informal association commonly known as a "gang." They also seized a notebook containing a list of members of the gang and other information that was referred to as a "gang bible." The notebook contained information indicating that Street occupied the position of "supreme being" in that organization.

¶ 7. The investigation also revealed evidence that White and Street had been seen in each other's company on the afternoon of the same night that White was killed. Also, officers learned that White had been involved in a prior knifing incident involving a member of Street's gang by the name of James Steele, and that White had recently returned to the community after temporarily fleeing the area in fear for his safety. This information suggested to law enforcement officers that the possible motive for the killing was retaliation for the injuries White had previously inflicted on Steele.

¶ 8. The State indicted Street for murder and produced evidence at trial tending to establish the matters that we have summarized above. The jury convicted Street and he was sentenced to life in prison. His motion for post-trial relief at the trial level was denied and this appeal followed. We consider the issues raised by Street in the same order he presented them in his brief to the Court.

II.

The First Issue: An Attack on the Sufficiency of the Evidence

¶ 9. Street claims that the State failed to meet its burden of proving his guilt of the crime of murder by the necessary standard. This was a case based entirely on circumstantial evidence; therefore, the State's burden was to prove Street guilty beyond a reasonable doubt and to the exclusion of every other reasonable hypothesis consistent with innocence. Tubbs v. State, 402 So.2d 830, 834 (Miss. 1981).

¶ 10. Street argues that there were other equally plausible explanations of how White met his death that were consistent with Street's innocence. He points to evidence produced at trial that James Steele, the victim of White's earlier knifing attack, admitted to investigating officers that he was in town on the evening of the murder and was driving a vehicle that generally fit the description given by Dickson. Street suggests that this evidence, coupled with an inference that Steele might desire to avenge his earlier injuries, was sufficient to give rise to the hypothesis that Steele himself committed the murder. Alternatively, he points out...

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