Ashford v. State, No. 90-KA-0233

CourtMississippi Supreme Court
Writing for the CourtROBERTSON; ROY NOBLE LEE; McRAE; McRAE
Citation583 So.2d 1279
Docket NumberNo. 90-KA-0233
Decision Date03 July 1991
PartiesHerbert Ray ASHFORD v. STATE of Mississippi.

Page 1279

583 So.2d 1279
Herbert Ray ASHFORD
v.
STATE of Mississippi.
No. 90-KA-0233.
Supreme Court of Mississippi.
July 3, 1991.

Mark G. Williamson, Ward & Williamson, Starkville, for appellant.

Mike C. Moore, Atty. Gen., Jackson, for appellee.

Page 1280

Before HAWKINS, P.J., and ROBERTSON and SULLIVAN, JJ.

ROBERTSON, Justice, for the Court:

I.

Today's appeal challenges that we take seriously that constitutionally-mandated and often controversial rule that no person shall be convicted of a crime save the evidence establish his guilt beyond a reasonable doubt. The case for the prosecution in this sale of cocaine case rests solely on the eyewitness identification of a paid confidential informant. Major discrepancies between the description the informant gave immediately after the sale--and stood by at trial--and the Defendant's undeniable physical appearance generate a reasonable doubt which no fair-minded juror could ignore.

We reverse and render.

II.

Herbert Ashford, age thirty-seven, lives in Meridian. He has never been convicted of a felony. The afternoon of July 25, 1989, was a hot one. Ashford was visiting some friends at the Brooksville Garden Apartments in Starkville. A number of persons were milling around outside, dressed lightly, their number estimated between a half a dozen and two dozen. Ashford says he was outside Building No. 8 drinking beer, talking to some girls, when Mississippi Bureau of Narcotics (MBN) Agent Charlie McVey, whom Ashford knew, drove by and called out to him that he could not have the beer outside. Indisputably, Ashford is six feet tall, and he says at the time he weighed about 184 pounds.

Some six weeks later--on September 6, 1989, to be exact--MBN Agent Mike Arledge arrested Ashford at the same location and charged him with the sale of cocaine. It seems that several months earlier Arledge, McVey, and Todd Salmon, a narcotics officer with the Starkville Police Department, had determined that there was substantial illegal drug activity at the Brooksville Garden Apartments. On July 25, the three officers decided that Thetret Murray, a paid confidential informant who had previously worked the Columbus area, should be sent to the apartments to try to make a buy. Murray was equipped with a body microphone, and he drove to the apartments alone. Murray says he proceeded to Building 8, where a number of people were standing around. He says a black male, about five feet six inches tall and weighing about 130 pounds, wearing greenish-blue knee length shorts, white tennis shoes and a white tee shirt, approached him.

Murray asked about getting some "weed," meaning marijuana. The man said there was none but that he could get him a quarter's worth of rock. The man went around the building and returned in a few moments with a "thirty dollar rock," which Murray purchased. Murray purchased the rock with MBN marked funds--two twenty dollar bills--for which he received ten dollars change. As Murray walked away, he described into his body microphone his seller as being a black male, wearing a white tee shirt, white tennis shoes, and greenish-blue knee length shorts. Murray got into his car and drove away. Hearing this, McVey, Arledge and Salmon drove by the area some two to five minutes later, at which time McVey saw Ashford and had the brief conversation with him. McVey says Ashford fit the clothing description Murray had given.

A short time later, Murray met with the three agents and delivered the cocaine to them, and it was in turn sent to the crime lab for chemical analysis. More importantly, Murray made an unequivocal report that his seller was approximately five feet six inches tall and weighed 130 pounds. MBN paid Murray $100.00 for his services.

Murray stuck by this description through trial--some six months later--when it appeared that Ashford, in fact, was six feet tall and weighed 184 pounds. Notwithstanding, Murray made a positive in-court identification. McVey, who had known Ashford for some time, attempted to rehabilitate Murray regarding his estimate of Ashford's weight, McVey saying that when

Page 1281

he saw Ashford on the hot July afternoon, he was more slender than he was at trial, that he was just skin and bones. At trial, defense counsel asked Murray to stand beside Ashford. Murray described himself as being five feet seven inches tall, weighing 155 pounds.

No other person witnessed the sale, nor was there any physical evidence linking Ashford to it. The marked MBN funds were not recovered nor was any other evidence offered at trial from which it might be inferred that Ashford was a drug dealer. Notwithstanding, the jury convicted Ashford, and the Circuit Court sentenced him to ten years imprisonment. Ashford appeals, challenging inter alia the sufficiency of the evidence against him.

III.

Ashford's issue presents a question of law, the parameters of which are well...

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23 practice notes
  • Flora v. State, No. 2004-KA-00634-SCT.
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of Mississippi
    • 19 Enero 2006
    ...to the verdict, no reasonable, hypothetical juror could find beyond a reasonable doubt the defendant was guilty." Ashford v. State, 583 So.2d 1279, 1281 ¶ 82. In Carr v. State, 208 So.2d 886, 889 (Miss.1968), we stated that in considering whether the evidence is sufficient to sustain a conv......
  • Baine v. State, No. 89-KA-0794
    • United States
    • Mississippi Supreme Court
    • 10 Junio 1992
    ...878, 889 (Miss.1991); Sudduth v. State, 562 So.2d 67, 70 (Miss.1990); Byrd v. State, 522 So.2d 756, 760 (Miss.1988); Ashford v. State, 583 So.2d 1279, 1282 (Miss.1991) (McRae, J., dissenting). Under the revised Rule 803(4), Mississippi trial courts may engage in a discretionary determinatio......
  • Farris v. State, No. 98-KA-00600-SCT.
    • United States
    • Mississippi Supreme Court
    • 8 Junio 2000
    ...most favorable to the prosecution, accepting all credible evidence consistent with the verdict as 764 So.2d 436 true. Ashford v. State, 583 So.2d 1279, 1281 ¶ 93. Matters regarding the weight and credibility of the evidence must be resolved by the jury. Fisher v. State, 481 So.2d 203, 212 (......
  • Tanner v. State, No. 98-KA-00008-SCT.
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of Mississippi
    • 4 Mayo 2000
    ...the exercise of impartial judgment might reach different conclusions, the jury's verdict should be allowed to stand." Ashford v. State, 583 So.2d 1279, 1281 ¶ 84. In the present case, sufficient evidence was presented to the jury to support a conviction of guilty. On March 5, 1997, the day ......
  • Request a trial to view additional results
23 cases
  • Flora v. State, No. 2004-KA-00634-SCT.
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of Mississippi
    • 19 Enero 2006
    ...to the verdict, no reasonable, hypothetical juror could find beyond a reasonable doubt the defendant was guilty." Ashford v. State, 583 So.2d 1279, 1281 ¶ 82. In Carr v. State, 208 So.2d 886, 889 (Miss.1968), we stated that in considering whether the evidence is sufficient to sustain a......
  • Baine v. State, No. 89-KA-0794
    • United States
    • Mississippi Supreme Court
    • 10 Junio 1992
    ...878, 889 (Miss.1991); Sudduth v. State, 562 So.2d 67, 70 (Miss.1990); Byrd v. State, 522 So.2d 756, 760 (Miss.1988); Ashford v. State, 583 So.2d 1279, 1282 (Miss.1991) (McRae, J., dissenting). Under the revised Rule 803(4), Mississippi trial courts may engage in a discretionary determinatio......
  • Farris v. State, No. 98-KA-00600-SCT.
    • United States
    • Mississippi Supreme Court
    • 8 Junio 2000
    ...most favorable to the prosecution, accepting all credible evidence consistent with the verdict as 764 So.2d 436 true. Ashford v. State, 583 So.2d 1279, 1281 ¶ 93. Matters regarding the weight and credibility of the evidence must be resolved by the jury. Fisher v. State, 481 So.2d 203, 212 (......
  • Tanner v. State, No. 98-KA-00008-SCT.
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of Mississippi
    • 4 Mayo 2000
    ...exercise of impartial judgment might reach different conclusions, the jury's verdict should be allowed to stand." Ashford v. State, 583 So.2d 1279, 1281 ¶ 84. In the present case, sufficient evidence was presented to the jury to support a conviction of guilty. On March 5, 1997, the day......
  • Request a trial to view additional results

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