Brown v. State

Decision Date10 December 2020
Docket NumberNO. 2018-DR-01256-SCT,2018-DR-01256-SCT
Citation306 So.3d 719
Parties Joseph Patrick BROWN a/k/a Peanut v. STATE of Mississippi
CourtMississippi Supreme Court



¶1. The motion for rehearing filed by Joseph Patrick Brown is denied. The previous opinions are withdrawn, and the following opinions are substituted.

¶2. Joseph Patrick Brown has been on death row since his conviction for capital murder in Adams County in 1994. The jury found that Brown shot and killed a convenience-store clerk during a robbery.

¶3. Brown has now filed a successive petition for post-conviction relief in which he raises numerous issues. Most of the claims raised at this point are subject to the time bar, the successive-writ bar, and/or are barred by res judicata. The remaining issue is without merit. The successive petition is therefore denied.


¶4. Martha Day worked as a cashier at the Charter Food Store in Natchez. She was found dead on the floor in the early morning hours of August 8, 1992. She had been shot four times. The store's cash register had been stolen.

¶5. In the days following the murder, police were able to locate a marked $2 bill that had been in the store's cash register at the time of the crime and a .22 caliber revolver that had been sold to a bar owner shortly after the shooting. Both items were traced back to Rachel Walker. Upon questioning, Walker implicated her boyfriend, Joseph "Peanut" Brown. When he was arrested, Brown exclaimed to police that "you got me for driving the car."

¶6. Walker, who by then had pled guilty to accessory after the fact, testified at trial that she and Brown spent the night of August 7 and 8 partying and driving around the Natchez area smoking crack cocaine. She stated that they stopped at the Charter Food Store and that Brown went inside the store. She testified that she saw Brown and Day at the store counter and that Day clutched her chest and fell to the ground. Brown then exited the store with the cash register. He placed the register and a pistol on the seat of the vehicle. He told Walker not to tell anyone what had happened. Walker testified that Brown gave her the $2 bill and the gun and told her to procure more cocaine.

¶7. The State's firearms expert was unable to testify definitively that the bullets removed from the body at the autopsy had come from the .22 caliber revolver sold by Walker. But he was able to testify that the projectiles bore class characteristics that were consistent with the gun; they were the same caliber, had the same number of lands and grooves, and had the same direction of twist.

¶8. While incarcerated in the Adams County jail, Brown and Walker wrote each other a series of letters. Brown repeatedly told Walker not to talk to the police about the killing. Among other incriminating statements, Brown said, "All we have to do is stay with our story Baby. We don't know nothing and we was uptown from 11:30 until the next morning ... Don't let me down ... Do this for me Baby."

¶9. Finally, the State called Larry Bernard who had been jailed on the same cell block with Brown. Bernard testified that Brown confessed to him that he had robbed the store and had shot Day.


¶10. After Brown was convicted and sentenced to death by a jury, his conviction and death sentence were affirmed on direct appeal in Brown v. State , 682 So. 2d 340 (Miss. 1996) ( Brown I ), disagreed with by Portis v. State , 245 So. 3d 457 (Miss. 2018). This Court initially granted Brown's first petition for post-conviction relief on a limited issue of ineffective assistance of trial counsel. Brown v. State , 749 So. 2d 82, 93 (Miss. 1999) ( Brown II ).1 Upon remand, the trial judge found that the attorneys had not been ineffective, and this Court affirmed. Brown v. State , 88 So. 3d 726 (Miss. 2012) ( Brown III ). Thereafter, Brown filed motions in which he argued that he was entitled to engage in discovery in the trial court before filing a second petition for post-conviction relief. The requests for discovery were denied. Brown v. State , 255 So. 3d 141 (Miss. 2017) ( Brown IV ).

¶11. On July 21, 2015, Brown filed his Notice of Intent to File a Successive Petition for Post-Conviction Relief. He filed his successive petition in September of 2018.


¶12. Brown raises numerous issues in his petition. In its response, the State argues that most of Brown's claims are procedurally barred. "Direct appeal [is] the principal means of reviewing all criminal convictions and sentences." Miss. Code Ann. § 99-39-3(2) (Rev. 2015). Review at this stage, with some exceptions, is limited to issues that could not or should not have been raised at trial and in the direct appeal. Miss. Code Ann. § 99-39-3(2) ; Brown v. State , 798 So. 2d 481, 491 (Miss. 2001). Relief is warranted if the petitioner is able to demonstrate that the claims "are not procedurally barred and ... make a substantial showing of the denial of a state or federal right." Grayson v. State , 118 So. 3d 118, 125 (Miss. 2013) (quoting Havard v. State , 86 So. 3d 896, 899 (Miss. 2012) ).

¶13. Several statutory bars apply. First, the mandate in Brown's direct appeal issued in October 1996. The successive petition was filed in September 2018. This filing is subject to the one-year time bar. Miss. Code Ann. § 99-39-5(2)(b) (Rev. 2015); see also Jordan v. State , 213 So. 3d 40, 42 (Miss. 2016) ; Havard v. State , 86 So. 3d 896, 899 (Miss. 2012). The failure to raise post-conviction claims within the one-year period amounts to a waiver of potential relief unless the petitioner can meet an exception to the time bar. M.R.A.P. 22(c)(5)(I) ; Jordan , 213 So. 3d at 42. Unless Brown can show that his claims are excepted, the petition is barred.

¶14. Second, Brown's initial petition for post-conviction relief was ultimately denied in Brown II and Brown III . Brown's second petition is subject to the successive-writ bar set out in Mississippi Code Section 99-39-27(9) (Rev. 2015). Absent an applicable exception, a successive motion for post-conviction relief is procedurally barred. Rowland v. State , 42 So. 3d 503, 507 (Miss. 2010).

¶15. Some of the claims argued by Brown have been raised in prior proceedings. As to the res judicata bar, this Court has stated that

"Rephrasing direct appeal issues for post-conviction purposes will not defeat the procedural bar of res judicata. The Petitioner carries the burden of demonstrating that his claim is not procedurally barred." Howard v. State , 945 So. 2d 326, 353 (Miss. 2006) (quoting Jackson v. State , 860 So. 2d 653, 660–61 (Miss. 2003) ; Lockett v. State , 614 So. 2d 888, 893 (Miss. 1992) ). In Grayson v. State , 118 So. 3d 118 (Miss. 2013), the Court held that the petitioner's second attempt to argue that trial counsel had been ineffective in presenting in the sentencing phase "has been considered and rejected and, therefore, his claims are barred by the doctrine of res judicata." Id. at 141. In Brawner v. State , 166 So. 3d 22, 23 (Miss. 2012), the Court declined to revisit claims that previously had been addressed. The Court held that "these claims have been substantially reviewed in prior proceedings and are now procedurally barred and barred by the doctrine of res judicata ."

Jordan , 213 So. 3d at 42. Res judicata also extends to those claims that could have been raised in prior proceedings but were not. Ronk v. State , 267 So. 3d 1239, 1288 (Miss. 2019) ; Little v. V. & G Welding Supply, Inc. , 704 So. 2d 1336, 1337-38 (Miss. 1997).

¶16. Brown raises fifteen issues in his successive petition:

I. Prosecutors knowingly used false testimony .

¶17. Larry Bernard testified that he had been jailed with Brown in the summer of 1993. He claimed that Brown confessed to him. According to Bernard, Brown told him that on the night of the crime, Brown had been using cocaine with Rachel Walker and others. Bernard testified that Brown said that he and Walker had driven to Charter Food Store, that he had pulled a gun on the lady in the store, and that he had shot her three or four times.

¶18. In his successive petition, Brown claims that other parts of Bernard's testimony were false, that the State knew Bernard was testifying untruthfully, and that the State knowingly put on false evidence. The United States Supreme Court has held that "a State may not knowingly use false evidence, including false testimony, to obtain a tainted conviction." Napue v. Illinois , 360 U.S. 264, 269, 79 S. Ct. 1173, 3 L.Ed. 2d 1217 (1959). A state's knowing use of false evidence constitutes a violation of the Fourteenth Amendment. Id. at 269, 272, 79 S. Ct. 1173 ; United States v. Agurs , 427 U.S. 97, 96 S. Ct. 2392, 49 L.Ed. 2d 342 (1976) ; Manning v. State , 884 So. 2d 717, 722 (Miss. 2004).

¶19. The claims raised here are subject to the procedural bars outlined above. Brown makes no attempt to argue that these issues could not have been raised in the initial post-conviction proceedings or at any other time since his direct appeal in 1996. Thus, these claims have been waived and are barred.

¶20. As to the merits, Bernard testified that at the time of Brown's jailhouse confession, he was being held on a $10,000 bond, that his mother later posted bond for him when she found out he was in jail, and that he received no favorable treatment for his cooperation with the State. Brown now alleges that Bernard's bond was actually $50,000 and that the State got Brown's bond reduced in exchange for favorable testimony. Brown relies on documents from the Adams County Sheriff's Office that indicate that Bernard's bond had initially been set at $50,000. In response, the State has shown that Bernard's bond had been reduced to $10,000 in May of 1993 when the case had been transferred from justice court to circuit court and when Brown's case had been bound over to the grand jury. The bond reduction predated any contact between Bernard and the State about the confession.

¶21. Brown also claims that...

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