Edwards v. State

Decision Date13 September 2001
Docket NumberNo. 1999-KA-01487-SCT.,1999-KA-01487-SCT.
Citation800 So.2d 454
PartiesAnthony J. EDWARDS a/k/a Anthony Jerome Edwards v. STATE of Mississippi.
CourtMississippi Supreme Court

Ross Parker Simons, Attorney for Appellant.

Office of the Attorney General by W. Glenn Watts, Jackson, Attorneys for Appellee.

Before BANKS, P.J., SMITH and EASLEY, JJ.

EASLEY, J., for the Court:

STATEMENT OF THE CASE

¶ 1. On January 19, 1999, Anthony Jerome Edwards ("Edwards") was tried by a jury in the Circuit Court of Jackson County, Mississippi, the Honorable Kathy King Jackson, presiding, for the crime of burglary of a dwelling. Edwards was convicted by the jury and sentenced by the court to serve a term of twenty-five (25) years as a habitual offender pursuant to Miss.Code Ann. § 99-19-81 (2000). From that conviction and sentence, Edwards appealed to this Court and raises the following issues.

STATEMENT OF THE ISSUES
I. WHETHER EDWARDS'S CONVICTION FOR BURGLARY OF A DWELLING MUST BE REVERSED BECAUSE:
A. THE STATUTES USED TO UNDERGIRD EDWARDS'S CONVICTION ARE UNCONSTITUTIONALLY VAGUE IN THEIR USE OF LANGUAGE TO DEFINE WHAT CONSTITUTES A DWELLING.
B. THE PROOF WAS INSUFFICIENT AS A MATTER OF LAW TO SHOW THAT EDWARDS COMMITTED THE CRIME OF BURGLARY OF A DWELLING BECAUSE THE STATE DID NOT PROVE THAT EDWARDS ENTERED A DWELLING, AN ESSENTIAL ELEMENT OF THE CRIME. CONSEQUENTLY THE TRIAL COURT ERRED IN DENYING EDWARDS'S REQUEST FOR A JNOV.
C. THE VERDICT OF GUILTY OF BURGLARY OF A DWELLING WAS AGAINST THE OVERWHELMING WEIGHT OF THE EVIDENCE ADDUCED AT EDWARDS'S TRIAL, AS THE SHED HE WAS CONVICTED OF ENTERING PROVIDED NO INGRESS TO THE DWELLING WHICH WAS THE SUBJECT
OF THE INDICTED BURGLARY. CONSEQUENTLY, THE TRIAL COURT ABUSED ITS DISCRETION IN DENYING THE MOTION FOR A DIRECTED VERDICT, A REQUEST FOR A PEREMPTORY INSTRUCTION (D-1) AND A MOTION FOR A NEW TRIAL.
II. THE TRIAL COURT ERRED IN DENYING EDWARDS HIS RIGHT TO REPRESENT HIMSELF, AS GUARANTEED BY ARTICLE 3, SECTION 26 OF THE MISSISSIPPI CONSTITUTION AND THE SIXTH AND FOURTEENTH AMENDMENTS TO THE UNITED STATES CONSTITUTION. THE TRIAL COURT'S RULING WAS CLEARLY ERRONEOUS AS IT APPLIED THE INCORRECT STANDARD OF LEGAL COMPETENCE, RATHER THAN THE CORRECT STANDARD OF MENTAL COMPETENCE, IN DENYING EDWARDS THIS RIGHT.
III. IN THAT HE WAS SENTENCED TO SERVE A TERM OF 25 YEARS IN THE MDOC FOR ENTERING A SHED TO STEAL A FISHING POLE, EDWARDS IS ENTITLED TO A PROPORTIONALITY ANALYSIS AS DICTATED BY SOLEM v. HELM. UNDER THIS ANALYSIS, HIS SENTENCE FAILS TO COMPORT WITH ARTICLE 3, SECTION 28 OF THE MISSISSIPPI CONSTITUTION AND THE EIGHTH AND FOURTEENTH AMENDMENTS TO THE UNITED STATES CONSTITUTION.
IV. EDWARDS WAS PUNISHED WITH THE MAXIMUM SENTENCE POSSIBLE FOR PROCEEDING TO TRIAL, RATER THAN ENTERING A PLEA OF GUILTY TO THESE CHARGES, IN VIOLATION OF THE FIFTH, SIXTH AND FOURTEENTH AMENDMENTS TO THE UNITED STATES CONSTITUTION, AS WELL AS ARTICLE 3, SECTIONS 14, 16 AND 31 OF THE MISSISSIPPI CONSTITUTION.

FACTS

¶ 2. Bo Howell ("Howell), the victim, stated that on June 12, 1997, he heard his dog barking. Howell had hung the lock on the door latch that night. At the time Howell left the shed, he had turned the light off, shut the door and placed the lock on the hasp. From his kitchen window, Howell saw a light on in the utility room about ten to twelve feet away. The door was open to the utility shed. Howell opened a door that leads to the carport, which was two to three feet away from the utility shed. The kitchen door leads out to the breezeway and the utility door just a few steps away. When Howell opened the door, a young man ran away and grabbed a bicycle parked behind Howell's car. A few fishing spinning reels were stacked by the utility door. Earlier that evening Howell's son had placed the reels over the rafters in the utility room. A big boiler pot that had been hanging up in the utility room was also by the reels. Howell did not get a good look at the young man's face. Howell's son heard him hollering and woke-up.

¶ 3. Howell reviewed a number of exhibits depicting his house, the breezeway and the utility room. Later, Howell gave the police a statement. Howell described that the utility room is attached to the rest of the house connected by the same roof line. The utility building and the house were framed together. There is a breezeway between the two but it is all connected. Everything was built together as one unit.

¶ 4. Derrick Bonds ("Bonds"), Howell's neighbor, testified that he lives one house away from Howell. About 2:30 a.m. Bonds heard his dogs and other neighborhood dogs barking as he was getting ready to go to work. He went inside to get his lunch box and when he came out of the house again, he saw Howell's porch light on and a man running. He heard Howell hollering at the man. Then, Bonds observed the man run by Howell's truck, take a bike and go onto Woodlawn Street. The man turned onto Oakwood Street and then turned onto Danzler Street. The man was black, wearing a dark-colored shirt and blue jeans and had a ten speed bicycle. Approximately ten minutes after seeing the man, Bonds identified the man for the police on Danzler Street. Bonds could not identify the face of the man, but he identified the bicycle and the clothing of the man that ran from Howell's house.

¶ 5. Brian Montgomery ("Officer Montgomery"), a captain in the Moss Point Police Department, testified that he received a dispatch call for a burglary in progress at the corner of Oakwood and Woodlawn Streets. The suspect was described as being a black male wearing a purple shirt and blue jeans and riding a bicycle toward the high school. The officer could see Danzler Street from his car. Officer Montgomery waited on Stonewall Street approximately five minutes and saw a person on a bicycle turn from Danzler Street to Stonewall Street. Officer Montgomery turned on his car lights and drove toward the bicyclist. The bicyclist made a U-turn to Danzler Street as soon as Officer Montgomery turned on his headlights. The officer stopped the bicyclist at about 2:47 a.m. The bicyclist was wearing clothing that was almost identical to the description dispatched on the radio.

¶ 6. Officer Montgomery identified the defendant, Edwards, as the man on the bicycle and stopped by him. Bonds came to the scene approximately ten minutes later and told another officer, Cushman, that Edwards was the person leaving the house.

¶ 7. Chuck Coleman ("Officer Coleman"), a Moss Point police officer, testified that he interviewed Edwards concerning a burglary that occurred on June 12, 1997, on Woodlawn Avenue in Jackson County. Edwards told him that he saw a light on in a utility type room attached to the house, touched some rods and reels, saw the homeowner, ran and was later stopped by police. The officer read his interview with Edwards into the record. The police read and Edwards signed a Miranda form. Edwards stated that he saw the carport light on, walked into the open door of the shed, touched the rods, and left when a man came out of the house. Later, Edwards stated that he "grabbed" the rods. Edwards stated that he was trying to "make a little hustle" and was going to sell the rods at the flea market for money.

LEGAL ANALYSIS

I. WHETHER EDWARDS'S CONVICTION FOR BURGLARY OF A DWELLING MUST BE REVERSED.

A. THE STATUTES USED TO UNDERGIRD EDWARDS'S CONVICTION ARE UNCONSTITUTIONALLY VAGUE IN THEIR USE OF LANGUAGE TO DEFINE WHAT CONSTITUTES A DWELLING.

¶ 8. Edwards was indicted and found guilty under Miss.Code Ann. § 97-17-23 (2000) for burglary of a dwelling. This crime carries a maximum sentence of twenty-five (25) years. The statute reads as follows:

Every person who shall be convicted of breaking and entering the dwelling house or inner door of such dwelling house of another, whether armed with a deadly weapon or not, and whether there shall be at the time some human being in such dwelling house or not, with intent to commit some crime therein, shall be punished by imprisonment in the Penitentiary not less than three (3) years nor more than twenty-five (25) years.

Miss.Code Ann. § 97-17-23 (2000). The definition of a dwelling house is defined in Miss.Code Ann. § 97-17-31 (2000) as follows:

Every building joined to, immediately connected with, or being part of the dwelling house, shall be deemed the dwelling house.

In comparison, burglary of a non-dwelling, other than a house of worship, carries a maximum sentence of seven (7) years. Miss.Code Ann. § 97-17-33(1) (2000) reads as follows:

(1) Every person who shall be convicted of breaking and entering, in the day or night, any shop, store, booth, tent, warehouse, or other building or private room or office therein, water vessel, commercial or pleasure craft, ship, steamboat, flatboat, railroad car, automobile, truck or trailer in which any goods, merchandise, equipment or valuable thing shall be kept for use, sale, deposit, or transportation, with intent to steal therein, or to commit any felony, or who shall be convicted of breaking and entering in the day or night time, any building within the curtilage of a dwelling house, not joined to, immediately connected with or forming a part thereof, shall be guilty of burglary, and imprisoned in the penitentiary not more than seven (7) years.

¶ 9. Edwards asserts that he did not commit the crime of burglary of a dwelling. He claims that entry into a utility storage shed connected to the dwelling by a common roof and having no direct ingress to the house does not constitute burglary of a dwelling. Edwards also argues that Miss Code Ann. § 97-17-31, the statute defining dwelling house, is unconstitutionally vague. In specific, he contends that the phrases chosen by the Mississippi Legislature to distinguish an outbuilding from a dwelling creates a statutory scheme that is unconstitutionally vague. Edwards claims that the phrases contained within the statute of "joined to", "immediately connected with" a...

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