Hoops v. State

Decision Date22 August 1996
Docket NumberNo. 93-KA-00530-SCT,93-KA-00530-SCT
Citation681 So.2d 521
PartiesTimothy HOOPS v. STATE of Mississippi.
CourtMississippi Supreme Court

David Michael Ishee, Lang & Ishee, Pascagoula, for Appellant.

Michael C. Moore, Attorney General, Scott Stuart, Sp. Asst. Attorney General, Jackson, for Appellee.

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

SULLIVAN, Presiding Justice, for the Court:

This case entails another unfortunate instance of street violence involving the youth of our communities. The community in this story is Pascagoula. During the evening of November 23, 1991, between 7:00 and 8:00 p.m., Lorenzo Bell, Rube Henry Webb, and several other young men were walking away from the Seacove apartments. All the men in the group were black. As they were walking, a car drove past them repeatedly. Timothy Hoops and Ronnie Anderson were in the car. Hoops is white and Anderson is black. After passing the group the third time, the car stopped and a group of six or seven young men got out and approached Bell and the others. Hoops and Anderson were in the group. As Bell and company were walking, Anderson came up to Bell and said, "what's up." At that point, Anderson drew a gun and shot Bell in his calf. This was followed by a round of five to seven more shots from other members in Anderson's group. Hoops also had a gun and was seen shooting along with Anderson. Webb was struck in the arm by one of the bullets.

Hoops claimed that he was not present at the shooting. At trial, he offered his mother as an alibi witness. She told the court that Hoops had been with her during the entire evening of November 23, 1991.

STATEMENT OF THE LAW
I.

THE TRIAL COURT ERRED IN OVERRULING MR. HOOPS'S MOTION TO QUASH/DISMISS THE INDICTMENT BASED ON JUDGE BILL JONES'S SUPPLEMENTAL CHARGE TO THE APRIL, 1992, GRAND JURY.

During the empaneling of the April 1992, Jackson County Grand Jury, Judge William B. Jones made a supplemental charge to the jurors. Before the commencement of trial, Hoops's attorney filed a motion to quash the indictment. Hoops claimed that Judge Jones's comments improperly targeted him for investigation and denounced him individually, thereby tainting the grand jury and its subsequent indictment. 1 The challenged charge expressed the following:

I want to instruct the grand jury to pay close attention to any gang related crimes, especially involving illegal drugs. It's this Court's belief that fully eighty (80) percent of our crime on the streets originates either or indirectly from the illegal use of drugs.

This nation has always been justly proud of our open borders but the Federal Government has failed to protect its citizens from the importation of cocaine into this country. Our borders are like leaking sieves. Our local youth have had access to cocaine and crack cocaine, which is highly addictive. It has made some of them "crazies", who lose contact with reality and think nothing of shooting innocent people on the street, in their car, or shooting into someone's home.

Every citizen in the county is justly entitled to have safe passage and to drive in any area of Jackson County without fear of being harmed.

Be watchful during your deliberations to do your best to help our law enforcement officers to prevent any of these "crazies" from taking over our streets through fear. Let's get the "crazies" with guns off the streets.

Hoops contends that the trial judge usurped his power by directly, or indirectly, drawing the grand jury's attention to his case in direct contradiction to Blau v. State, 82 Miss. 514, 34 So. 153 (1903). In Blau, this Court stated the following:

In directing the attention of the grand jury to particular offenses or classes of offenses, to crime and the necessity of suppressing it, a very large, necessary, and useful discretion is conferred upon the presiding judge, and this court will not undertake to control that discretion unless manifestly abused.

Blau, 82 Miss. at 521, 34 So. at 156. Such abuse exists where the trial judge denounces individuals or specifically directs the grand jury's attention to any named person. Fuller v. State, 85 Miss. 199, 204, 37 So. 749, 750 (1905). In fact, it is not necessary that the individual's name be mentioned by the trial judge as long as there is no question that the charge specifically targeted the indictee. See Necaise v. Logan, 341 So.2d 91, 93 (Miss.1976).

Hoops was seventeen years old at the time the Jackson County Grand Jury heard this matter. According to Hoops, only two other cases involving minors were presented to this grand jury, and therefore, the class of youthful offenders was so small that any reference to them would bring unwarranted attention to their respective cases. Hoops additionally claims that Judge Jones's comment about "crazies with guns" brought unfair attention to his case because he was charged with a crime that involved a handgun.

The State counters that the supplemental charge did not unfairly target Hoops for indictment. The State chiefly relies upon Fuller, to support its contention. In Fuller, the trial judge expressly mentioned the indictee's name to the grand jury. In sustaining the motion to quash, this Court clarified the scope of a trial judge's discretion when supplementing a charge to a grand jury and stated the following:

The circuit judge is vested with power to specifically call the attention of grand jurors to all statutes which the public interest may require shall be brought to the consideration of the grand jury. This grant of power carries with it the authority to decide what class of offenses the public interest demands shall receive special attention by the grand jury. And in deciding this the circuit judge must necessarily be guided, to a great extent, by his knowledge of the social conditions as they exist in each county at the time when the grand jury is impaneled therein.... It would be folly to hold that a circuit judge should not be permitted to charge the grand jury in reference to a particular class of crimes, for the reason that such charge might have the effect of directing the attention of the grand jury to the individuals who are guilty of the crimes. In truth, this is the object at which the charge to the grand jury is aimed, the purpose which it hopes to effect.

Fuller, 85 Miss. at 203-04, 37 So. at 750 (emphasis added).

In the instant case, the trial judge did no more than direct the grand jury's attention to a specific class of crimes that he felt was worthy of special attention. He did not focus on one particular crime; rather, he focused on a troublesome situation in the community that spawned various serious crimes. That Hoops coincidentally fell into one of the crimes that the trial judge highlighted for scrutiny does not mean that the trial judge individually singled him out for indictment. Our jurisprudence does not prohibit the isolation of classes of crimes, only the isolation of specific individuals.

The trial judge also made no indirect reference to Hoops as forbidden in Necaise, supra. That case involved a district attorney's attempt to expunge a portion of a trial judge's supplemental grand jury charge. The trial judge charged the grand jury "that citizens had 'represented to the Court' that the district attorney had 'failed and refused to prosecute and investigate....' " Necaise, 341 So.2d at 93. Necaise argued that the charge singled him as a target for grand jury action and this Court agreed. The case at bar is quite different. The trial judge's remarks about the district attorney in Necaise could only be directed at a specific person: district attorney Necaise. Nothing, however, suggests that Judge Jones's charge was specifically directed at Hoops, the individual; rather, Judge Jones's charge was specifically directed at a class of crimes.

Wheeler v. State, 219 Miss. 129, 63 So.2d 517 (1953), cert. denied, 346 U.S. 852, 74 S.Ct. 67, 98 L.Ed. 367 (1953), is also quite instructive on this subject. That case dealt with a murder conviction in connection with the shooting deaths of two Hattiesburg policemen by Wheeler and another individual. The defendants were not from Hattiesburg. In appealing the murder conviction, Wheeler complained that the trial judge's charge coerced the grand jury into returning an indictment against him. The challenged charge read as follows:

I am informed, and it is no use for a man to stick his head in the sand like an ostrich and try to dodge, I am informed that recently in this county some people have come into the county and taken the lives of two soldiers who have paid the supreme sacrifice to uphold the law. Their blood cries out from the ground to you today. Will you be a good soldier, or will you hide in the dugout?

Wheeler, 219 Miss. at 144, 63 So.2d at 523. Despite the quite specific nature of the charge, this Court found that it did not coerce the grand jury.

In the case sub judice, the supplemental charge is not nearly as specific as the charge made by the trial judge in Wheeler. Its specificity falls somewhere between the Wheeler charge and the charge made in Necaise. Accordingly, the trial judge did not abuse his discretion when he made this supplemental charge to the Jackson County Grand Jury in April 1992. This assignment of error is without merit.

II.

THE TRIAL COURT ERRED IN OVERRULING MR. HOOPS'S MOTION TO QUASH THE VENIRE OR IN THE ALTERNATIVE TO CONTINUE THE CASE.

Hoops claims that he made a motion to quash the venire due to a series of newspaper articles that appeared in the Mississippi Press, a local newspaper, during the week preceding the trial. 2 The articles dealt with violent crimes committed in the community by youths, as well as, the escalation of gang activity in the area and its relation to increased drug trafficking. Hoops claims that the articles had the potential to inflame the venire against any youth charged with a violent crime, and especially against him, due to his alleged gang involvement....

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