Scott v. State

CourtCourt of Appeals of Mississippi
Citation231 So.3d 1024
Docket NumberNo. 2014–KA–00572–COA.,2014–KA–00572–COA.
Parties James Wesley SCOTT a/k/a James W. Scott a/k/a James Scott, Appellant v. STATE of Mississippi, Appellee.
Decision Date21 June 2016

231 So.3d 1024

James Wesley SCOTT a/k/a James W. Scott a/k/a James Scott, Appellant
v.
STATE of Mississippi, Appellee.

No. 2014–KA–00572–COA.

Court of Appeals of Mississippi.

June 21, 2016.


231 So.3d 1029

Office of State Public Defender by George T. Holmes, Hunter Nolan Aikens, attorneys for appellant.

Office of the Attorney General by Scott Stuart, attorney for appellee.

Before GRIFFIS, P.J., ISHEE and WILSON, JJ.

231 So.3d 1030

GRIFFIS, P.J., for the Court:

¶ 1. This appeal arises from James Wesley Scott's convictions of attempted rape, kidnapping, and burglary of a dwelling and three consecutive life sentences as a habitual offender. This Court finds no error and affirms.

FACTS

¶ 2. On July 3, 2009, Scott broke into the home of Danielle Landry in Hattiesburg, Mississippi. Scott entered the home, grabbed Landry, and dragged her from the living room toward the bedroom. Landry believed Scott intended to rape her, and she offered money to Scott in exchange for her release. Scott momentarily released Landry, and she attempted to escape through a window. Scott then dragged Landry back to the kitchen, looked through her purse, and found five dollars.

¶ 3. Landry then urged Scott to take her to an ATM in order to pay him more money. Scott took Landry to her car, forced her into the passenger seat, and drove from the house. At one point, Scott slowed the car and Landry opened to the door to flee. Scott held onto Landry while she struggled then eventually freed herself. Landry ran to a neighbor's house for help as Scott drove away. Police later recovered Landry's car.

PROCEDURAL HISTORY

¶ 4. Scott alleges that the police issued an arrest warrant on July 3, 2009, and he turned himself in to police in October or November 2009. The Mississippi Department of Corrections (MDOC) revoked an unserved sentence from a previous conviction, and Scott remained in prison until February 6, 2011.

¶ 5. On September 26, 2011, a Forrest County grand jury indicted Scott for attempted rape, kidnapping, and burglary of a dwelling stemming from the July 3, 2009 incident. On March 14, 2012, Scott was arraigned. Scott then filed a motion for recusal of the trial judge on April 12, 2012. No ruling occurred on that motion, but on September 6, 2012, the trial judge recused on his own motion. On September 20, 2012, the Mississippi Supreme Court appointed a special judge.

¶ 6. No further action in this case appears in the record until March 24, 2014, when Scott filed a pro se motion to dismiss the case based on speedy-trial violations. Scott filed a similar motion on May 2, 2014, and his appointed counsel filed a third motion to dismiss on August 14, 2014. The trial court denied the third motion and conducted the trial on August 18 and 19, 2014. The jury returned a guilty verdict on all three counts. Scott filed several posttrial motions, which the trial court also denied. Scott now appeals.

ANALYSIS

¶ 7. Scott asserts the following issues on appeal:

I. The trial court violated Scott's right to fully present a defense by prohibiting the testimony of defense witness John Barnes;

II. The trial court failed to instruct the jury on the essential elements of each crime under counts I and III;

III. The trial court erred in giving instruction S–11A;

IV. The trial court erred by denying Scott's request for a continuance and allowing untimely disclosed DNA evidence;

V. The evidence was insufficient to support the verdict; alternatively, the verdict was against the overwhelming weight of the evidence; and
231 So.3d 1031
VI. The trial court erred in denying Scott's motions to dismiss for violation of his right to a speedy trial.

Scott also submitted a supplemental appellant's brief, which asserted the following issues:

VII. The State knowingly proffered perjured testimony;

VIII. The State suppressed evidence;

IX. Scott was denied the right to confront the witnesses against him; and

X. Scott reasserted that the trial court erred by failing to dismiss the case due to violations of his right to a speedy trial.

We combine the two speedy-trial arguments and Scott's supplemental issues for clarity.

I. The trial court did not violate Scott's right to fully present his defense when it limited the testimony of John Barnes.

¶ 8. As his first error, Scott contends the trial court improperly excluded parts of Barnes's testimony. Scott argues that the trial court's exclusions prevented him from presenting his version of events and impeded his defense. The State counters that the trial court properly excluded Barnes's testimony under the applicable rules of evidence.

¶ 9. "The standard of review applied to a circuit judge's admission or exclusion of evidence and testimony is abuse of discretion." Carpenter v. State, 132 So.3d 1053, 1055 (¶ 5) (Miss.Ct.App.2013). Scott attempted to elicit testimony about Barnes previously smoking marijuana with Landry and an occasion when Barnes witnessed Landry and Scott smoking marijuana together a few weeks prior to the incident. We address these occurrences separately.

A. Barnes smoked marijuana with Landry.

¶ 10. Scott first attempted to elicit testimony that Barnes and Landry smoked marijuana together. Scott argued below, and maintains on appeal, that Landry's prior drug use went to his theory of the crime. Scott stated he went to Landry's home with the intent to recover money she owed him for drugs, not because he intended to rape her. The State objected that the testimony was irrelevant, and the trial court sustained the objection.

¶ 11. Scott argues the evidence about Landry's prior drug use was crucial to his version of events. As such, Scott contends the trial court's exclusion of Barnes's testimony deprived him of his right to fully present his defense. "A criminal defendant is entitled to present his defense to the finder of fact, and it is fundamentally unfair to deny the jury the opportunity to consider the defendant's defense where there is testimony to support the theory." Clark v. State, 40 So.3d 531, 542 (¶ 30) (Miss.2010) (quoting Terry v. State, 718 So.2d 1115, 1121 (Miss.1998) ). This right does not mean, however, that the trial court impermissibly curtailed Scott's defense.

¶ 12. While a defendant is entitled to present his defense, the right is not without its limitations, as "all evidence admitted in support of the defendant's theory of the case must comport with the Mississippi Rules of Evidence." Id. The trial court found Barnes's testimony that he and Landry previously smoked marijuana was irrelevant because whether Landry did drugs in the past did not relate to the incident unless Scott alleged Landry smoked marijuana on the night of the incident.

¶ 13. Mississippi Rule of Evidence 401 defines relevant evidence as "evidence having

231 So.3d 1032

any tendency to make the existence of any fact that is of consequence to the determination of the action more probable or less probable than it would be without the evidence." Rule 402 dictates that "[a]ll relevant evidence is admissible" but "[e]vidence which is not relevant is not admissible." M.R.E. 402. Scott maintains that Landry's previous drug use made the charges of attempted rape less probable because he argued he went to Landry's home to recover drug money. Barnes's testimony, however, holds no relevance to Scott's charges.

¶ 14. Barnes's proffered testimony showed that at some indeterminate point prior to July 3, 2009, he and Landry smoked marijuana. But Barnes's testimony did not relate to any occurrences involving Scott, Landry, and the incident. Further, the testimony did not show that either Landry or Scott was involved in buying or selling drugs. This evidence, therefore, did not support Scott's theory that he fought with Landry over drug money.

¶ 15. Scott also argues that the trial judge improperly excluded the evidence under Mississippi Rule of Evidence 404(b) when he stated the testimony demonstrated that Landry was intoxicated on the night of the incident. Because we find the trial court properly excluded the evidence as irrelevant, this argument is moot. Thus, the trial court did not abuse its discretion.

B. Landry told Barnes she smoked marijuana.

¶ 16. Scott also attempted to elicit testimony that Landry told Barnes she smoked marijuana with Scott. Outside the presence of the jury, Scott proffered Barnes's testimony that one night, several weeks before the July 3, 2009 incident, he saw Landry and Scott together in Scott's truck. Barnes stated he went up to them and asked them what they were doing. Barnes then stated that Landry told him that she and Scott were smoking marijuana.

¶ 17. The State objected on hearsay grounds. The trial court sustained the objection on hearsay grounds and also stated that Barnes could not positively identify what Landry and Scott were smoking as marijuana. Scott asserts this exclusion was improper.

¶ 18. Mississippi Rule of Evidence 801(c) defines hearsay as "a statement, other than one made by the...

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