Smith v. State

Decision Date11 March 2008
Docket NumberNo. 2006-KA-01946-COA.,2006-KA-01946-COA.
Citation977 So.2d 1227
PartiesMichael Latavin SMITH, Appellant v. STATE of Mississippi, Appellee.
CourtMississippi Court of Appeals

H. Bernard Gautier, Pascagoula, attorney for appellant.

Office of the Attorney General, by Ladonna C. Holland, attorney for appellee.


MYERS, P.J., for the Court.

¶ 1. Michael Latavin Smith was convicted of murder and sentenced to serve a term of life in the custody of the Mississippi Department of Corrections. Smith seeks review of his conviction, requesting review of three issues on appeal. First, Smith asks whether his confessions were properly admitted by the trial court. Second, whether Smith was deprived of his right to a speedy trial. Finally, Smith asks whether the trial court abused its discretion by denying his motion for a sequestered voir dire. Finding no error in the trial court's actions, we affirm.


¶ 2. Smith was charged with murdering his girlfriend, Joanna M. Eubanks, on August 11, 2004. Eubanks was shot once in the face at close range and died as a result of her injuries. Smith admitted to firing the gun, but he maintained that the shooting was accidental. Smith first maintained that he was cleaning the gun when the gun accidentally fired, fatally wounding Eubanks. Smith later claimed that he first pointed the gun at himself, then at Eubanks. He stated that the gun fired accidentally, surprising him. The State argued at trial that the shooting was intentional and was a result of Eubank's decision to end their relationship.

¶ 3. Smith was served with capias on October 19, 2004, and later arraigned in George County Circuit Court on November 1, 2004. Sidney Barnett served as Smith's appointed attorney during the' arraignment only. After many continuances and changes in Smith's appointed counsel, trial took place on June 26, 2006. At trial, Smith filed a motion to suppress his statements and confession, a motion to dismiss for failure to provide a speedy trial, and a motion for a sequestered voir dire on the limited issue of race and intimate interracial relationships. All of these motions were denied by the trial court. Smith was found guilty of murdering Eubanks and sentenced to life in prison. After the judgment, Smith filed a motion for new trial or, in the alternative, a motion for JNOV, which was denied. Smith now appeals.



¶ 4. An appellate court will review a trial court's admission of evidence under an abuse of discretion standard. Ginn v. State, 860 So.2d 675, 680(¶ 10) (Miss.2003). Additionally, "[d]etermining whether a confession is admissible is a finding of fact which is not disturbed unless the trial judge applied an incorrect legal standard, committed manifest error, or the decision was contrary to the overwhelming weight of the evidence." Kircher v. State, 753 So.2d 1017, 1023(¶ 27) (Miss.1999) (citing Wright v. State, 730 So.2d 1106, 1108(¶ 11) (Miss.1998)).

¶ 5. Smith argues on appeal that his various confessions were not voluntarily, intelligently, and knowingly given because he did not have capacity to waive his Miranda rights.1 Specifically, Smith argues his Fifth Amendment rights were violated because his statements were taken and used as evidence at trial without a valid waiver of his Miranda rights. The majority of Smith's argument alleges that he lacked the capacity to waive his rights because he had limited intellectual capacity and obtained no education beyond the fifth grade. Smith argues that testimony offered by his mother, Joanne Spivery, showed that he was a slow student in school and had, at one time, been prescribed medicine to help with his hyperactivity in school. Spivery additionally, testified that he had limited ability to understand detailed or complicated concepts, and he had trouble reading and writing.

¶ 6. The State argues that Smith's waiver of his Miranda rights was valid. The State further contends that Smith never asserted his right to remain silent or his right to counsel. The State asserts that Deputy John Keel, the officer who interviewed Smith, testified that Miranda warnings were given to Smith before his statements were taken on August 12, 2004, and August 17, 2004. Deputy Keel testified at trial that Smith signed a waiver of rights form before giving each of the statements, and Smith was not abused, threatened, or promised anything in return for his signed statements. The State also argues that when looking at the totality of the circumstances, Smith's confession was voluntarily given.

¶ 7. The State points to McGowan v. State, 706 So.2d 231, 235(¶ 11) (Miss.1997) in support of its argument. That case involved a defendant with a low IQ and mental retardation who confessed to the crime but later moved to suppress his confession at trial. The Mississippi Supreme Court in McGowan upheld the admission of the confession, finding that "the mental abilities of an accused are but one factor to be considered in determining whether the confession was knowingly, intelligently and voluntarily made." McGowan, 706 So.2d at 235(¶ 12) (citing Neal v. State, 451 So.2d 743, 756 (Miss. 1984)).

¶ 8. Under the Fifth Amendment, a person may invoke his right to counsel at any time prior to or during custodial interrogation. Holland v. State, 587 So.2d 848, 856 (Miss.1991). However, in order to invoke the Fifth Amendment right to counsel, a request for counsel must be "specifically invoked." Mooney v. State, 951 So.2d 627, 629(¶ 9) (Miss.Ct.App.2007) (citing Holland, 587 So.2d at 856). The Sixth Amendment right to counsel only attaches once formal proceedings have begun against the accused and must be clearly invoked for each separate charge, meaning the "right [to counsel] ... is offense speture Texas v. Cobb, 532 U.S. 162, 167, 121 S.Ct. 1335, 149 L.Ed.2d 321 (2001) (quoting McNeil v. Wisconsin, 501 U.S. 171, 175, 111 S.Ct. 2204, 115 L.Ed.2d 158 (1991)). "Adversarial proceedings are held to have been initiated when a defendant is arrested pursuant to a warrant." Lattimore v. State, 958 So.2d 192, 198(¶ 11) (Miss.2007) (citing Nicholson v. State, 523 So.2d 68, 74 (Miss.1988)). "At all critical stages thereafter, the accused is of right entitled to access to counsel, absent a specific knowing and intelligent waiver tied to that stage." Brooks v. State, 903 So.2d 691, 694-95(¶ 7) (Miss.2005) (quoting Coleman v. State, 592 So.2d 517, 520 (Miss. 1991)) (emphasis added).

¶ 9. To be admissible at trial, a confession "must have been intelligently, knowingly and voluntarily given, and not a product of police threats, promises or inducements." Wilson v. State, 936 So.2d 357, 361(¶ 18) (Miss.2006) (quoting Manix v. State, 895 So.2d 167, 180(¶ 39) (Miss.2005)). The admission of a confession is a finding of fact for the trial court's determination; therefore, an appellate court will not reverse a finding of fact unless the trial court was manifestly incorrect. Id. (citing Glasper v. State, 914 So.2d 708, 716(¶ 21) (Miss. 2005)). A confession will be considered voluntary, if, after looking at the totality of the circumstances, "the statement is the product of the" accused's free and rational choice." Id. at 362(¶ 8) (citing Jacobs v. State, 870 So.2d 1202, 1206(¶ 9) (Miss. 2004)).

¶ 10. Deputy Keel testified at the suppression hearing that on August 12, 2004, he read Smith the Miranda warnings before interviewing him regarding the ongoing investigation of Eubanks's murder. Deputy Keel also testified that Smith was facing him when the Miranda rights were being read to him, and Smith appeared to understand the Miranda warnings. Deputy Keel testified that Smith signed the waiver in his and Officer J.D Mitchell's presence. Deputy Keel additionally testified that Smith did not indicate that he did not understand his rights, and that he did not request an attorney. Deputy Keel also stated that he did not coerce, threaten, physically abuse, or promise Smith anything in return for his statements. Deputy Keel further testified that he verbally read the Miranda warnings to Smith the next day, August 13, 2004, and so noted it in his report. Deputy Keel additionally testified that he spoke again with Smith on August 17, 2004, at the George County Regional Jail as part, of the ongoing murder investigation. Deputy Keel testified that he again read the Miranda warnings to Smith. Smith appeared to understand the warnings and signed the waiver. Deputy Keel testified that Smith never invoked his right to counsel at this interview. Further, as the State argues, Smith was not charged with the murder until August 18, 2004. Although he was in custody beginning on August 12, 2004, he was being held in custody for three outstanding bench warrants for charges that were unrelated to the case before us. During this time, Smith voluntarily gave statements to Deputy Keel on August 12 and on August 17. During his custodial interrogation, Smith was given Miranda warnings, and according to Deputy Keel, he waived his rights. Then Smith was arrested officially for Eubanks's murder on August 18 and made an initial appearance on the murder charge that same day.

¶ 11. The trial court considered many factors in its determination that the Confessions would be admissible. The trial court noted that Smith had previously pleaded guilty to other charges, indicating that he understood the system. The trial court also determined that Smith had sworn that he could read and write, when he pleaded guilty to the other charges. The trial court additionally found that the^e was no evidence indicating that he was coerced or intimidated into making the statements, and there was no evidence that Smith possessed a learning disability or low IQ that would prevent him from fully understanding and waiving his rights. Accordin...

To continue reading

Request your trial
5 cases
  • State v. Williams
    • United States
    • Iowa Supreme Court
    • May 24, 2019
    ...interracial killing, interracial rape, or sexual offense against a child by a defendant of a different race); Smith v. State , 977 So. 2d 1227, 1237 (Miss. Ct. App. 2008) (finding no error in denial of the defendant’s motion for sequestered voir dire on attitudes toward race).In State v. Wi......
  • Jackson v. State
    • United States
    • Mississippi Court of Appeals
    • January 7, 2020
  • Mallard v. State
    • United States
    • Mississippi Court of Appeals
    • January 3, 2023 number of days between the day of the arraignment and the date of the trial, each delay is considered separately. Smith v. State, 977 So.2d 1227, 1234 (¶20) (Miss. Ct. App. 2008). "Delays attributed to the defendant do not count toward the 270-day total." Id. at (¶20) (citing Sharp v.......
  • Edmondson v. State
    • United States
    • Mississippi Court of Appeals
    • August 11, 2009
    ... ... Finding no error, we affirm ... STANDARD OF REVIEW ...         ¶ 5. This Court will not disturb a trial court's factual findings on a dismissal of a motion for post-conviction relief "unless they are found to be clearly erroneous." Smith v. State, 973 So.2d 1003, 1006 (¶ 5) (Miss.Ct.App.2007) (citing Brown v. State, 731 So.2d 595, 598 (¶ 6) (Miss.1999)). "However, where questions of law are raised, the applicable standard of review is de novo." Pope v. State, 922 So.2d 828, 830 (¶ 6) (Miss.Ct.App.2006) ...         I ... ...
  • Request a trial to view additional results
1 books & journal articles
  • A relational Sixth Amendment during interrogation.
    • United States
    • Journal of Criminal Law and Criminology Vol. 99 No. 2, March 2009
    • March 22, 2009
    ...v. State, 892 A.2d 547 (Md. 2006); State v. Benson, 2008 WL 853128 (Minn. Ct. App. Apr. 1, 2008) (unpublished opinion); Smith v. State, 977 So. 2d 1227 (Miss. Ct. App. 2008); State v. Dykes, 238 S.W.3d 737 (Mo. Ct. App. 2007); State v. Matey, 891 A.2d 592 (N.H. 2006); State v. Harris, 859 A......

VLEX uses login cookies to provide you with a better browsing experience. If you click on 'Accept' or continue browsing this site we consider that you accept our cookie policy. ACCEPT