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JAMES WRIGHT KNOX, JR. v. STATE OF MISSISSIPPI

FEBRUARY 11, 1987

JAMES WRIGHT KNOX, JR.
v.
STATE OF MISSISSIPPI



BEFORE HAWKINS, P.J.; ROBERTSON AND SULLIVAN, JJ.

ROBERTSON, JUSTICE, FOR THE COURT:

I.

Today's case arises from a brutal sexual assault in Jackson, Mississippi, in the fall of 1983. The case is otherwise remarkable in that both at trial and on this appeal the defendant has taken an active part in representing himself, along with counsel.

 On this appeal we are presented numerous assignments of error, including challenges to evidentiary rulings, the prosecuting attorneys' final argument, and a curious claim of ineffective assistance of counsel. For the reasons set forth below, we find these assignments of error without merit and affirm.

 II.

 On November 18, 1983, at approximately 3:00 a.m. B.G., an adult female, left the Stardust Club in Northwest Jackson where she had been socializing with friends. She drove the short distance to her home, an apartment complex off Forrest Avenue. As she turned into the entrance of her apartment complex, her car was suddenly blocked by another vehicle. A black male in his mid-forties with a full beard emerged from this vehicle and dragged B.G. by her hair from her car. She was dragged across the parking lot struggling and fighting

 violently with her assailant until she lost consciousness for an unknown period of time. When B.G. regained consciousness, she was in the back seat of her attacker's car in a wooded area off Forest Avenue. He continued to beat her severely, tore off her clothes, and raped her.

 After the assault B.G.'s attacker drove her back to her apartment in the early morning daylight hours. As she gathered her clothes and belongings from the back of his car, her assailant informed her that he had her watch; this watch was later given to police by a woman who had received the watch from James Wright Knox, Jr., Defendant below and Appellant here. Because her attacker was still present, waiting and watching, and had told her he would come back for her, B.G. went to the apartment of her neighbors, Shelene and Jarrett Roseborough, instead of to her own. B.G. had been beaten almost beyond recognition. A few minutes after B.G. arrived, the three heard a knock on Roseborough's door which they did not answer. The Roseboroughs determined that the assailant's car was still in the parking lot; therefore, they assumed it was he who was knocking. The Roseboroughs then called the police, who took B.G. to the hospital.

 About one week later on November 26, 1983, James Knox, posing as an FBI agent, reappeared at B.G.'s apartment complex and questioned a neighbor in an apparent attempt to locate her. Both Jarrett Roseborough and neighbor Larry Gordon, who saw Knox on this day, identified Appellant Knox as the inquirer. The next day, November 27, 1983, the Roseboroughs again accidentally encountered Knox at a nearby local business. Recogninng Knox and his car, the Roseboroughs circled the block, got Knox's license tag number, and telephoned police, who apprehended Knox. B.G. positively identified Knox from a photograph layout at the police station.

 On March 5, 1984, Knox was charged with the crime of rape in an indictment returned by the Grand Jury for the First Judicial District of Hinds County, Mississippi. The case was called for trial in Circuit Court sitting in Jackson on July 26, 1984. As will appear significant hereafter, Knox was represented by Hermel Johnson, an attorney in Jackson, Mississippi, and in addition participated actively in his own defense. At the conclusion of the trial the jury returned a verdict of guilty and fixed his punishment at life imprisonment. Miss. Code Ann. 97-3-65 (Supp.1986). Following denial of his motion for a new trial, Knox has appealed to this Court.

 III.

 Knox assigns as error the Circuit Court's refusal to allow him to cross-examine B.G., the complaining witness, with respect to whether a shooting occurred at the Stardust Club. The point arose at trial in the context of Knox's effort to explain why blood was found in the backseat of his car. Knox argued that he had transported injured people to the hospital as a consequence of a shootout at the Stardust Club.

 When Knox tried to elicit from B.G. on cross-examination that a shootout had occurred at the Stardust Club while she was there, the State twice objected and both times the objection was sustained. Yet the prosecuting attorney in closing argument referred to the absence of witnesses to support Knox's explanation of the shootout occurrence. Knox contends that to allow the prosecution to prevent the introduction of evidence on grounds of relevancy and then to argue that the absence of such evidence implies guilt is reversible error.

 Our law of necessity affords the trial judge broad discretion in admitting or excluding evidence. See Rules 401-403, Miss.R.Ev. To be sure, the Circuit Court would hardly have been in error had it allowed Knox's attempt at cross-examination. The evidence Knox says the jury never heard was in fact presented through direct and cross-examination of Hazel Thompson, Knox's live-in girlfriend, who appeared as a witness for the prosecution. Through Thompson, Knox was given ample opportunity to develop his explanation of why blood was in the backseat of his car. In this context, the Circuit Court's error, if any there be, is hardly such that it rises to the dignity of reversible error. See Wilson v. State, 390 So. 2d 575, 577-78 (Miss. 1980).

 The assignment of error is without merit ...


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