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JOE GEORGE, JR. v. STATE OF MISSISSIPPI

MARCH 09, 1988

JOE GEORGE, JR.
v.
STATE OF MISSISSIPPI



BEFORE ROY NOBLE LEE, C.J.; ROBERTSON AND ANDERSON, JJ.

ROBERTSON, JUSTICE, FOR THE COURT:

I.

Today's appellant of a forgery conviction charges impermissible pre-trial taint of a key witness' in-court identification testimony. It appears that the store managed by the witness employed a photographic security system and took defendant's picture as he presented the check. Prior to trial the witness reviewed the picture to refresh his memory. At trial, over defense objection, he put the finger on the defendant.

 The defendant was convicted of forgery and sentenced to seven years imprisonment. We affirm.

 II.

 On March 9, 1983, Lillian Carte, financial secretary for the First Baptist Church in Long Beach, Mississippi, made out a check on the church's account for $324.93. That check was payable to Charles Wolfe as monthly payment on property the church purchased from Wolfe. In due course, the check was delivered to Wolfe. That same day Wolfe lost his wallet, containing the unendorsed check. The church promptly stopped payment.

 The check turned up eighteen days later when an individual representing himself to be Charles Wolfe cashed it at Gammel's Shop-Rite, in Gulfport, Mississippi. The date was March 27, 1983. Because it cashes a large number of payroll checks, Gammel's employs a photographic security system called" Double Check "which snaps a picture of the check casher.

 The Double Check system employs two lenses. Every time a check is presented, it is stamped with an identification number. A picture is taken of the person in front of the cash register, and, at the same time the camera takes a picture of the check which is placed underneath the camera with any identification, e.g., driver's license, credit card, presented by the casher. One lens points to the endorser and the other points to the check. The images are placed on a single negative thus precluding the possibility of mix-ups. The store also places the obligatory identification information on the back of the check (e.g., phone number, credit card number, or driver's license number) as well as a six digit Double Check identification number.

 This procedure was followed by Gammel's Shop-Rite for the First Baptist Church/Wolfe check. The bank on which it was drawn, of course, refused payment because of the stop payment order. David Gammel, store owner, remembered cashing

 the check and identified the man in the photograph taken by Double Check as the man who cashed the check. He remembered the check because it was in" rough shape "and it had been written two to three weeks before it was cashed. Also, the man presenting the check didn't have a driver's license which the store usually requires to cash a check, but since the check was from the church Gammel's parents attend and it was signed by the vice president of the bank Gammel uses, he cashed it anyway. (The photograph reflects Charles Wolfe's Sears credit card.)

 When he realized the check had been forged, Gammel contacted" Double Check "in New Orleans and had them process the photo that corresponded with the number stamped on the check. When the photo came back, one of the store's employees recognized the man in the photo as someone who had been in the store before.

 Nothing was done for over four months. On July 19 or 20 the man came in again, this time to cash a payroll check made out to Joe George, Jr. Gammel's mother cashed the check, took the photo and made a note of the Double Check number. The picture of this check and check casher was then requested from Double Check. Although he compared the two pictures, Gammel recognized George as the man for whom he had cashed the First Baptist check.

 Wayne Payne, a detective with the Gulfport Police Department, testified that George admitted to him that the photograph alongside the First Baptist check was of him, but that he did not present the check to Gammel's Shop-Rite, that it must be a mistake.

 Marie Holloway, a Shop-Rite employee, said that she had seen George in the store maybe three times a week buying groceries and cashing paychecks for about a year (as of August 8, 1984). She stated that she recalled ...


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