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H. W. "SONNY" JONES v. CITY OF MERIDIAN

AUGUST 30, 1989

H. W. "SONNY" JONES
v.
CITY OF MERIDIAN, MISSISSIPPI



BEFORE DAN LEE, P.J., ROBERTSON AND PRATHER, JJ.

PRATHER, JUSTICE, FOR THE COURT:

I.

The primary issue in this appeal concerns the constitutionality of a Mississippi "breach of the peace" statute - i.e., whether the statute is unconstitutional on its face, both for overbreadth and vagueness, as well as in application. H. W. "Sonny" Jones, Jr. [hereinafter Jones], was convicted in the Meridian Municipal Court for "creat[ing] a disturbance, or a breach of the peace," in a "public place of business." Miss. Code Ann. 97-35-13 (1972). Jones was fined $50.00 and assessed court costs; the fine was suspended. Jones appealed the decision to the Lauderdale County Court, for a trial

 de novo before a jury. Jones was convicted, fined $250.00, and assessed court costs. Jones appealed the decision to the Lauderdale Circuit Court which affirmed the county court decision. Jones now perfects his appeal to this Court raising constitutional questions.

 A.

 Jones' presents the following statement of issues:

 (1) Mississippi Code Annotated 97-35-13 [hereinafter Statute], which Jones was found guilty of violating:

 (a) is unconstitutionally overbroad in violation of the First Amendment of the United States Constitution;

 (b) is unconstitutionally vague and, therefore, violates the due process clause of the Fourteenth Amendment of the United States Constitution; and

 (c) was unconstitutionally applied.

 (2) The jury was not properly nor adequately instructed.

 (3) The Special County Court Judge erred in enhancing the punishment imposed by the Municipal Court Judge.

 B.

 The evidence presented by the City of Meridian derives primarily from the testimony of four eyewitnesses: Meridian Police Officer Covert, Lauderdale County Juvenile Center Director Roy Dabbs, Youth Services Counselor Cindy Edwards, and part-time Juvenile Center employee Gloris Cooper. On November 12, 1985, Meridian Police Officer, Larry Covert, went to the Lauderdale County Juvenile Center [hereinafter Center] to serve a warrant on Willie J. Dobbins. Covert located Dobbins inside the Center's lobby, after which the two stepped outdoors to discuss the matter. Dobbins explained to Covert he was at the Center because he was needed as a witness at his sister's shelter hearing in Juvenile Court.

 Two or three minutes into the discussion, Covert was approached by H. W. "Sonny" Jones, an attorney. In a "very intimidating manner," Jones "grabbed" the warrant from Covert's possession and simultaneously asked: "What have you got a warrant on him for?" As Covert replied, Jones read the warrant. In a "loud" and "demanding" tone, Jones informed Covert that he "was

 not going to arrest his `client' - that he (Jones) needed Dobbins to testify for another client (Dobbins' sister). Jones then left to make a photocopy of the warrant.

 Meanwhile, Covert and Dobbins returned to the Center's lobby. A short time later, Jones returned and loudly reiterated to Covert that he was not going to arrest Dobbins and, besides, Covert was" out of [his] jurisdiction. "Jones was" very irate "and" began pacing back and forth in front of [Covert]. "On several occasions, Jones" got up into [Covert's] face [within] five to six inches. "When Jones was not pointing his finger at Covert's face, Jones was" throwing his arms around in a wild manner. "On one occasion, Jones slammed a book onto a nearby table.

 Several times during the exchange, Covert requested that Jones" quiet and calm down and we could settle this matter "; Covert" attempted to explain to [Jones] that he was in no rush "and was" willing to wait "until after Dobbins testified for his sister. Jones apparently did not hear Covert's explanation and just kept repeating himself, saying that he didn't have to do anything Covert told him; that [Covert] was not serving a warrant on . . . Dobbins; that if [he] did, he would subpoena . . . Dobbins from the City Police Station to come back to court." At one point during the exchange, Jones commented in a "loud and boisterous" tone: "[Y]ou police officers think you can come out here and just do what you want and tell anybody what you want and I am not gonna stand here and let you tell me what to do."

 Finally, Covert ordered Jones to "quiet or settle down or [he] would have to arrest him for disorderly conduct and that he had already interfered with . . . [his duty] to serve a warrant." Jones, however, said he would not quiet down. Instead, Jones turned and "headed toward the police car" as he dared Covert to "take me, take me to jail, come on take me, take me - we'll see what happens to you [Covert]."

 Witnesses described Jones during this "ten to fifteen minute" period as "out of control" and as "someone who wanted to be arrested" ; his behavior was "shocking" and it "interfered" with business at the Center. "Covert's disposition was the converse; he was" even-tempered "and" maintained his cool. "

 Jones concedes that the conversation between Covert and him was" heated "and that, at one point, he" turned toward the door to walk to the patrol car and acknowledged that he was ready to be arrested. "But Jones claims that Covert had an" attitude "problem and was not responsive to his questions about the warrant. Jones feels he spoke to ...


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