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08/13/96 CHOUAMON v. STATE

August 13, 1996

CHOUAMON, ET AL
v.
STATE



Before Bridges, C.j., Herring, And Southwick, JJ.

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Herring, J., For The Court

CHARLES CHOUAMON A/K/A CHARLES HAYWARD CHAUAMON A/K/A "CHUCK" AND DEBORAH CHOUAMON A/K/A DEBORAH WYATT A/K/A DEBORAH WATT A/K/A DEBORAH KAY WYATT A/K/A DEBORAH KAY MANIS A/K/A "DEBBIE", APPELLANTS v. STATE OF MISSISSIPPI, APPELLEE

THIS OPINION IS NOT DESIGNATED FOR PUBLICATION AND MAY NOT BE CITED, PURSUANT TO M.R.A.P. 35-B

TRIAL JUDGE: HON. JOHN LESLIE HATCHER

COURT FROM WHICH APPEALED: COAHOMA COUNTY CIRCUIT COURT

BY: JEFFREY KLINGFUSS

DISTRICT ATTORNEY: LAWRENCE Y. MELLEN

NATURE OF THE CASE: CRIMINAL - FELONY

TRIAL COURT DISPOSITION: CHARLES: CT 1 AGGRAVATED ASSAULT; CT 2 DIRECTING FELONY UNDER 17 YRS AGE: HABITUAL; EACH CT LIFE; CT'S CONCURRENT; EACH CT CONSECUTIVE ANY PREVIOUS DEBORAH: CT 2 DIRECTING FELONY BY PERSON UNDER 17 YRS OF AGE: HABITUAL; 20 YRS

DISPOSITION AFFIRMED - 6/23/98

Deborah "Debbie" Chouamon and her husband, Charles "Chuck" Chouamon, were convicted of directing or causing a felony to be committed by a person under the age of seventeen in violation of section 97-1-6 of the Mississippi Code, as amended, in a joint trial that was conducted in the Circuit Court of Coahoma County, Mississippi. Mr. Chouamon was also convicted of aggravated assault. Both Appellants were classified as habitual offenders and were therefore given enhanced sentences. Mrs. Chouamon was sentenced to serve twenty years without parole in the custody of the Mississippi Department of Corrections. Mr. Chouamon was sentenced to serve terms of life imprisonment on each charge without parole in the custody of the Mississippi Department of Corrections. Both Appellants now appeal their convictions to this Court. Having reviewed the issues raised on appeal, we affirm.

A. THE FACTS

On July 4, 1995, Debbie Chouamon and Chuck Chouamon; her fifteen-year-old son, Michael Manis; and her ten-year-old son, Shawn Kemper, were at home celebrating the Fourth of July holiday in Clarksdale, Mississippi. The boys had been given fireworks to shoot, and Mr. Chouamon gave Michael a box cutter knife to use in opening the boxes containing the fireworks. Later that day, after shooting fireworks during the morning hours, Michael became involved in a physical altercation with seventeen-year-old Noe Rios, after Rios drove by the Chouamon home with his brother and others. During the course of the fight, Michael cut Noe Rios several times with the box cutter knife. Prior to the time the fight began, Mr. and Mrs. Chouamon testified that they were inside their home. After the brawl erupted in the street in front of their house, the Appellants went outside.

There was conflicting testimony at trial as to how and when Michael obtained the box cutter which he used in the altercation with Noe. Michael stated that he had the box cutter in his back pocket at the time of the fight. He further testified that he had been given the knife earlier that day to open boxes and took it out of his back pocket in order to defend himself against Noe Rios when Noe charged him. Mr. Chouamon supported and corroborated Michael's version of the events on the day in question. However, Noe Rios, Joshue Rios (Noe's brother), and Sean Wheeler contradicted Michael's testimony. Joshue Rio and Sean Wheeler were passengers in the vehicle driven by Noe Rios and were present during the fight.

Noe testified that prior to engaging in the fight with Michael, he saw Mr. Chouamon hand "something" to Michael. Joshue Rios likewise testified that he saw Michael run to Mr. Chouamon, who passed "a blade" to Michael before the fight began. In addition, Brian Christian, a friend of Michael's who was at the Chouamon home prior to and during the altercation, testified that Michael obtained the box cutter from Mr. Chouamon immediately prior to engaging in the fight with Noe Rios.

The trial testimony was also conflicting as to the statements which Mr. and Mrs. Chouamon made to Michael during the altercation. Brian Christian testified that he heard Mrs. Chouamon yell at Michael to "cut him." Justin Stanley, another of Michael's friends who was also at the Chouamon's home at the time of the fight, testified that he heard Mrs. Chouaman yelling for Michael to "cut the m____f___," referring to Noe. Mrs. Chouamon denied making such statements. She testified that during the fight, she yelled at Michael to keep Noe from hitting him in the face. She also stated that she yelled at Michael to stop fighting. Michael confirmed in his testimony that his mother demanded that he stop the fighting and never heard her direct him to cut Noe Rios. Mr. Chouamon and Mrs. Chouamon's other son, Shawn Kemper, testified that they did not hear Mrs. Chouamon tell Michael to cut Noe.

When the two boys finally separated, Noe left and went to the home of a friend in order to clean up and to call the law enforcement officers. Michael and his family went back into their house. Shortly thereafter, members of the Clarksdale Police Department arrived at the Chouamon home, and Michael and Mr. Chouamon were arrested and taken into custody at that time.

Following their arrest, Mrs. Chouamon, with the assistance of Attorney Darnell Felton, sought to enter into an agreement with the members of the Clarksdale Police Department and a representative of the Mississippi Attorney General's office for the release of her husband and son. She and Felton met with Chief of Police Danny Vick of the Clarksdale Police Department on July 7, 1995. Billy East, an investigator with the Office of the Attorney General, Donald Wood, a police officer with the Clarksdale Police Department, and Captain Tim Fortenberry with the Clarksdale Police Department were also present at the meeting. According to Felton and Mrs. Chouamon, an agreement was reached in which she agreed to work with members of the Clarksdale Police Department to apprehend persons involved in illegal drug activities in the Clarksdale area in exchange for the dismissal of charges against her husband and in exchange for her son being taken out of the county jail, being moved to the local juvenile facility, and being tried as a juvenile instead of an adult. Mrs. Chouamon did in fact assist law enforcement officers in the arrest of several individuals on drug charges. However, according to Wood, Vick, East, and Fortenberry, the ...


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