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Eckford v. State

April 21, 1998

ECKFORD V. STATE


Before McMILLIN, P.j., Herring, And Hinkebein, JJ.

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

SPENCER ECKFORD, APPELLANT 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

DATE OF JUDGMENT: 06/14/96

TRIAL JUDGE: HON. BARRY W. FORD

COURT FROM WHICH APPEALED: MONROE COUNTY CIRCUIT COURT

NATURE OF THE CASE: CRIMINAL - FELONY

TRIAL COURT DISPOSITION: SALE OF COCAINE: SENTENCED TO SERVE A TERM OF 15 YRS IN THE CUSTODY OF THE MDOC, PAY COURT COST OF $188 & A FINE OF $1,000

DISPOSITION AFFIRMED - 4/21/98

MOTION FOR REHEARING FILED:

CERTIORARI FILED:

MANDATE ISSUED:

Spencer Eckford appeals to this Court from his conviction in the Circuit Court of Monroe County, Mississippi, of the illegal sale of cocaine. Eckford claims (1) that both his statutory and constitutional rights to a speedy trial were violated, and (2) that he was unfairly deprived of the right to cross-examine a State's witness. We disagree and affirm.

A. THE FACTS

This action involves an illegal drug transaction which occurred on October 21, 1993, in Aberdeen, Mississippi. On or about that date, agents of the Mississippi Bureau of Narcotics secured the assistance of Billy Crawley, who agreed to work with them as a confidential informant in an effort to apprehend drug dealers in the area. Crawley had a criminal record and was facing additional criminal charges. He agreed to cooperate with the narcotics agents in an effort to reduce the sentence which he would receive in regard to the pending charges. On the day in question, the narcotics agents and Crawley met to coordinate an undercover operation, and Crawley was fitted with an electronic audio device which was concealed under his clothing. His vehicle was also equipped with a video camera in order to capture on videotape any possible drug transactions in which he might become involved. After the agents assured themselves that Crawley had no money or illegal drugs in his possession, he was given identified bills and was instructed to go out and purchase illegal drugs with the money.

Crawley then proceeded in his own vehicle to a location known to him to be a place where illegal drugs could be purchased. As Crawley approached the area, he noticed a juvenile who was standing near the sidewalk. The juvenile was suspicious of Crawley and asked Crawley if he was "Five-O," a street term used to describe law enforcement officers. Crawley told the juvenile that he was not a law enforcement officer, but the juvenile was still hesitant to interact with Crawley. Crawley then noticed a older man in the background whom he knew personally as "Skinner." At trial, Crawley was able to identify Skinner as the defendant/appellant, Spencer Eckford. According to Crawley, he went to high school and later worked with Eckford, but never knew his real name. In order to gain credibility with the juvenile, Crawley summoned Eckford to his vehicle, at which time the drug transaction was consummated. A videotape was taken of the drug sale from Crawley's vehicle. The videotape also shows a third man standing near Crawley's vehicle apparently as a lookout, although his role in the transaction was never precisely established. In any event, the videotape, complete with a recording of the conversation of the participants, reveals that Crawley asked for $60 worth of cocaine and that the juvenile handed over several rocks of crack cocaine to him. Crawley was displeased with the quantity of the cocaine and stated that the juvenile "could do better than that." Eckford, who was leaning against Crawley's vehicle door less than three feet from the transaction, encouraged the juvenile to give Crawley more cocaine. The juvenile complied with this request, and the drug sale was completed. Before Crawley pulled away in his vehicle, the juvenile gave an object to Eckford, who immediately put the object in his pocket. Crawley testified that the object was crack cocaine, and that the juvenile was paying Eckford for his assistance. Crawley then returned to a predetermined meeting point and the agents of the Mississippi Bureau of Narcotics took possession of the cocaine purchased by Crawley. Eckford was arrested on December 1, 1993 and charged with selling a controlled substance in violation of section 41-29-139 of the Mississippi Code Annotated (Rev. 1993). He was thereafter indicted on April 28, 1994 and arraigned on May 2, 1994. Eckford's trial did not occur until June 13, 1996, two and one-half years after his arrest, and two years after his arraignment. The jury found Eckford guilty of the illegal sale of cocaine for the part he played in the transaction involving Crawley. Neither the juvenile who actually sold the drugs, nor the other man standing near Crawley's vehicle as a lookout were ever identified by the State or called to testify against Eckford.

B. THE ISSUES

Eckford raises three issues for our consideration on appeal which we recite verbatim from his brief:

I. THE TRIAL COURT ERRED IN DENYING THE DEFENDANT'S MOTION TO DISMISS CASE OR IN THE ALTERNATIVE TO QUASH INDICTMENT IN VIOLATION OF THE STATUTORY RIGHT OF A DEFENDANT IN A CRIMINAL CASE TO BE BROUGHT TO TRIAL IN 270 DAYS FROM THE DATE OF ARRAIGNMENT.

II. THE TRIAL COURT ERRED IN DENYING THE DEFENDANT'S MOTION TO DISMISS CASE OR IN THE ALTERNATIVE TO QUASH INDICTMENT IN VIOLATION OF HIS RIGHT TO A SPEEDY TRIAL GUARANTEED HIM UNDER BOTH THE FEDERAL AND STATE CONSTITUTIONS.

III. THE COURT ERRED IN NOT ALLOWING THE DEFENDANT TO CROSS-EXAMINE THE STATE'S SOLE EYE WITNESS, BILLY WAYNE CRAWLEY, AS TO SPECIFIC INSTANCES OF NON CRIMINAL CONDUCT THAT RELATED TO THE TRUTHFULNESS OR ...


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