Before Thomas, P.j., Coleman, Hinkebein, And Payne, JJ.
The opinion of the court was delivered by: Payne, J., For The Court:
THIS OPINION IS NOT DESIGNATED FOR PUBLICATION AND MAY NOT BE CITED, PURSUANT TO M.R.A.P. 35-B
DATE OF JUDGMENT: 7/12/96
TRIAL JUDGE: HON. MARCUS D. GORDON
COURT FROM WHICH APPEALED: NESHOBA COUNTY CIRCUIT COURT
DISTRICT ATTORNEY: KEN TURNER
NATURE OF THE CASE: CRIMINAL - FELONY
TRIAL COURT DISPOSITION: CONVICTED OF ARMED ROBBERY AND SENTENCED TO 18 YRS. IN CUSTODY OF MDOC.
LaToya Clayton, Kodi Clark, and Demetria Meeks were convicted in a joint trial of armed robbery and each appellant was sentenced to serve a term of eighteen years in the custody of the Mississippi Department of Corrections. The appellants' motion for JNOV or, in the alternative, a new trial was denied. Finding no error, we affirm.
On the evening of January 22, 1996, Alexander Jones and Jonathan McDougle, both adults, went to Meeks's home and picked up the appellants, Meeks, Clayton, and Clark. The appellants are all under the age of eighteen. The testimony indicated that on this evening the appellants, along with Jones and McDougle, went to the Philadelphia Quick Stop. The owner of the store, Stanley O'Neal, testified that Clayton and Meeks first came into the store and asked to use the bathroom. O'Neal indicated that when Clayton and Meeks entered the store, he was getting ready to close and was putting the money from the cash register into a money bag. O'Neal testified that the money bag could not be seen by customers entering the store but could be seen if one were to exit the bathroom. O'Neal indicated that after using the bathroom, the girls left the store. O'Neal testified that shortly thereafter, the girls came back into the store and Meeks purchased some Carmex and then both girls again left the store. O'Neal testified that approximately ten minutes later Clayton returned and began asking him if he had a girlfriend. O'Neal stated that within minutes a group of people entered the store, and a shotgun was pointed at his face. O'Neal testified that the robber stated, "Give me your money bag." O'Neal stated that he then grabbed his pistol from under the counter and started out around the counter toward the robbers. O'Neal indicated that one of the robbers jumped over the counter, grabbed the money bag, and then all of the robbers ran from the store. O'Neal testified that as the robbers got into their car, he fired five shots at the car striking it three times. O'Neal stated that he then went back inside and called the police. O'Neal identified the appellants as being part of the group of robbers. O'Neal could not identify which one of the robbers had the shotgun but remembered that the shotgun was being wielded by one of the males in the group.
After receiving a phone call about the robbery, Officer Mitch Peden and Officer Richard Sistrunk came across the vehicle being driven by the robbers and gave chase. The officers indicated that they chased the car until it wrecked. The officers testified that five people got out of the car, that Clayton, Clark, and McDougle remained by the car, and that Meeks and Jones fled. Officer Sistrunk arrested Clayton, Clark, and McDougle at the scene of the wreck, and Officer Peden gave chase to Meeks and Jones. Officer Peden subsequently caught up with Meeks and placed her under arrest. Jones was not arrested until sometime later. Peden testified that as he chased Meeks over a wall, he remembered seeing money being scattered across the ground. Peden could not say if it was Meeks or Jones who dropped the money bag because the two suspects were running together when he saw the money. Peden and another officer later returned to the area where the money had been scattered and recovered over $4,000 in cash. O'Neal testified that there was approximately $7,000 in the money bag when it was stolen.
Later that evening, Clayton, Meeks, and Clark were interrogated by Detective Tommy Waddell and Officer Sistrunk. Waddell testified that prior to talking with each of the appellants he read them their rights and that each chose to waive his or her rights signing a waiver of rights form indicating same. During each of the interrogations, the appellants described the events of the evening. Waddell wrote down the statements of each of the appellants, read the statements back to each, gave the statements to each appellant to read over and make corrections, and then had each appellant sign the statement. The statements were all similar in regard to the events that took place prior to, during, and after the robbery. All three appellants admitted in their statements that they had participated in the robbery with McDougle and Jones. All three statements indicated that Clark had the shotgun when they entered the store. The statements of Clark and Meeks indicated that Meeks left the store carrying the money bag. All three statements were admitted into evidence and read to the jury.
The appellants each testified in their own behalf. All three testified that they told Detective Waddell that the only reason they participated in the robbery was because Jones threatened to kill them and other members of their families if they did not. The appellants testified that they did not tell Waddell that Clark had the shotgun nor did they state that Meeks left the store with the money bag. The appellants testified that they did not know why Waddell left out of the statements the part about the threats nor could they testify as to why Waddell would put false information into the statements. The appellants testified that they were read their rights but did not understand them. The appellants indicated that Waddell never read the statements back to them nor did he permit the appellants to read the statements. The appellants each testified that they signed his or her statement only because Waddell told them they would go to the penitentiary if they did not sign the statements. Detective Waddell and Officer Sistrunk testified that no threats were made to the appellants and at no time did the appellants tell them about the threats allegedly made by Jones.
The case was subsequently submitted to the jury, and the jury found Clayton, Clark, and Meeks guilty of armed robbery. Feeling aggrieved, the appellants filed this appeal asserting five issues.
I. WHETHER THE TRIAL COURT ERRED IN SUSTAINING THE OBJECTION OF THE PROSECUTION TO TESTIMONY BY KODI CLARK THAT HE HAD BEEN BEATEN AND THREATENED IN JAIL BY ALEXANDER JONES.
During the direct examination of Clark, his attorney attempted to solicit information regarding an assault on Clark by Jones while they were both in jail. The trial court dismissed the jury and let the defense proffer the testimony regarding the assault. According to Clark, Jones confronted him in jail, beat him and threatened to kill Clark and members of his family if Clark did not testify at trial that he was the one with the shotgun during the robbery. After hearing the proffer, the trial Judge sustained the State's objection stating as follows:
I am going to sustain the objection for that reason [that the alleged threats and alleged assault is not relevant because it occurred after the robbery] and for the additional reason that this defendant has testified that he did not have the gun. If he had given false testimony because of the threat, I think it possibly could have been made admissible, but he has not testified as such. He has testified that he did not have the gun. Therefore your objection is sustained.
The defense argues that Clark's testimony about the threats and assault were relevant because it made their theory of the case (that the appellants were coerced to participate in the robbery by threat of harm to themselves and ...