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Smith v. State

June 11, 1998


The opinion of the court was delivered by: Banks, Justice









¶1. Here, the appellant challenges the factual sufficiency of the evidence, the propriety of allowing her co-conspirator to testify regarding previously committed crimes and her prosecution and conviction following the forfeiture of her vehicle. We conclude that there is sufficient evidence, no error in admitting the co-conspirator's testimony and no double jeopardy violation. Therefore, we affirm the lower court's Disposition of this matter.


¶2. On September 07, 1994 at the Jackson International Airport in Jackson, Mississippi, officers with the Jackson Police Department detained Syreeta Foster under the suspicion that she was in possession of illegal drugs. Foster consented to a search of her luggage, which revealed seven compressed bundles of marijuana weighing approximately 5.2 kilograms or ten to eleven pounds. Foster was advised of her Miranda rights, but she waived those rights and gave an oral statement. She told the officers that she had flown from El Paso, Texas to meet with the appellant, Frelessies Smith. Smith was scheduled to take Foster to Smith's house where they were to call the drug source in Texas, wait at Smith's house for a return local phone call from an unidentified male and then deliver the marijuana to the unidentified male at a previously determined Jackson location in exchange for money.

¶3. Based upon the information provided by Foster, Investigator Larry Iles of the Hinds County Sheriff's Department went to the waiting area of the airport and approached a young woman fitting Foster's description of Smith and who told the officer that her name was, in fact, Frelessies Smith. Iles then took Smith into the room with Foster who positively identified Smith as the person scheduled to pick her up and assist her in delivering the marijuana. Smith was taken to another room and informed of her Miranda rights. She waived her rights and agreed to give a statement to the officers.

¶4. Smith admitted that she was there to pick up Foster. She further stated that she was supposed to take Foster to her house so that they could make a phone call to Texas. After the call to Texas, Smith and Foster would receive a local phone call after which Smith would take Foster to the Sack & Save grocery store on Interstate 55 North where they were scheduled to meet an unidentified male in a large vehicle. Once there, Foster would give the man the marijuana in exchange for a predisposed amount of money and then Smith would bring Foster back to her house to stay until Foster returned to El Paso.

¶5. At trial, Officer Iles testified that Smith initially claimed she did not know that Foster was transporting marijuana, but later admitted she was aware there was marijuana in the bag and that the trip concerned drugs. She also told the officer that she had known Foster for several weeks and that Foster had stayed overnight at her home previously. Smith admitted that the telephone number of the drug source in Texas could be found on a telephone bill in the glove compartment of her vehicle. She consented to a search of her vehicle, which revealed a copy of a telephone bill which Smith confirmed as containing the source's phone number. During the Discussion at the airport, Smith further admitted that she generally received $1,000 for her role as a taxi service, whereby she provided Foster transportation from the airport to the site of the exchange and back to the airport plus a safe location for phone calls to be made and received.

¶6. Foster testified for the State. She told the jury she had known Smith since July 1994, about two months before the incident that led to the instant matter. Foster admitted that she and Smith had collaborated to transport and deliver marijuana from Texas to Mississippi five other times using the exact modus operandi. Counsel for Smith objected to Foster's testimony about previous drug deals on the basis of relevancy and Rule 404(b). The trial court overruled the objection, later ruling that the testimony was admissible to show knowledge, motive, intent, design, and concluding that it was highly relevant since Smith was charged not with possession, but with conspiracy.

¶7. Foster also stated that, of the five occasions she delivered marijuana from Texas to Mississippi, she stayed with Smith three of those times. The other times she stayed in a hotel. Foster personally observed Smith being compensated for her assistance in the drug deals and personally paid Smith $1,000 on one occasion. According to Foster, the amounts given to Smith ranged from $500 to $1,000. Smith's boyfriend - identified by Foster as the drug source in Texas - arranged Smith and Foster's first meeting in July 1994. Smith knew, according to Foster, the nature of Foster's visits to Mississippi and the nature of her assistance.

¶8. Upon examining the telephone bill recovered from Smith's vehicle, Foster counted nineteen calls made from Smith's home to Foster's home. She also counted nine calls made to the drug source - Smith's boyfriend. Finally, Foster explained her reason for testifying -- so that it would not "seem like [Foster took] advantage of her [referring to Smith]."

¶9. Smith testified in her own defense. She maintained that she met Foster through her boyfriend, that she did not know her boyfriend and Foster were drug dealers and that they set her up.

¶10. The next day before trial reconvened counsel for Smith moved to dismiss the criminal proceeding, arguing that Smith had been subjected to double jeopardy due to the prior forfeiture of her vehicle and the instant prosecution for conspiracy to possess. The trial court denied the motion, concluding that there was no double jeopardy violation on these facts as Smith waived her right to contest the forfeiture and since the forfeiture was not a penalty.

ΒΆ11. Based upon the preceding evidence, the jury found Smith guilty as charged in the indictment, and the trial court sentenced her to ten years imprisonment with five years suspended. Smith did not file a motion for new trial or a motion for judgment notwithstanding the verdict. She did, however, ...

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