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Williams v. State

August 27, 1998

WILLIAMS V. STATE


EN Banc.

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

94-CA-00091-SCT, __ So. 2d __

ONE (1) CHARTER ARMS, BULLDOG 44 SPECIAL, SERIAL #794774; ONE (1) 1984 CHEVROLET CORVETTE, VIN # 1G1AY0786E5126312; AND KEVIN WILLIAMS v. STATE OF MISSISSIPPI, EX REL., MIKE MOORE, ATTORNEY GENERAL; THE CITY OF MERIDIAN, MISSISSIPPI; LAUDERDALE COUNTY, MISSISSIPPI; AND KING LOAN SERVICES, INC.

DATE OF JUDGMENT: 12/23/93

TRIAL JUDGE: HON. ROBERT WALTER BAILEY

COURT FROM WHICH APPEALED: LAUDERDALE COUNTY CIRCUIT COURT

NATURE OF THE CASE: CIVIL - OTHER

DISPOSITION REVERSED AND RENDERED - 8/27/98

MOTION FOR REHEARING FILED:

MANDATE ISSUED:

SUMMARY

¶1. After Williams pled guilty to possession of cocaine, the State filed a petition for forfeiture of a 1984 Chevrolet Corvette in the Lauderdale County Circuit Court. *fn1 After reviewing both parties' motions for Summary Judgment and hearing oral arguments, the trial court ordered that the 1984 Chevrolet Corvette be forfeited. Appellant timely appealed to this Court and assigns the following as error:

I. WHETHER THE STATE FAILED TO SHOW THAT AS A MATTER OF FACT, APPELLANT'S 1984 CHEVROLET CORVETTE FACILITATED THE POSSESSION AND/OR TRANSPORTATION OF CONTROLLED SUBSTANCE THEREBY SUBJECTING THE PROPERTY TO FORFEITURE.

II. WHETHER THE FORFEITURE OF THE 1984 CORVETTE FOR POSSESSION OF A RESIDUE OF A CONTROLLED SUBSTANCE VIOLATES THE EXCESSIVE FINES AND CRUEL AND UNUSUAL PUNISHMENT PROVISIONS OF THE EIGHTH AMENDMENT TO THE UNITED STATES CONSTITUTION AND ARTICLE III, SECTION 28 OF THE MISSISSIPPI CONSTITUTION.

STATEMENT OF THE FACTS

¶2. On September 16, 1992, a crime stopper informant contacted Agent Joel Walters ("Walters"), of the Meridian/Lauderdale County Narcotics Task Force, that a man in a black Corvette, license plate #1EPG875 Lauderdale County, was approached by a known distributor of crack cocaine in an area of town known as the Red Line district. The informant told Walters that a drug transaction had taken place between the known distributor and the man in the black Corvette. A check of the license plate showed that the Corvette was owned by the claimant here, Kevin Williams.

¶3. An officer was dispatched to the Red Line district where the sale was said to have occurred. Officers radioed to Walters, who was in his office, that they were unable to locate the Corvette. As Walters hung up the phone, he saw, from his office window, the black Corvette backed into a parking space at the Jimmie Rogers Museum and Train Station. Walters and Theall, who was also an officer in the Narcotics Task Force, proceeded in separate vehicles to where the Corvette was parked.

¶4. Walters and Theall pulled up on both sides of Williams' Corvette. As the officers approached, they noticed Williams place something in his mouth. Walters reached into the vehicle and grabbed Williams' right hand and arm. Theall grabbed Williams by the throat in an effort to prevent him from swallowing. After it became apparent that Williams was not going to spit out whatever he had in his mouth, the officers released their holds and instructed him to get out of the car. While handcuffing Williams, Theall found a crack pipe in his hand.

¶5. Theall then swabbed the inside of Williams' mouth with a latex glove to obtain any residue of the substance that he tried to swallow. Both the latex glove and the crack pipe were sent to the Mississippi Crime Lab and later tested positive for the presence of cocaine. Williams was placed under arrest for possession of cocaine, interfering with a police investigation and resisting arrest.

¶6. Walters searched Williams' vehicle and found a Charter Arms.44 Special handgun, a piece of copper tubing commonly used to smoke crack cocaine, and a foil container of matches commonly used by crack smokers to cause the evaporation of crack cocaine vapors. The tubing and foil container later tested positive for cocaine. Williams pled guilty to possession of cocaine and he was ordered to pay a $2,500 fine, $100 in restitution, and court costs in the amount of $164.50. The court withheld adjudicating Williams guilty for a period of three years pursuant to § 41-29-150 (d).

¶7. Subsequently, the State filed a petition for forfeiture seeking to seize the Corvette and the gun. Williams filed his answer to the petition. King Loan Services, lien holder on the Corvette, also filed an answer asserting its lien interest in the vehicle. *fn2

¶8. On June 29, 1993, the State filed a motion for summary judgment requesting that the gun and the Corvette be forfeited. Williams filed a cross-motion for summary judgment alleging that forfeiture of his vehicle would result in a violation of the Excessive Fines Clause of the Eighth Amendment. After a summary judgment hearing, the court granted the State's motion for summary judgment finding that the Corvette was subject to forfeiture because: (1) Williams purchased a rock of cocaine while driving the vehicle in dispute; (2) he drove the vehicle to the park for the purpose of smoking the cocaine; and, (3) he admitted that his vehicle contained one rock of crack cocaine at the time of his arrest. Williams appealed the lower court's decision to this Court.

STANDARD OF REVIEW

¶9. This Court recently set forth the standard of review for summary judgment in Aetna Casualty & Surety Co. v. Berry , 669 So.2d 56 (Miss. 1996). In Berry , this Court stated; The standard for reviewing the granting or denying of summary judgment is the same standard as is employed by the trial court under Rule 56(c). This Court conducts de novo review of orders granting or denying summary judgment and looks at all the evidentiary matters before it--admissions in pleadings, answers to interrogatories, depositions, affidavits, etc. The evidence must be viewed in the light most favorable to the party against the party whom the motion has been made. If, in this view, the moving party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law, summary judgment should forthwith be entered in his favor. Otherwise, the motion should be denied. Issues of fact sufficient to require denial of a motion for summary judgment obviously are present where one party swears to one version of the matter in issue and another says the opposite. In addition, the burden of demonstrating that no genuine issue of fact exists is on the moving party. That is, the non-movant would be given the benefit of the doubt.

Berry, 669 So.2d at 70 ( quoting Mantachie Natural Gas v. Mississippi Valley Gas Co. , 594 So.2d 1170, 1172 (Miss. 1992)); Caldwell v. Alfa Ins. Co. , 686 So.2d 1092, 1095 (Miss. 1996).

ΒΆ10. Moreover, a motion for summary judgment should be denied unless the trial court finds beyond any reasonable doubt that the plaintiff would be unable to prove any facts to support his/her claim. Yowell v. James Harkins Builder, Inc. , 645 So.2d 1340, 1343 (Miss. 1994). The trial court cannot try issues of fact on a Rule ...


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