Before Prather, C.j., Banks And Waller, JJ.
The opinion of the court was delivered by: Waller, Justice
DATE OF JUDGMENT: 03/25/97
TRIAL JUDGE: HON. LAMAR PICKARD
COURT FROM WHICH APPEALED: COPIAH COUNTY CIRCUIT COURT
NATURE OF THE CASE: CRIMINAL - FELONY
DISPOSITION: CONVICTION AFFIRMED; SENTENCE REVERSED AND REMANDED 12/10/98
¶1. Melissa Davis was indicted for the sale of two rocks of crack cocaine within 1,500 feet of a church on March 7, 1997. Davis went to trial before a jury in Copiah County Circuit Court on March 25, 1997. On that day she was found guilty and sentenced to sixty years in prison. Davis's motion for a JNOV or in the alternative for a new trial was denied on April 4, 1997. Aggrieved, Davis filed a timely motion to appeal listing two issues:
I. THE TRIAL COURT ERRED IN NOT GRANTING APPELLANT'S MOTIONS FOR DIRECTED VERDICT AT THE END OF THE STATE'S CASE AND AT THE END OF THE DEFENDANT'S CASE; AND, THE TRIAL COURT ERRED WHEN IT DID NOT GRANT THE APPELLANT'S MOTION FOR JNOV OR IN THE ALTERNATIVE A NEW TRIAL, BECAUSE THE VERDICT WAS AGAINST THE OVERWHELMING WEIGHT OF THE EVIDENCE AND WAS THE RESULT OF BIAS, PREJUDICE AND PASSION.
II. THE SENTENCE OF SIXTY YEARS WITH THE MISSISSIPPI DEPARTMENT OF CORRECTIONS CONSTITUTES A SENTENCE OF LIFE IN PRISON AND IS CRUEL UNUSUAL PUNISHMENT.
¶2. On October 3, 1996, Ron Crew, Leigh Harvey and John Whitaker, officers with the Hazlehurst, Mississippi Police Department, met with a confidential informant, Sabrina Walker, to set up a controlled crack cocaine buy from Melissa Davis. Walker was outfitted with an audio transmitter and given an unmarked police car equipped with a video recorder. Walker was searched and given $40.00 in police cash with which to buy cocaine.
¶3. Walker left her meeting with the police and drove to Mac's North End Store, a Hazlehurst business, and looked for Davis. At Mac's North End Store, Walker asked an unidentified man in the parking lot for Davis. Davis came to her car and Walker asked if she (Davis) had anything. Davis told Walker to "pull the car up." Walker asked Davis for a forty. Davis went to some bushes and returned to the car with two plastic bags, each containing a single rock. Walker gave Davis $40.00 in police cash, left Mac's North End Store and drove away to meet with the police.
¶4. Walker gave the police the two bags and was again searched by Officer Harvey. The two rocks were sent to the Mississippi Crime Lab where they were tested and identified as cocaine. Officer Ron Crew testified that he measured the distance from Mac's North End Store to Damascus Church. The distance from the place of sale to the church building was 702 feet.
¶5. After deliberations, the jury returned its verdict, finding Melissa Davis guilty of selling cocaine within 1,500 feet of a church. The trial Judge sentenced her to the maximum of thirty years for the sale, which when doubled because of the proximity of the church building, resulted in a total sentence of sixty years in the custody of the Mississippi Department of Corrections.
I. THE TRIAL COURT ERRED IN NOT GRANTING APPELLANT'S MOTIONS FOR DIRECTED VERDICT AT THE END OF THE STATE'S CASE AND AT THE END OF THE DEFENDANT'S CASE; AND, THE TRIAL COURT ERRED WHEN IT DID NOT GRANT THE APPELLANT'S MOTION FOR JNOV OR IN THE ALTERNATIVE A NEW TRIAL, BECAUSE THE VERDICT WAS AGAINST THE ...