Before Bridges, C.j., Hinkebein, And King, JJ.
The opinion of the court was delivered by: Bridges, C.j.,
DATE OF JUDGMENT: 08/06/97
TRIAL JUDGE: HON. HENRY LAFAYETTE LACKEY
COURT FROM WHICH APPEALED: CALHOUN COUNTY CIRCUIT COURT
NATURE OF THE CASE: CRIMINAL - FELONY
TRIAL COURT DISPOSITION: SALE OF COCAINE: SENTENCED TO SERVE 30 YRS IN THE MDOC
DISPOSITION: REVERSED AND REMANDED -12/18/98
¶1. Fred Pearson was convicted in the Circuit Court of Calhoun County on August 6, 1997, of the sale of cocaine and was sentenced to serve a term of thirty years in the custody of the Mississippi Department of Corrections. Aggrieved, Pearson appeals raising the following issues: 1) that the court erred in not arranging a full venire for jury selection as all potential black jurors were excluded, and in failing to conduct a Batson hearing following the appellant's objection; 2) that the court erred in failing to grant a mistrial after prejudicial remarks were made by the prosecuting attorney; 3) that the court's sentence is cruel and unusual punishment in violation of the Eighth Amendment; and 4) that the verdict is against the overwhelming weight of the evidence. We find adequate evidence to support the verdict, but reverse and remand this cause to the Circuit Court of Calhoun County for a new trial, concluding that the State failed to state a valid race-neutral explanation for the exclusion of potential black jurors and that the trial court abused its discretion in denying Pearson's motion.
¶2. On May 21, 1996, agents of the Mississippi Bureau of Narcotics met and discussed with confidential informants a plan to purchase illegal drugs in the Derma, Calhoun County area. The informants ultimately purchased a substance from Pearson that was confirmed to be crack cocaine. Pearson was later arrested and charged with the sale of cocaine.
¶3. At Pearson's trial, both parties met in chambers to discuss the challenges for cause and the peremptory challenges. The prosecution used five peremptory challenges, three of which excluded potential black jurors. Pearson objected that all of the blacks on the panel had been systematically excluded. The State stated, "I don't believe that's sufficient to establish a pattern," and the trial Judge denied Pearson's motion. Pearson was ultimately convicted of the sale of cocaine and sentenced to thirty years in the Mississippi Department of Corrections. Aggrieved, Pearson perfected this appeal.
ARGUMENT AND DISCUSSION OF LAW
I. WHETHER THE COURT ERRED IN DENYING THE APPELLANT'S OBJECTION THAT THE STATE SYSTEMATICALLY EXCLUDED ALL THE BLACK MEMBERSOF THE JUDGES AND FAILED TO CONDUCT A BATSON HEARING.
¶4. Pearson argues on appeal that the State used five peremptory challenges, three of which were unconstitutionally used to strike the only remaining black people on the panel. Pearson contends that although he objected to these exclusions, the State responded that there was no pattern of discrimination. The trial Judge agreed and overruled the objection. Pearson argues that the court erroneously overruled his objection without first conducting a Batson ...