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Ruffin v. State

December 18, 1998

LARRY RUFFIN, JR. A/K/A `CHICK' A/K/A APPELLANT LARRY JUNIOR RUFFIN
v.
STATE OF MISSISSIPPI APPELLEE



Before Thomas, P.j., Coleman, And Hinkebein, JJ.

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Thomas, P.j.

DATE OF JUDGMENT: 12/11/1997

TRIAL JUDGE: HON. LARRY EUGENE ROBERTS

COURT FROM WHICH APPEALED: LAUDERDALE COUNTY CIRCUIT COURT

NATURE OF THE CASE: CRIMINAL - FELONY

TRIAL COURT DISPOSITION: 12/11/1997: CT I DELIVERY OF COCAINE; CT II DELIVERY OF COCAINE; CT I SENTENCED TO SERVE 30 YRS & 30 YRS ON CT II TO RUN CONCURRENTLY TO EACH OTHER BUT CONSECUTIVE TO ANY OTHER SENTENCE IN MDOC; PAY $5,000 FINE, LAB FEE $100 IN EACH COUNT & COURT COST $246

DISPOSITION: AFFIRMED - 12/18/98

¶1. Larry Ruffin appeals his conviction on two counts of delivery of cocaine, raising the following issues as error:

I. THE TRIAL COURT ERRED IN ALLOWING CROSS-EXAMINATION OF THE DEFENDANT ON A TOPIC IN WHICH HE WAS INSTRUCTED BY THE TRIAL COURT WOULD NOT BE ADMISSIBLE UNLESS THE DEFENDANT "OPENED THE DOOR," IN ADDITION, ANY EVIDENCE PRESENTED BY THE STATE IN RESPONSE TO THE SO-CALLED "OPEN DOOR" WAS IRRELEVANT, THEREBY MAKING IT INADMISSIBLE.

II. THE IMPLICATIONS IN THE PROSECUTION'S CROSS-EXAMINATION AND CLOSING ARGUMENT THAT THE DEFENDANT WAS REQUIRED TO PRODUCE ANY EVIDENCE IN HIS DEFENSE OR THAT IT WAS HIS DUTY TO PROVE HIS INNOCENCE WERE SO PREJUDICIAL THAT THE DEFENDANT WAS NOT AFFORDED A FAIR TRIAL.

¶2. Finding no error, we affirm.

FACTS

¶3. On November 5, 1996, the Meridian/Lauderdale County Drug Task Force arranged a pre-buy meeting specifically to target Larry Ruffin and Mae Hodges. Present at this meeting were Karl Merchant, case agent in charge of the operation, Joshua Coleman, an undercover Task Force agent, and Robert Pollard, a confidential informant employed by the Task Force. At this meeting it was arranged that Agent Coleman would accompany Pollard and attempt to purchase crack cocaine at 3901 Paulding Street, Meridian, Mississippi. Agent Coleman was fitted with a wire and given money to make the buy. Agent Coleman was also shown pictures of both Ruffin and Hodges.

¶4. At two different times on the night of November 5, 1996, Agent Coleman was able to purchase $40 worth of crack cocaine from Ruffin. Ruffin was eventually indicted on two counts of selling a Schedule II Controlled Substance. After trial of this matter, the jury returned a guilty verdict on both counts, and this appeal ensued.

ANALYSIS

I. THE TRIAL COURT ERRED IN ALLOWING CROSS-EXAMINATION OF THE DEFENDANT ON A TOPIC IN WHICH HE WAS INSTRUCTED BY THE TRIAL COURT WOULD NOT BE ADMISSIBLE UNLESS THE DEFENDANT "OPENED THE DOOR," IN ADDITION, ANY EVIDENCE PRESENTED BY THE STATE IN RESPONSE TO THE SO-CALLED "OPEN DOOR" WAS IRRELEVANT, THEREBY MAKING IT INADMISSIBLE.

ΒΆ5. After the close of the State's case, a conference was held outside the presence of the jury. The decision was made that Ruffin would take the stand in his own defense. Defense counsel made a motion in limine to exclude the prosecution from bringing up any mention of a previous possession conviction against Ruffin. The possession conviction was part of a plea bargain where Ruffin plead guilty to possession of cocaine, and a charge of sale of cocaine was dismissed. The trial Judge granted the motion under M.R.E. 609, holding that the probative value of admitting this evidence was outweighed by the prejudicial effects. The trial Judge felt there were too many similarities between the previous sale of cocaine charge and the instant case since allegedly both took place at 3901 Paulding Street. However, the trial Judge warned that if Ruffin "opened the door" and was to say on the witness stand, "I ...


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