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Oatis v. State

December 30, 1998

MARLON LAVELLE OATIS APPELLANT
v.
STATE OF MISSISSIPPI APPELLEE



Before Bridges, C.j., Payne, And Southwick, JJ.

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Southwick, J., For The Court:

DATE OF JUDGMENT: 4/18/97

TRIAL JUDGE: HON. KOSTA N. VLAHOS

COURT FROM WHICH APPEALED: HANCOCK COUNTY CIRCUIT COURT

DISTRICT ATTORNEY: CONO CARANNA

NATURE OF THE CASE: CRIMINAL - FELONY

TRIAL COURT DISPOSITION: SIMPLE ASSAULT ON A LAW ENFORCEMENT OFFICER: SENTENCED TO 18 MONTHS IN CUSTODY OF MDOC AND $1000 FINE

¶1. Marlon Lavelle Oatis was convicted by a Hancock County Circuit Court jury of assaulting a police officer. On appeal he raises these issues: (1) denial of a self-defense instruction; (2) weight of the evidence; (3) admission of a tape recording made prior to the assault; and (4) the fairness of the trial. We reject these arguments and affirm.

FACTS

¶2. The following are the facts that are most consistent with the verdict. On July 16, 1996, Officer Jutson Roberts was patrolling the streets of Bay St. Louis when a speeding car passed him. The car was traveling at 47 mph in a 25 mph zone. Roberts activated his flashing lights and the vehicle pulled into a driveway. Roberts approached the car, and the driver identified himself as Patrick Oatis. The officer smelled alcohol and noticed that Oatis was slurring his speech. Roberts had little experience in conducting field sobriety tests so he called for assistance. Another officer arrived and began to conduct the test. Oatis threatened that officer and moved toward him with his fist raised. After a brief struggle, the officers succeeded in placing handcuffs on Oatis and getting him into the police car. Oatis began complaining that the officers had "re-broken" his wrist.

¶3. During the drive to the jail, Oatis remained belligerent and uttered a stream of profanities. He threatened to sue Roberts, who then activated a tape recorder in the vehicle. Upon arrival at the jail, Oatis was denied admittance because of his complaints regarding his injured wrist. Roberts then drove Oatis to the Hancock County Medical Center.

¶4. At the emergency room, Oatis identified himself as Marlon Lavelle Oatis rather than Patrick Oatis. He remained combative and hospital personnel requested that he be restrained. He was then strapped to a gurney and twice managed to free himself. Following Oatis's second escape, Officer Roberts, another officer, and a hospital employee again attempted to restrain him. Oatis struggled and Officer Roberts was kneed or kicked several times in the ribs. He was thereafter treated for bruised ribs.

¶5. Oatis was convicted after a jury trial of assaulting a police officer. He received an eighteen month sentence and a $1000 fine.

DISCUSSION

I. Self-defense instruction

¶6. Oatis first contends that the trial court erred in denying his self-defense instruction. He claims that during the struggle, Officer Roberts elbowed him and otherwise started hurting him, which entitled Oatis to attempt to free himself.

ΒΆ7. The court rejected the instruction because Oatis had denied ever kneeing or otherwise hitting the officer. Oatis testified unequivocally that he did not knee Officer Roberts, as he "couldn't even get his foot loose." Oatis's counsel acknowledged the testimony, but asked that the evidence from other witnesses be considered that Oatis was thrashing about. In other words, Oatis's own denial of ever ...


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