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Wright v. State

December 31, 1998

LONIA A. WRIGHT, A /K/A LONNIE A. WRIGHT
v.
STATE OF MISSISSIPPI



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Smith, Justice, For The Court:

DATE OF JUDGMENT: 12/11/92

TRIAL JUDGE: HON. ISADORE W. PATRICK, JR.

COURT FROM WHICH APPEALED: WARREN COUNTY CIRCUIT COURT

DISTRICT ATTORNEY: G. GILMORE MARTIN

NATURE OF THE CASE: CRIMINAL - FELONY

EN BANC.

¶1. In this appeal from a conviction of kidnapping, armed robbery, and sexual battery we must determine whether a defendant's statements made after arrest, which were not elicited by police action, should have been suppressed on the grounds that the defendant was under the influence of a controlled substance and therefore any waiver of Miranda rights was not voluntarily, knowledgeably and intelligently given. We must also determine whether a witness should be called to testify before the jury even though the court has been informed that the witness will only invoke the Fifth Amendment right against self incrimination. We conclude that where statements are made voluntarily and are not the product of police action the fact that the defendant is under the influence of a controlled substance is irrelevant and the statements are admissible. We further conclude that the trial court did not abuse its discretion by refusing to allow an irrelevant witness to be called to the stand, who would have refused to answer questions on Fifth Amendment grounds. Therefore, we affirm the circuit court's judgment.

I.

¶2. On or about October 8, 1991, the appellant Lonia Wright entered Donna Price's place of employment and kidnapped her at gunpoint. Over several hours, Wright forced Price to disrobe, perform oral sex on him and smoke crack-cocaine with him. He also forcefully performed oral sex on her. Wright admittedly was smoking crack-cocaine throughout the kidnapping.

¶3. After driving to his home and forcing Price to perform fellatio in a nearby shack, Wright took Price through the woods at gunpoint to the home of Alma Cash. Ms. Cash was in her car and about to go to the bank. Brandishing the gun in Ms. Cash's face, Wright forced her out of the car and made Price get in with him. He then fled the scene. Shortly after stealing the car, members of the Vicksburg Police Department apprehended Wright. At the time of Wright's capture he held a briefcase that contained a crack pipe, Price's bra and papers. A .38 caliber handgun was also found close to the area where Wright was placed under arrest.

¶4. After being Mirandized and placed in a patrol car, Wright asked for Leroy Williams, an officer with the Sheriff's Department. He told Williams that the crack-cocaine had him doing crazy things and that he had messed up. The conversation with Williams did not last five minutes. On the way to the police station, Wright voluntarily stated that he did not know why he took the lady, that he had embarrassed his family and that he was wrong and needed help.

¶5. Wright was subsequently indicted for kidnapping, armed robbery and sexual battery. He testified in his own defense, contending that he knew Price before the incident and that she freely accompanied him to his home to smoke crack-cocaine. He denied having any sexual relations with Price. He also denied pulling the gun on Alma Cash to take her car, because, according to Wright, Cash was not in her car when he stole it.

¶6. Wright attempted to call Lorinzo Hull to the stand; however, Hull's counsel informed the trial Judge that Hull did not wish to testify and would invoke his Fifth Amendment privilege against self-incrimination. Wright proffered that Hull would testify that he saw Wright and a white female one day in the "Marcus Bottom" community (high crime and drug- infested area) and that Wright bought drugs. According to counsel for Wright, Hull would have also testified that the white female did not appear to be under any duress. The trial court did not allow Hull to come to the stand and assert his right before the jury because (1) Hull could not pinpoint on what day he saw Wright and a white female - indicating that it could have been any white female therefore making the testimony irrelevant and (2) the court felt it was more prejudicial than probative.

ΒΆ7. The jury found Wright guilty of kidnapping and sentenced him to life imprisonment. He was also found guilty of armed robbery and sentenced to another term of life. The jury further found Wright guilty of sexual battery, and the trial court sentenced him to twenty-five years imprisonment to be served concurrently with the kidnapping sentence which runs consecutively to the armed robbery ...


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