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Hamm v. State

March 25, 1999

THOMAS WAYNE HAMM AND TERRI WRIGHT HAMM
v.
STATE OF MISSISSIPPI



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Pittman, Presiding Justice

ON PETITION FOR WRIT OF CERTIORARI

DATE OF JUDGMENT: 02/10/95

TRIAL JUDGE: HON. JAMES W. BACKSTROM

COURT FROM WHICH APPEALED: JACKSON COUNTY CIRCUIT COURT

DISTRICT ATTORNEY: DALE HARKEY

NATURE OF THE CASE: CRIMINAL - FELONY

DISPOSITION: REVERSED AND RENDERED -03/25/1999

MOTION FOR REHEARING FILED:

MANDATE ISSUED:

EN BANC.

STATEMENT OF THE CASE

¶1. Terri Wright Hamm was convicted of possession of more than one kilogram of marijuana with intent to distribute and possession of methamphetamine, and sentenced to serve five years in the custody of the Mississippi Department of Corrections on the first count, and three years in the custody of the Mississippi Department of Corrections on the second count, with said sentences to run concurrently. She appealed, and her case was assigned to the Court of Appeals, which affirmed her conviction. Wright filed a Petition for Writ of Certiorari wherein she challenges the Court of Appeals opinion regarding the sufficiency of the evidence and the trial court's denial of certain jury instructions requested by her. Because we find that the evidence presented at trial is insufficient to support Hamm's conviction, we reverse and render.

FACTS

¶2. On August 23, 1993, Sergeant Potts and Captain Randy Sibley of the Mississippi Highway Patrol were working on Interstate 10 in Jackson County, Mississippi. Inspector Bruce Ford, Jr. and Inspector Wayne Dupont of the Mississippi Public Service Commission (MPSC) were working in conjunction with Officers Potts and Sibley, who used a radar device to determine that an eighteen-wheel tractor-trailer truck which Thomas Hamm was driving, and his wife Terri Hamm was riding in as a passenger, was speeding. Officers Potts and Sibley did not stop the vehicle immediately, but instead waited until Hamm drove it into the Orange Grove weighing station off the Interstate, where MPSC Inspectors Ford and Dupont were waiting.

¶3. When Hamm pulled the truck onto the scales, Sergeant Potts pulled his patrol car beside the truck, and signaled the scales' operator to turn on a light which directed Hamm to drive around to the rear of the scales building where Inspectors Ford and Dupont were waiting to inspect the truck to determine if Hamm was operating it legally. After Captain Sibley issued a warning citation for speeding to Thomas Hamm, Inspector Ford began his inspection. It was determined that Thomas Hamm owned both the Peterbilt tractor and the trailer which it was pulling.

¶4. Ford asked for, and obtained from, Thomas Hamm the paperwork he was required by state and federal law to carry regarding the vehicle and its load. The paperwork contained five bills of lading for Hamm's load of limes and mangoes. Sergeant Vernon Gazzo arrived on the scene and obtained Thomas Hamm's permission to search the cab of his Peterbilt. As Terri Hamm stepped down from the truck pursuant to the officer's, Gazzo saw a one-foot square cutting board with a single-edged razor blade and a gray tube lying there with it between the seats. Gazzo then searched the closet in the sleeper behind the truck seats, where he found a red tin can which contained a small quantity of marijuana.

¶5. Inspectors Ford and Dupont asked Thomas Hamm to open the refrigerated trailer, which was locked with a padlock. Mr. Hamm unlocked the padlock with his key, and Inspector Dupont entered the trailer to inspect the load. Toward the front of the trailer, Inspector Dupont observed a load of limes which he testified were spoiled, rotten, and molded. In front of the limes he found four U-Haul cardboard boxes containing several packages of marijuana, later determined to weigh 196 pounds, which had been individually wrapped in transparent wrap.

¶6. Both of the Hamms were arrested, and Sergeant Potts drove Hamm's vehicle to a truck-freight yard in Gulfport where he left it for the night. The next morning as he completed the search of the trailer, Sergeant Potts found a small brown box wrapped in gray duct tape which contained methamphetamine, and $6,000 currency wrapped in a bundle.

ΒΆ7. Terri Hamm was jointly indicted with her husband for possession of more than one kilogram of marijuana with intent to distribute and possession of methamphetamine. A joint trial resulted in a jury convicting Terri Hamm and her husband being convicted of possession of more than one kilogram of marijuana with intent to distribute and possession of methamphetamine. Terri Hamm was sentence to pay a fine of $10,000, to pay a lab fee of $125, and to serve five years in the custody of the Mississippi Department of Corrections for the possession of marijuana with intent to distribute conviction, and to pay a fine of $1,000, ...


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