JOEL PABLO GONZALEZ A/K/A JOEL PABLO GONZALES A/K/A " MARTIN" A/K/A JOEL P. GONZALES, APPELLANT
STATE OF MISSISSIPPI, APPELLEE
COURT FROM WHICH APPEALED: MADISON COUNTY CIRCUIT COURT. DATE OF JUDGMENT: 12/13/2011. TRIAL JUDGE: HON. JOHN HUEY EMFINGER. TRIAL COURT CONVICTED OF POSSESSION OF FIVE OR MORE KILOGRAMS OF MARIJUANA AND SENTENCED TO THIRTY YEARS IN THE CUSTODY OF THE MISSISSIPPI DEPARTMENT OF CORRECTIONS.
FOR APPELLANT: HUNTER NOLAN AIKENS.
FOR APPELLEE: OFFICE OF THE ATTORNEY GENERAL, BY: SCOTT STUART.
BEFORE IRVING, P.J., ISHEE AND FAIR, JJ. LEE, C.J., IRVING AND GRIFFIS, P.JJ., BARNES, ISHEE, ROBERTS, CARLTON, MAXWELL AND JAMES, JJ., CONCUR.
NATURE OF THE CASE: CRIMINAL - FELONY
¶1. " Joel" Gonzalez  was convicted by a Madison County jury of possession of five or more kilograms of marijuana. On appeal, he contends the trial court erred in admitting his confession and in allowing the prosecutor to cross-examine Gonzalez regarding his prior deportations. We find no error and affirm.
¶2. Gonzalez was driving a four-door pickup truck north on Interstate 55 through Madison, Mississippi. He and his two passengers were pulled over by Madison Police Officer Paul Bunch, who was joined by other officers a short time later. Bunch had observed Gonzalez change lanes without signaling and cross over the fog line. Gonzalez gave permission to search the vehicle, and the officers discovered a false floor in the bed toolbox that was concealing fifteen bags of marijuana. The bags had been doused with seasonings in an apparent effort to defeat drug dogs. Gonzalez stated that the truck did not belong to him, but the drugs were his. At a subsequent interrogation, Gonzalez stated that the passengers " didn't have anything to do with it." Gonzalez wrote out a statement that said, in relevant part, " The 24lbs of marijuana are mine." The bags were later determined to weigh almost exactly twenty-four pounds.
¶3. At trial, Gonzalez changed his story. He claimed he had initially taken responsibility for the drugs because he felt guilty for the driving error that got them pulled over and because he was afraid of the real owner of the drugs, Antonio Mata, who was also the vehicle's owner and a passenger when it was stopped.  Gonzalez claimed he did not know about the drugs in the vehicle until Mata told him as it was being searched -- that was supposedly how Gonzalez knew there were twenty-four pounds of marijuana in the truck. Gonzalez also stated that his ...