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Gardner v. State

Court of Appeals of Mississippi

September 10, 2013

Demonta GARDNER a/k/a Gangster, Appellant
v.
STATE of Mississippi, Appellee.

Page 310

Benjamin Allen Suber, attorney for appellant.

Office of the Attorney General by Elliott George Flaggs, attorney for appellee.

Before IRVING, P.J., ISHEE and FAIR, JJ.

FAIR, J.

¶ 1. When Karen Winters answered a knock at the door, a man forced it open and held her at gunpoint. Two or three accomplices followed and looted Winters's apartment as she was forced to lie on the floor with a blanket over her head. The men took her television, purse, medicine bag, change jar, and two laptops, among other things.

Page 311

¶ 2. Later that night, and only a few blocks away, an officer of the Columbus Police Department pulled over a Ford Explorer containing Demonta Gardner, five of his acquaintances, and some of Winters's possessions. The occupants of the vehicle gave varying accounts of who had participated in the robbery and to what extent. Gardner was ultimately tried for armed robbery and burglary. He testified in his own defense that he had stayed in the vehicle and refused to rob an " old woman." Two of his companions, however, testified for the State and placed him inside the apartment.

¶ 3. The jury acquitted Gardner of armed robbery, but it convicted of him of burglary. Gardner now appeals, arguing that the evidence does not support his conviction. We find no merit to these issues, so we affirm Gardner's conviction and sentence.

FACTS

¶ 4. Gardner was arrested with five other young men: Michael Satterfield, Tevin Oglen, Jeremy Billups, Corey Lathan, and Bobby Bluitt. The six had varying levels of familiarity with each other and had been, by one description, classmates. Satterfield, Billups, and Oglen testified for the State.

¶ 5. There was some variation in the details, but the witnesses generally agreed that the group had assembled during the afternoon of September 29, 2011. Gardner was the last or one of the last to join up when the others showed up at his house. All three of the State's witnesses agreed Gardner brought a .40-caliber pistol with him and later gave it to Oglen. Although there had been talk of visiting some girls, the six eventually decided to " hit a lick" by robbing a local drug dealer known in the record only as " A1." Several in the group donned masks and two armed themselves with the .40-caliber pistol and a .22-caliber revolver.

¶ 6. When they arrived sometime after 10:00 in the evening, they found A1's apartment vacant. Nearby, however, was Winters's apartment, and through her window they could see a large flat-screen television. One of the six, either Oglen or Billups depending on the testimony,[1] wearing a hood and bandana to obscure his face, knocked on Winters's door and claimed to be " John, from upstairs." When Winters opened the door, the lead man forced his way inside and some of the others followed. According to Oglen and Satterfield, Gardner went inside and took the television. Billups described Gardner as going behind the building for a short time and then returning to the car; according to him, Oglen and Lathan took the television.

¶ 7. Gardner testified in his own defense. He claimed to have been surprised when the others showed up at his house, but he came along because he thought they were going to visit some girls. On the way over, however, Lathan began talking about " hitting a lick." Gardner thought it was just bluster, but Lathan directed the driver, Bluitt, to A1's apartment complex. Satterfield, Oglen, Billups and Lathan got out of the vehicle, but they came back after finding A1's apartment vacant. Oglen saw the television in Winters's apartment and suggested robbing her, but Gardner and Billups refused, even after ...


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