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Stewart v. State

Court of Appeals of Mississippi

September 17, 2013

Roy L. STEWART a/k/a Roy Stewart a/k/a Roy L. Steward a/k/a Roy Steward, Appellant
v.
STATE of Mississippi, Appellee.

Rehearing Denied Jan. 28, 2014.

Page 1159

George T. Holmes, Jackson, Ernest Tucker Gore, Phillip Broadhead, attorneys for appellant.

Office of the Attorney General by Laura Hogan Tedder, attorney for appellee.

Before IRVING, P.J., ROBERTS, CARLTON and JAMES, JJ.

ROBERTS, J.

¶ 1. Roy L. Stewart was convicted on one count of burglary by a jury in the Washington County Circuit Court. He was sentenced to serve six years in the custody of the Mississippi Department of Corrections (MDOC), with four years to serve and two years of post-release supervision (PRS). Stewart now appeals his conviction and sentence.

FACTS AND PROCEDURAL HISTORY

¶ 2. During the early morning hours on September 1, 2010, a Leland police officer discovered that Buster's Liquor Store in Leland, Mississippi, had been broken into at some point that morning. He observed that the hasp was broken off the door and that the plexiglass around the door was also broken. It was later determined that the only items missing from Buster's were bottles of alcohol.

¶ 3. Several months later, the Greenville Police Department contacted the Leland Police Department and informed them that they had detained Lakesha Warfield on unrelated charges, but she had stated that she had information about the Buster's burglary. Leland police officers interviewed Warfield about the incident. Warfield, Stewart's on-again-off-again girlfriend and the mother of three of his children, told police that she and Stewart had rented a room at the neighboring Leland Motel on the night of the burglary. She told the police that they saw two unidentified men breaking into the store, but they did not see anything else. Before she left, he took the bedspread off of the bed and went out the motel door. After Stewart removed the bedspread, Warfield stated, she did not go outside the room until he had come back to the room. They never discussed what he did during the time he was outside of the room and she never actually saw Stewart go into Buster's; however, she did hear some clinking sounds like bottles hitting each other while Stewart was outside of the room

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with the bedspread. Further, she stated that the following day she observed approximately fifteen bottles of unopened alcohol in the trunk of Stewart's car, which he then sold on the street. She also testified that when she left to go home, she left Stewart in the room alone. Warfield described Stewart's vehicle as a light blue 1998 Mercury Marquis.

¶ 4. Police arrested Stewart for the burglary of Buster's, and a grand jury indicted him for the crime on July 12, 2011. Stewart's jury trial began on April 17, 2012, and ended the following day on April 18, 2012. At trial, Warfield testified to the above facts. However, she admitted that she and Stewart had a volatile relationship, and at the time she gave information to the police, she was angry at him for cheating on her. Stewart's attorney asked Warfield the following question: " You were mad at him, and this is why you exaggerated your story about what happened that night. Correct?" Warfield responded, " Yes, sir."

¶ 5. Additionally, the State produced the testimony of Leland Police Officer Scott Tarpley, who initially discovered the burglary while on patrol. He also testified that no prints were obtained from the scene. The State also provided the testimony of Kenny Thomas, the owner of the Leland Motel, who explained the video-surveillance system the motel utilizes. He explained that while none of the video cameras directly show Buster's, the cameras do show the parking lot adjacent to Buster's. The State showed the jury the video-surveillance footage from that night. In the footage, a man exits a motel room and walks toward Buster's. He then goes out of frame for a few minutes until he is again seen pushing a wheelbarrow toward the trunk of his car parked in the motel parking lot. He unloads the contents of the wheelbarrow into the trunk. The man then gets a bedspread from a motel room and again walks toward Buster's. He appears on camera carrying a load of something in the bedspread. He again puts the contents into the trunk of his car. Leland Police Department Investigator Karen Taylor also testified for the State. Investigator Taylor was the officer that interviewed Warfield. Investigator Taylor also determined that the vehicle in the surveillance video matched Stewart's vehicle. Lastly, Russell King, part owner of Buster's, testified as to the items missing from the store. He also stated that Buster's usually kept a wheelbarrow outside of the store, and that it was also missing until Thomas informed him it was in the motel parking lot.

¶ 6. A jury convicted Stewart for the burglary of Buster's. He was sentenced to serve six years in the custody of the MDOC, with four years to serve and two years of PRS. Stewart timely filed a motion for a judgment notwithstanding the verdict (JNOV) or, in the alternative, a new trial; the circuit court denied this motion on May 31, 2012. Stewart executed the current appeal and raised the following issue: " Did the [circuit] court err in failing to sustain [Stewart's] motion for directed verdict, peremptory ...


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