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Pruitt v. State

Court of Appeals of Mississippi

September 17, 2013

Jimmy Newton PRUITT, III a/k/a Jimmy Pruitt a/k/a Jimmy Pruitt, III, Appellant
v.
STATE of Mississippi, Appellee.

Page 807

[Copyrighted Material Omitted]

Page 808

Hunter Nolan Aikens, attorney for appellant.

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

Before LEE, C.J., ROBERTS and CARLTON, JJ.

CARLTON, J.

¶ 1. An Issaquena County jury convicted Jimmy Pruitt of possession of a cell phone within a correctional facility following a trial in the Issaquena County Circuit Court. The circuit court sentenced Pruitt to ten years in the custody of the Mississippi Department of Corrections (MDOC), with five years suspended and five years to serve, followed by five years of post-release supervision. Aggrieved by the jury verdict and sentence of the circuit court, Pruitt appeals, raising the following assignments of error: (1) the verdict is against the overwhelming weight of the evidence, and (2) the prosecution impermissibly shifted the burden of proof to Pruitt and expressed personal opinions as to Pruitt's guilt during its closing argument. Finding no error, we affirm.

FACTS

¶ 2. On April 14, 2011, Officer Annie Johnson, chief of operations at the Issaquena County Correctional Facility (ICCF), informed security and supervising officers Lieutenant Michael Green and Sergeant Ronald Reed that she believed that Pruitt, an inmate in the facility, possessed a cell phone. Officer Johnson asked the officers to retrieve the phone from Pruitt. The officers located and frisked Pruitt, and while doing so, observed a black cell phone drop out of his pants to the ground. The officers retrieved the phone and gave it to Officer Johnson.

¶ 3. Officer John Hunt from ICCF's criminal investigation division extracted all of the phone calls, text messages, and pictures sent or received from the phone. Officer Hunt testified that the majority of phone calls and text messages found in the phone were to numbers from a call list of Pruitt's cellmate, Antonio Anderson. However, a twenty-two minute phone call was also placed to a number on Pruitt's call list.

¶ 4. A grand jury before the Issaquena County Circuit Court subsequently indicted Pruitt of possessing a cell phone within a correctional facility in violation of Mississippi Code Annotated section 47-5-193 (Supp.2012). Pruitt testified at trial that he never possessed a cell phone in the facility. A jury in the Issaquena County Circuit Court convicted Pruitt of the crime charged. The trial court then sentenced Pruitt to ten years in the custody of the MDOC, with five years suspended and five years to serve, followed by five years of post-release supervision. Pruitt now appeals.

DISCUSSION

I. WEIGHT OF THE EVIDENCE

¶ 5. Pruitt argues that the verdict is against the ...


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