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Jennings v. State

Supreme Court of Mississippi, En Banc

December 12, 2013

Toney JENNINGS a/k/a Tony Jennings a/k/a Tony Jenning
STATE of Mississippi.

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[Copyrighted Material Omitted]

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Office of State Public Defender by George T. Holmes, Leslie S. Lee, attorneys for appellant.

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Office of the Attorney General by Lisa L. Blount, Scott Stuart, attorneys for appellee.


KING, Justice.

¶ 1. After being convicted by a Lowndes County Circuit Court jury for statutory rape and resisting arrest and being sentenced to fifteen years for statutory rape, with ten years to serve and five years suspended, as well as six months for resisting arrest, Toney Jennings appealed his statutory-rape conviction. The Court of Appeals affirmed his conviction. We granted Jennings's petition for certiorari to determine whether the trial court erred in admitting Jennings's arguably involuntary statement to police into evidence.


¶ 2. On June 9, 2010, J.S.,[2] then thirteen years old, called law-enforcement authorities, alleging that she had been raped by her neighbor, Toney Jennings, who was sixteen years old at the time. Lowndes County Sherriff's Deputy Mark McGarity responded to the call. Deputy McGarity spoke with J.S., then waited for backup before questioning Jennings. While waiting for backup, he observed Jennings exit his grandmother's home. Deputy McGarity told Jennings that he needed to speak with him, and Jennings attempted to run away, shoving Deputy McGarity incidental to his attempt to run. Shortly thereafter, Jennings stopped running, and Deputy McGarity placed him under arrest for assaulting a police officer.

¶ 3. At the police station, Detective Eli Perrigin and Lieutenant Tony Perkins interrogated Jennings. They made an audio recording of the interrogation. The first thirty-eight seconds of the audio recording consisted of Detective Perrigin gathering biographical information from Jennings and documenting that biographical information on the Miranda [3] warnings and waiver form. When Detective Perrigin asked Jennings what grade he was in, Jennings responded " Ninth going to Tenth." [4] On " Education Level" on the Miranda form, Detective Perrigin then wrote " 10th," a troubling mistake given that " Education Level" is commonly understood as the highest education level completed, and Jennings had not yet begun the tenth grade. At thirty-nine seconds, Detective Perrigin asked Jennings, " You don't have an attorney right now I would think, right?" Jennings did not respond with a " yes" or a " no," but rather made an unresponsive statement to the effect that this was the second time " this" had happened. Detective Perrigin wrote " No" as to whether Jennings had an attorney on the Miranda form, despite Jennings never having answered the question as to whether he had an attorney. At forty-five seconds, Detective Perrigin stated that, before he asked Jennings any questions, Jennings had to understand his rights. At forty-eight seconds, Detective Perrigin began reading the Miranda form,

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nearly verbatim, although he skipped a few words. He offered no explanation of any of the Miranda warnings, nor did he ask Jennings if he understood each individual right, or even the rights as a whole. He finished reading the Miranda warnings, then stated " this" was a waiver of rights, and proceeded to read the Waiver of Rights form nearly verbatim, with no explanation of the waiver.[5] At 1:41, after spending less than a minute going over Jennings's rights and waiver thereof, Detective Perrigin finished reading the forms and asked " You understand all that, don't you?" Jennings responded by asking " Um, the part about an attorney. What's attorney?" [6] In the approximately fifty-three seconds Detective Perrigin spent rotely reading the Miranda warnings and waiver of rights form, he used the word " attorney" seven times. At 1:49, Detective Perrigin summarily answered, " It's a lawyer." Then, without further response from Jennings, at 1:53, Detective Perrigin stated " Sign that for me right there," and Jennings complied. Jennings never stated that he understood any of the forms or rights. Detective Perrigin seems to have decided that Jennings understood because, after he asked him if he understood and Jennings responded by asking what an attorney was, Jennings asked no further questions. But Jennings never affirmed or stated or responded that he understood anything that had been so speedily and summarily read to him.

¶ 4. During the interrogation, Detective Perrigin and Lieutenant Perkins indicated that they could not help Jennings avoid a high bond unless he " told the truth; " they indicated several times that telling " the truth" would be better for Jennings; and they indicated that Jennings would feel better if he told " the truth." The entire time, they told him what they believed the truth was, informing him as to what " truth" they wanted to hear. Further, when Detective Perrigin read Jennings the statements that he had written for Jennings, Jennings attempted to correct him at several points, and Detective Perrigin dismissed most of Jennings's corrections and objections to the written statements. Additionally, at about forty-eight minutes into the audio recording of Jennings's ...

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