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Watts v. State

Court of Appeals of Mississippi

February 25, 2014

ALBERT LEWIS WATTS A/K/A ALBERT L. WATTS, APPELLANT
v.
STATE OF MISSISSIPPI, APPELLEE

COURT FROM WHICH APPEALED: LEAKE COUNTY CIRCUIT COURT. DATE OF JUDGMENT: 09/04/2012. TRIAL JUDGE: HON. MARCUS D. GORDON. TRIAL COURT CONVICTED OF ARMED ROBBERY AND SENTENCED AS A HABITUAL OFFENDER TO LIFE IMPRISONMENT IN THE CUSTODY OF THE MISSISSIPPI DEPARTMENT OF CORRECTIONS WITHOUT THE POSSIBILITY OF PAROLE, PROBATION, OR SUSPENSION OR REDUCTION OF SENTENCE.

FOR APPELLANT: EDMUND J. PHILLIPS JR.

FOR APPELLEE: OFFICE OF THE ATTORNEY GENERAL, BY: STEPHANIE BRELAND WOOD.

BEFORE IRVING, P.J., BARNES AND FAIR, JJ. LEE, C.J., IRVING AND GRIFFIS, P.JJ., BARNES, ISHEE, ROBERTS, CARLTON, MAXWELL AND JAMES, JJ., CONCUR.

OPINION

Page 1063

NATURE OF THE CASE: CRIMINAL - FELONY

FAIR, J.

¶1. Albert Watts was convicted of armed robbery and sentenced to life imprisonment as a habitual offender. On appeal, Watts argues: (1) the trial court erred in not declaring a mistrial or instructing the jury to disregard the testimony of State witness Judice Eubanks, and (2) the trial court improperly sentenced him as a habitual offender. We affirm Watts's conviction but remand for resentencing.

FACTS

¶2. On November 25, 2011, Maria Luna was the only employee working the cash register at the U-Stop convenience store in Carthage, Mississippi. Luna had her two daughters with her inside the store. Sometime after 6 p.m., Jose Plasencia entered the store and asked to use the restroom. When Plasencia came back to return the key, Watts entered the store. Watts had a screwdriver in his hand and had the hood on his sweatshirt pulled over his head. Holding the screwdriver, Watts demanded money and threatened to take Luna's children if she did not cooperate. At Watts's command, Luna opened the cash register and the safe. She then ran

Page 1064

outside the store with her children and called the police. Carthage police officers arrived and talked to Luna about what happened. Later that day, the police showed Luna a photo lineup. She identified Watts as the man with the screwdriver. Watts was arrested and charged with armed robbery.

¶3. Luna testified at trial and identified Watts again in the courtroom as the man with the screwdriver. The State also subpoenaed Eubanks, the girlfriend of Plasencia. Eubanks testified that, on the day of the robbery, Plasencia and Watts were at her house drinking and smoking. Watts asked her and Plasencia to drive him to the store; both men went inside while she remained in the van. She said Plasencia then walked outside and told her that Watts was robbing the place. At that time, Eubanks saw a lady and two young girls walk outside the store. She testified that shortly thereafter, Watts walked out of the store and entered the van. During cross-examination, Eubanks stated that she did not see anything that occurred inside the store. Toward the end of her cross-examination, she admitted that she had consumed " half a case" and a bottle of wine before she testified. On redirect, Eubanks testified that her testimony was consistent with the statement she gave police on the day of the robbery. On recross, she admitted that she also had been drinking the day of the robbery. Neither the State nor defense counsel made any objections. At the close of her testimony, the judge ordered Eubanks to serve three days in jail and pay a $100 fine.[1]

¶4. On September 5, 2012, Watts was convicted and sentenced as a habitual offender to life imprisonment, without the possibility of parole, probation, or suspension or reduction of his sentence under Mississippi Code ...


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