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Johnson v. State

Supreme Court of Mississippi, En Banc

March 13, 2014

ANGELA DENISE JOHNSON a/k/a ANGELA JOHNSON
v.
STATE OF MISSISSIPPI

DATE OF JUDGMENT: 11/30/2010.

Page 734

COURT FROM WHICH APPEALED: NESHOBA COUNTY CIRCUIT COURT. TRIAL JUDGE: HON. MARCUS D. GORDON.

FOR APPELLANT: CYNTHIA ANN STEWART.

FOR APPELLEE: OFFICE OF THE ATTORNEY GENERAL, BY: BILLY L. GORE, JOHN R. HENRY, JR.

KITCHENS, JUSTICE. WALLER, C.J., DICKINSON, P.J., KING AND COLEMAN, JJ., CONCUR. LAMAR, J., DISSENTS WITH SEPARATE WRITTEN OPINION JOINED BY RANDOLPH, P.J., CHANDLER AND PIERCE, JJ.

Page 735

ON WRIT OF CERTIORARI

NATURE OF THE CASE: CRIMINAL - FELONY

KITCHENS, JUSTICE

¶1. A Neshoba County jury convicted Angela Johnson of one count of possession of methamphetamine, one count of possession of precursor chemicals, and one count of false pretense. The Court of Appeals affirmed Johnson's convictions, and this Court granted certiorari to resolve the question of whether admission into evidence of two search warrants and an underlying facts-and-circumstances affidavit which included hearsay statements attributed to a confidential informant constituted reversible error. Because we find error, we reverse the judgments of the trial court and the Court of Appeals and remand the case to the Circuit Court of Neshoba County for a new trial.

FACTS[1] AND PROCEDURAL HISTORY

On January 9, 2010, Neshoba County Deputy Sheriff Ralph Sciple received information from a confidential informant that Johnson was in possession of methamphetamine and precursor chemicals in her home in Philadelphia, Mississippi. Officer Sciple was also told that individuals were making false identification cards in order to buy precursor chemicals. Based on this information, two search warrants were issued. One search warrant targeted the methamphetamine and precursor chemicals on the premises, and a second search warrant targeted the computers and equipment used to make forgeries.
On January 10, 2010, at 10:40 p.m., the search warrants were executed. The adults present when the search warrant was executed were Johnson, Calvin Johnson, and Kenneth Brian Stevens. They were taken to the living room and given a Miranda warning. Johnson stated that she understood the warning.

Page 736

Inside of the home, officers found two laptop computers. On one computer, a Dell, the screen was open. The officers observed a picture of a Nebraska driver's license showing an individual who Officer Sciple " knew didn't live in Nebraska." The picture was of Alicia Wells, a Neshoba County resident. The other computer, a Toshiba, was closed and connected to a charger. Officer Sciple questioned Johnson regarding the computers. She stated the Dell computer was hers, and the Toshiba computer belonged to Stevens. Officer Sciple also found a document on Johnson's computer detailing how to make false identification cards. In addition to the computers, eleven identification cards were found in a purse in the residence. Nine of the identification cards purported to show a photograph of Johnson. One was Johnson's actual driver's license, two of them were fake Nebraska driver's licenses, and the rest were fake Mississippi identification cards or driver's licenses.
During the search, officers found a box located in the computer room containing an Instant Ice compress, pseudoephedrine pills, and lithium batteries. A bottle of drain cleaner was discovered in the master bathroom of the house. A can of Coleman camp fuel was retrieved from the laundry room of the residence. Finally, a bag of fertilizer was found outside the front door of the home. A forensic scientist with the Mississippi Crime Lab testified at trial and stated the items collected all contained chemicals in commonly found precursors used in the manufacturing of methamphetamine.
During the search, the officers also found two empty ziplock bags and a third ziplock bag containing a " crystal[-]like substance." The forensic scientist testified regarding the testing of the ziplock bags at the crime lab. According to the scientist, one ziplock bag contained methamphetamine, and the two empty ziplock bags tested positive for trace amounts of methamphetamine.
Johnson, Calvin, and Stevens were all arrested on January 10, 2010, the night the warrant was executed. On January 12, 2010, Officer Sciple interviewed Johnson. Before any questioning, he advised Johnson of her Miranda rights, and she signed a waiver. She then made certain confessions to Officer Sciple, which he condensed into written statements signed by Johnson. In the first statement, Johnson acknowledged that she was in possession of methamphetamine. In the second statement, she admitted that she had bought Claritin-D and that Stevens had bought pseudoephedrine. They planned to take the pills out of the county for someone else to make methamphetamine. Johnson claimed she only intended to use the medicine and never planned to make the methamphetamine herself. In her final statement, she stated that she had used a false identification card with a Social Security number that was not her own.
On May 4, 2010, the grand jury indicted Johnson for Count I, possession of methamphetamine; Count II, possession of precursor chemicals; and Count III, false pretense. The trial began on November 11, 2010.

Johnson v. State, 155 So.3d 822, 2013 WL 791831, *2 (Miss.Ct.App. Mar. 5, 2013).

¶2. The search warrants and accompanying documents were introduced by the State and admitted as substantive evidence at trial. Each included the following statement by the issuing justice court judge: " WHEREAS RALPH SCIPLE KNOWN TO ME TO BE A CREDIBLE PERSON, HAS THIS DAY MADE COMPLAINT

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ON OATH BEFORE ME AS FOLLOWS. . . . This Court, having examined and considered the Affidavit, and also having heard all considered evidence in support thereof from the affiant named therein does find that probable cause for the issuance of a Search Warrant does exist."

¶3. Attached to each search warrant was an underlying facts-and-circumstances affidavit, which included the curri ...


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