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Bell v. State

Court of Appeals of Mississippi

April 1, 2014

TIMOTHY LAVON BELL A/K/A TIMOTHY L. BELL, APPELLANT
v.
STATE OF MISSISSIPPI, APPELLEE

COURT FROM WHICH APPEALED: SCOTT COUNTY CIRCUIT COURT. DATE OF JUDGMENT: 06/15/2012. TRIAL JUDGE: HON. MARCUS D. GORDON. TRIAL COURT DISPOSITION: CONVICTED OF COUNT I, SALE OF METHAMPHETAMINE, AND SENTENCED AS A HABITUAL OFFENDER TO FORTY YEARS, AND COUNT II, SALE OF METHAMPHETAMINE, AND SENTENCED AS A HABITUAL OFFENDER TO FORTY YEARS, WITH THE SENTENCES TO RUN CONSECUTIVELY IN THE CUSTODY OF THE MISSISSIPPI DEPARTMENT OF CORRECTIONS, WITHOUT ELIGIBILITY FOR PAROLE, PARDON, OR SUSPENSION OR REDUCTION OF SENTENCE.

FOR APPELLANT: EDMUND J. PHILLIPS JR., CHOKWE LUMUMBA, IMHOTEP ALKEBU-LAN.

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

BEFORE LEE, C.J., MAXWELL AND FAIR, JJ. LEE, C.J., GRIFFIS, P.J., BARNES, ISHEE, ROBERTS, FAIR AND JAMES, JJ., CONCUR. CARLTON, J., CONCURS IN RESULT ONLY WITHOUT SEPARATE WRITTEN OPINION. IRVING, P.J., CONCURS IN PART AND IN THE RESULT WITHOUT SEPARATE WRITTEN OPINION.

OPINION

Page 1152

NATURE OF THE CASE: CRIMINAL - FELONY

MAXWELL, J.:

[¶1] Timothy Bell raises two issues in his appeal of his methamphetamine-distribution convictions. He first suggests it was inherently unfair for him to have been tried on drug charges wearing a red prison jumpsuit. But to have preserved a constitutional violation based on his trial attire, Bell would have had to have objected to wearing prison garb, which he did not. So he waived any clothing-based challenge to his two convictions.

[¶2] Bell also contests the trial judge's denial of the State's request to nolle pros a drug count on which he was ultimately convicted. In Mississippi, leave of court is statutorily required when a prosecutor seeks dismissal of a count from an indictment. And a trial judge's grant or refusal of leave of court is reviewed for reasonableness under an abuse-of-discretion standard. Here, the judge's exclusion of a video purportedly depicting the drug sale in Count I prompted the State's request to dismiss the count. But the judge found dismissal was not warranted since the informant who made the drug purchase charged in Count I had already testified tat Bell had sold him drugs and was available for further testimony. After review, we find this decision was reasonable and affirm.

Facts and Procedural History

[¶3] A grand jury charged Bell with two counts of selling methamphetamine. The charges resulted from two separate controlled undercover purchases of methamphetamine from Bell. Two different confidential informants wired with video-recording devices were utilized to make the purchases. And both testified at trial to purchasing methamphetamine from Bell on the charged dates. After a jury found him guilty of both counts, Bell was sentenced to two consecutive forty-year sentences, totaling eighty years, as a habitual offender and second drug offender. He was ordered to serve his sentences in Mississippi Department of Corrections custody.[1] Bell appealed.

Discussion

I. Prison Clothing

[¶4] Bell was detained in jail pending trial and wore a " red jumpsuit" during his trial. Though he did not complain to the trial judge about his clothing and there is no evidence the State forced him to wear the jumpsuit, Bell now insists it was unfair for the jury to see him in prison garb.

[¶5] While Bell argues the identifiable prison clothing denied him the presumption of innocence, courts have not embraced " a mechanical rule vitiating any conviction" based on the mere fact " the accused appeared before the jury in prison garb." Estelle ...


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