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Ferguson v. State

Supreme Court of Mississippi, En Banc

April 17, 2014

CHARLES FERGUSON a/k/a CHARLES FURGUSON a/k/a CHARLES FERGUSON, JR. a/k/a C J
v.
STATE OF MISSISSIPPI

COURT FROM WHICH APPEALED: LOWNDES COUNTY CIRCUIT COURT. DATE OF JUDGMENT: 02/21/2012. TRIAL JUDGE: HON. LEE SORRELS COLEMAN. TRIAL COURT ATTORNEYS: STEVEN CARL WALLACE, RHONDA HAYES-ELLIS, KATIE MOULDS.

FOR APPELLANT: OFFICE OF STATE PUBLIC DEFENDER, BY: GEORGE T. HOLMES, MARK ANDREW CLIETT.

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

PIERCE, JUSTICE. WALLER, C.J., RANDOLPH, P.J., LAMAR, KITCHENS, CHANDLER, KING AND COLEMAN, JJ., CONCUR. DICKINSON, P.J., CONCURS IN RESULT ONLY WITHOUT SEPARATE WRITTEN OPINION.

OPINION

ON WRIT OF CERTIORARI

NATURE OF THE CASE: CRIMINAL - FELONY

PIERCE, JUSTICE.

¶1. Charles Ferguson rode as a back-seat passenger from Starkville, Mississippi, to West Point, Mississippi, with Lazeric Yarbrough and Oratio Robinson, unaware of Yarbrough's and Robinson's intent to purchase marijuana once in West Point. On their return to Starkville, the men approached a Mississippi Highway Patrol

Page 422

checkpoint in Lowndes County, Mississippi. Ferguson testified at trial that, as they approached the checkpoint, Yarbrough, a front-seat passenger in the vehicle, opened the door and threw the bag of marijuana from the vehicle. The officers at the checkpoint watched as the bag was thrown from the vehicle and subsequently arrested all three men. Ferguson was indicted in 2010 for possession of marijuana in an amount greater than 250 grams but less than 500 grams, with the intent to distribute pursuant to Mississippi Code Section 41-29-139. Miss. Code Ann. § 41-29-139 (Rev. 2013).

¶2. Trial on the matter commenced February 16, 2012, in the Circuit Court of Lowndes County, Mississippi. After the jury was empaneled, the trial court recessed for lunch. Once the trial court reconvened, the State presented that it had learned during the break that Ferguson was a habitual offender, and it had just then filed its motion to amend the indictment to reflect his habitual-offender status under Mississippi Code Section 99-19-81. Miss. Code Ann. § 99-19-81 (Rev. 2007).[1] The trial court moved forward with a hearing on the State's motion to amend the indictment pursuant to Uniform Rule of Circuit and County Court 7.09. URCCC 7.09.[2] Defense counsel argued that, because of the timing of the motion, an amendment would unfairly prejudice Ferguson. The trial court recessed to give defense counsel an opportunity to speak with Ferguson concerning the implications of habitual-offender status. During the recess, the State communicated its plea offer to Ferguson for his consideration.

¶3. Thereafter, the trial court ruled that it would allow the amendment, and it stated that defense counsel had conferred with Ferguson for " approximately 40 minutes since the motion was made." Ferguson, an indigent defendant, addressed the trial court, seeking permission to hire his own attorney. The trial court ruled that Ferguson had two years prior to trial to hire an attorney, and further, he did not show that he was now able to afford an attorney. An additional " brief recess" was taken to give Ferguson and defense counsel one last chance to confer. Ferguson chose to reject the State's plea offer.

¶4. Once Ferguson rejected the State's offer, the State moved forward with presenting its case-in-chief. Ferguson presented his defense the following day, and trial concluded with closing arguments by both parties. That same day, Ferguson was convicted of the lesser-included offense of possession of marijuana in an amount of 250 grams but less than 500 grams, ...


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