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Taylor v. State

Supreme Court of Mississippi

May 1, 2014

BERNARD TAYLOR, JR. a/k/a BERNARD TAYLOR
v.
STATE OF MISSISSIPPI

COURT FROM WHICH APPEALED: HINDS COUNTY CIRCUIT COURT. DATE OF JUDGMENT: 05/10/2012. TRIAL JUDGE: HON. JEFF WEILL, SR.

FOR APPELLANT: OFFICE OF STATE PUBLIC DEFENDER, BY: JUSTIN T. COOK.

FOR APPELLEE: OFFICE OF THE ATTORNEY GENERAL, BY: LAURA HOGAN TEDDER.

BEFORE WALLER, C.J., CHANDLER AND KING, JJ. WALLER, C.J., DICKINSON AND RANDOLPH, P.JJ., LAMAR, KITCHENS, PIERCE, KING AND COLEMAN, JJ., CONCUR.

OPINION

Page 284

NATURE OF THE CASE: CRIMINAL - FELONY

CHANDLER, JUSTICE:

¶1. This case arose out of a shooting incident that occurred due to tensions between two rival teenage gangs. Sixteen-year-old Bernard Taylor fired multiple shots into a car containing five people, wounding three of them. He was charged with three counts of aggravated assault, with each count alleging a firearms enhancement under Mississippi Code Section 97-37-37.[1] The trial court denied Taylor's proposed jury instruction on the lesser-included offense of simple assault. Taylor was granted a self-defense instruction. The jury was not instructed on the firearms enhancement. Taylor was convicted of one count of aggravated assault. At a separate sentencing hearing, Taylor received

Page 285

a twenty-year sentence for aggravated assault and a five-year sentence for a firearms enhancement, to run consecutively.

¶2. On appeal, Taylor argues that the district court erred by denying the assault instruction, and that the five-year sentence enhancement should be vacated either under the United States Supreme Court case Apprendi v. New Jersey, 530 U.S. 466, 120 S.Ct. 2348, 147 L.Ed.2d 435 (2000) or, alternatively, under double jeopardy. We find that Taylor's arguments are without merit and affirm the judgment of the circuit court.

FACTS AND PROCEEDINGS BELOW

¶3. On the evening of January 1, 2011, and into the morning of January 2, 2011, Jessie Whitfield and his brother Chris were taking a ride home from a party near the Jackson Medical Mall with their friends Jasmyn, Meyhatta, Latisha, and Raven. Latisha was driving, and Raven was sitting in the front passenger seat. Jessie was sitting by the driver's side door in the back seat, Jazmyn was beside him in the middle, and his brother Chris was on the passenger side in the back seat with Meyhatta on his lap. As they were about to pull out of the parking lot, they heard gun shots nearby, and Chris got out to see if he could tell where the shots were coming from. Chris got back into the car, and just after he shut the door, a car pulled up beside them with Taylor in the back passenger seat. Jessie told the others in the car, " there go Bernard," and " they fixing to shoot us. Fixing to shoot." Taylor started shooting. Jessie, Jazmyn, and Meyhetta were shot. They testified that none of them had a gun in the car that night. Jessie testified that he had seen Taylor inside at the party but did not speak to him.

¶4. Diallo Vaughn was in the car with Taylor. He testified that a car pulled up beside them and that they saw a gun. He said at the time he did not know it was Jessie with the gun, and that he did not see anyone else in the car other than Jessie. He testified that the gun was pointing at them, that Taylor shot Jessie because he was trying to protect himself, and that Taylor was not trying to shoot Raven or Meyhatta.

¶5. After the shooting, the police and an ambulance were called. Several of the victims identified Taylor as the shooter. He was picked up the next day at school and questioned by Detective Eric Smith and Detective ...


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