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McCoy v. State

Court of Appeals of Mississippi

October 21, 2014

EDDIE MCCOY, JR. A/K/A EDDIE W. MCCOY, JR. A/K/A WAYNE MCCOY A/K/A EDDIE WAYNE MCCOY, JR. A/K/A EDDIE MCCOY, APPELLANT
v.
STATE OF MISSISSIPPI, APPELLEE

Page 706

COURT FROM WHICH APPEALED: FORREST COUNTY CIRCUIT COURT. DATE OF JUDGMENT: 01/10/2013. TRIAL JUDGE: HON. ROBERT B. HELFRICH. TRIAL COURT DISPOSITION: CONVICTED OF POSSESSION OF A CONTROLLED SUBSTANCE WITH INTENT TO DISTRIBUTE AND SENTENCED AS A HABITUAL OFFENDER TO LIFE IN THE CUSTODY OF THE MISSISSIPPI DEPARTMENT OF CORRECTIONS WITHOUT THE POSSIBILITY OF PAROLE OR EARLY RELEASE.

AFFIRMED.

FOR APPELLANT: OFFICE OF STATE PUBLIC DEFENDER, BY: GEORGE T. HOLMES, HUNTER NOLAN AIKENS.

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

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

OPINION

Page 707

NATURE OF THE CASE: CRIMINAL - FELONY

MAXWELL, J.

¶1. Eddie McCoy was convicted of possession of cocaine with the intent to distribute. The charge came after officers found 2.7 grams of cocaine, small plastic bags, scales, a gun, and brass knuckles in his girlfriend's apartment.

¶2. On appeal, McCoy challenges the admission of this evidence. He argues it was unlawfully seized in violation of his Fourth Amendment rights. But Fourth Amendment rights are personal. And here McCoy failed to establish that his Fourth Amendment rights were violated. Instead, at the suppression hearing, McCoy stressed that he did not stay with his girlfriend in the apartment. Thus, he failed to show he had a legitimate expectation of privacy in the apartment. Additionally, we find the search was justified for two other independent reasons--exigent circumstances and consent. So the drug evidence was properly admitted.

¶3. McCoy also challenges the sufficiency of the evidence. He suggests the State failed to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that he possessed the drugs. To prove constructive possession, the State had to show McCoy knowingly exercised

Page 708

control over the drugs. And McCoy claims that, since he did not own or exclusively control the apartment, the State could not prove he knowingly controlled what was inside. But when McCoy, who was in the apartment at the time, realized police officers had knocked on the door and were interviewing his girlfriend, he broke for the bathroom and tried to slam the door. When officers followed, they found him hovering over the trash can where cocaine and baggies were later found. From this, combined with scales and a pistol found near his clothes in another room and the more than $1,200 in cash found in his pocket, we find a reasonable juror could conclude McCoy knowingly possessed cocaine intending to distribute it.

¶4. Because we also find McCoy's right to a speedy trial was not violated and his claim of ineffective assistance of counsel cannot be evaluated on direct appeal, we affirm his conviction and sentence.

Background

I. Events Leading to Arrest

¶5. A confidential informant told the Hattiesburg Police Department that McCoy was selling drugs out of unit A-7 in Pineview Apartments. So officers went to the apartment for a " knock and talk." This investigative method involves a knock on the door and a request to interview the resident. Sometimes this leads to a search of the premises if the resident consents.

¶6. When the officers knocked, McCoy's girlfriend, Chante Robinson,[1] answered the door. Chante lived in the apartment with her mother, Cynthia Robinson, who leased the apartment. While the officers were talking with Chante, McCoy walked into the living room. Officers noticed McCoy had his hands shoved into his pockets.

¶7. When the officers asked if McCoy would speak to them too, McCoy darted to the bathroom and tried to shut the door. Fearing McCoy was either retrieving a weapon or destroying evidence, the officers ran into the bathroom. They found McCoy hovered over a trash can and escorted him outside of the apartment to wait with another officer.

¶8. At this point, Cynthia and Chante gave permission to search the apartment. And inside the bathroom where McCoy had fled, the officers found a bag of cocaine in the trash can. They also found a cup containing small empty baggies. In Chante's bedroom, they found a set of scales, a gun, and brass knuckles. They arrested McCoy. During the search incident to arrest, they found more than $1,200 in cash in his pocket. McCoy was later indicted for possession of 2.7 grams of cocaine with the intent to distribute.[2]

II. Suppression Hearing

¶9. Before trial, McCoy's counsel filed a motion to suppress the evidence found in the apartment. He argued the officers' search was illegal because the " knock and talk" was merely a pretext to get around the Fourth Amendment's warrant requirement.

¶10. At the suppression hearing, the two officers who knocked on the door testified they did not believe, based on the informant's tip, they had sufficient probable cause to obtain a warrant, hence the " knock and talk." See United States v. Jones, 239 F.3d 716, 720 (5th Cir. 2001)

Page 709

(recognizing the " 'knock and talk' strategy as a reasonable investigative tool when officers seek to gain an occupant's consent to search or when officers reasonably suspect criminal activity" ); see also Kentucky v. King, 131 S.Ct. 1849, 1860, 179 L.Ed.2d 865 (2011) (recognizing law enforcement may have " entirely proper reasons" for not " seek[ing] a search warrant as soon as the bare minimum of evidence needed to establish probable cause is acquired" ).

¶11. But when officers knocked, and as they were talking to Chante, exigent circumstances led them to enter the apartment. Based on McCoy's reaction, they believed he was either heading for a weapon or destroying evidence. So they ran after McCoy to stop him. The officers did not search the premises until Cynthia gave her written ...


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