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Johnson v. State

Court of Appeals of Mississippi

November 18, 2014

VADELL JOHNSON A/K/A VADELL C. JOHNSON, APPELLANT
v.
STATE OF MISSISSIPPI, APPELLEE

COURT FROM WHICH APPEALED: BOLIVAR COUNTY CIRCUIT COURT. DATE OF JUDGMENT: 09/19/2013. TRIAL JUDGE: HON. ALBERT B. SMITH III. TRIAL COURT DISPOSITION: REFUSED TO GRANT WRIT OF HABEAS CORPUS.

FOR APPELLANT: EDWARD J. BOGEN JR.

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

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 602

NATURE OF THE CASE: CIVIL - OTHER

MAXWELL, J.

¶1. The Double Jeopardy Clause of the Fifth Amendment " protects against a second prosecution for the same offense after

Page 603

acquittal." [1] It also " protects the accused from attempts to relitigate the facts underlying a prior acquittal." [2] In his petition for a writ of habeas corpus, Vadell Johnson invoked this latter protection. He argued he could not be prosecuted for possession of a weapon by a convicted felon without relitigating the same facts of his earlier misdemeanor stalking convictions.

¶2. But missing from Johnson's argument is a " prior acquittal," in which the jury resolved the underlying facts in his favor. Instead, what we have here are carefully crafted guilty pleas, where Johnson's attorney successfully limited his client's admission to " threatening with no weapon" --which is " simple stalking" --instead of an admission he threatened two women " with a weapon" as charged--which would have been aggravated stalking, a felony.

¶3. Johnson's attorney not only worked out lesser charges for Johnson, but he obviously had one eye down the road on a separate weapon-possession charge his client faced. And he hoped his client's omitting any mention of a gun when pleading to the stalking charges would factually bind the State, preventing a conviction on the felon-in-possession-of-a-firearm charge. While this was no doubt wise lawyering, the United States Supreme Court has emphasized that " the taking of a guilty plea is not the same as an adjudication on the merits after full trial" for double-jeopardy purposes.[3]

¶4. Since the particular fact issue--whether Johnson, an admitted convicted felon, had possessed a gun--was not litigated in the prior stalking matter, there can be no impermissible relitigation in the prosecution of the felon-in-possession charge. For this reason, we must agree with the circuit court that the double-jeopardy claim Johnson raised in his petition entitled him to no relief. We thus affirm the circuit court's refusal to grant a writ of habeas corpus.

Background

¶5. In Mississippi, if a person " makes a credible threat" to someone, knowing his " conduct would cause a reasonable person to fear for . . . her own safety," he is guilty of misdemeanor stalking. Miss. Code Ann. § 97-3-107(1)(a) (Rev. 2014). But that stalking becomes a felony if the person used or displayed a deadly weapon when making the threat, with the intent to place his victim in fear of death or serious bodily injury. Miss. Code Ann. § 97-3-107(2)(a)(i), (2)(b) (Rev. 2014).

¶6. While free on bond pending trial for murder, Vadell Johnson was arrested on two counts of stalking. The charges were based on two women's claims that Johnson pulled a gun on them and threatened to kill them. According to one victim, Johnson had " jump[ed] out of his car with a silver handgun pointed at her saying, 'yall bitches better keep my name out yall mouth before I kill one of yall bitches,' and started beating on her car window." The ...


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