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Lawson v. State

Court of Appeals of Mississippi

January 13, 2015

HENRY LAWSON, APPELLANT
v.
STATE OF MISSISSIPPI, APPELLEE

DATE OF JUDGMENT: 09/29/2011.

Page 927

[Copyrighted Material Omitted]

Page 928

COURT FROM WHICH APPEALED: PRENTISS COUNTY CIRCUIT COURT. TRIAL JUDGE: HON. JAMES LAMAR ROBERTS JR. TRIAL COURT DISPOSITION: CONVICTED OF POSSESSION OF A VEHICLE WITH AN ALTERED OR MUTILATED VEHICLE IDENTIFICATION NUMBER AND SENTENCED AS AHABITUAL OFFENDER TO FIVE YEARS IN THE CUSTODY OF THE MISSISSIPPI DEPARTMENT OF CORRECTIONS WITHOUT ELIGIBILITY FOR PAROLE OR PROBATION, AND TO PAY A FINE OF $5,000 WITH $4,000 SUSPENDED.

FOR APPELLANT: WILLIAM C. STENNETT.

FOR APPELLEE: OFFICE OF THE ATTORNEY GENERAL, BY: STEPHANIE BRELAND WOOD.

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

OPINION

NATURE OF THE CASE: CRIMINAL - FELONY

Page 929

BARNES, J.

¶1. A Prentiss County grand jury returned a four-count indictment against Henry Lawson for various charges related to his operating a " chop shop" in Prentiss County, Mississippi. The counts included operating a chop shop (Count I), two counts of possession of vehicles with altered or mutilated vehicle identification numbers (VIN) (Counts II and IV), and possession of a stolen vehicle (Count III). A jury convicted Lawson on Count II, but was unable to reach a verdict regarding the other counts, resulting in a mistrial on those counts. The trial court sentenced him to five years in the custody of the Mississippi Department of Corrections as a habitual offender, and ordered him to pay a fine of $5,000, with $4,000 suspended. On appeal, Lawson raises three issues: (1) evidence stemming from an invalid search and seizure of Lawson's property in 2007 was improperly admitted; (2) the grant of the State's motion to amend the indictment to include a habitual status was improper; (3) the weight and sufficiency of the evidence did not support the verdict. Finding no error, we affirm.

STATEMENT OF FACTS AND PROCEDURAL HISTORY

¶2. The Prentiss County Sheriff's Office received information that led to the execution of a search warrant on May 31, 2007, for all of Lawson's " sheds, vehicles, and curtlidge thereto." Lawson's residence was at the end of a dead-end road in Jumpertown, Mississippi, near Booneville, Mississippi. During this search, the officers seized several parts from various vehicles (such as a truck frame, a truck bed, a truck cab, doors, and a hood), and VIN plates, all of which were documented by notes and photographs.[1]

¶3. In 2009, after receiving information from a confidential informant, the sheriff's department obtained a warrant to search the residence of Lawson's brother-in-law, Bennie Burcham, in Booneville. On June 22, 2009, the warrant was executed, and investigators seized several items from Burcham's property, including a gold 2001 Chevrolet four-door extended-cab pickup, which had been reported stolen from Tupelo, Mississippi. The informant told Sheriff Randy Tolar that Lawson switched the VIN on this truck and sold it to Burcham. Burcham confirmed to officers executing the warrant that he had obtained the vehicle from Lawson. Sheriff Tolar explained that during his investigation, he determined the VIN attached to the gold 2001 Chevrolet pickup had previously been attached to a salvage vehicle -- a 1999 General Motors pickup -- which had been seen and photographed during the 2007 search of Lawson's property.

¶4. The results of Burcham's search and investigation led the sheriff's department to obtain a second search warrant for Lawson's property, executed on June 23, 2009. During this search, several items were seized, including numerous vehicle parts and car tags. Further investigation led to a third search warrant of Lawson's property, executed on July 10, 2009. Numerous vehicle parts and items were again seized,

Page 930

including a 2008 white Chevrolet four-door ...


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