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Green v. State

Court of Appeals of Mississippi

January 20, 2015

VERENZO CARTRELL GREEN A/K/A VERENZO GREEN, APPELLANT
v.
STATE OF MISSISSIPPI, APPELLEE

          DATE OF JUDGMENT: 03/07/2013.

          COURT FROM WHICH APPEALED: ADAMS COUNTY CIRCUIT COURT. TRIAL JUDGE: HON. FORREST A. JOHNSON JR. TRIAL COURT DISPOSITION: CONVICTED OF COUNTS I, II, AND III, POSSESSION OF A WEAPON BY A CONVICTED FELON, AND SENTENCED AS A HABITUAL OFFENDER TO TEN YEARS FOR EACH COUNT, TO RUN CONSECUTIVELY; AND COUNT IV, TRAFFICKING STOLEN FIREARMS, AND SENTENCED TO FIFTEEN YEARS, TO RUN CONCURRENTLY TO THE SENTENCES IN COUNTS I, II, AND III, ALL IN THE CUSTODY OF THE MISSISSIPPI DEPARTMENT OF CORRECTIONS, WITHOUT ELIGIBILITY.

         FOR APPELLANT: OFFICE OF STATE PUBLIC DEFENDER, BY: ERIN ELIZABETH PRIDGEN.

         FOR APPELLEE: OFFICE OF THE ATTORNEY GENERAL, BY: BARBARA WAKELAND BYRD.

         BEFORE IRVING, P.J., FAIR AND JAMES, JJ. LEE, C.J., IRVING AND GRIFFIS, P.JJ., ROBERTS, CARLTON, MAXWELLAND JAMES, JJ., CONCUR. BARNES, J., DISSENTS WITH SEPARATE OPINION, JOINED BY ISHEE, J.

          OPINION

Page 79

         FAIR, J.

         [¶1] Verenzo Green was convicted of three counts of possession of a weapon by a convicted felon and one count of trafficking stolen firearms. He was sentenced as a habitual offender to ten years for each count of felon of possession of a firearm in the custody of the Mississippi Department of Corrections, to run consecutively; he also received a concurrent sentence of fifteen years for trafficking stolen firearms. On the day of trial, Green filed a motion to suppress, arguing the police discovered the firearms through an illegal search of his vehicle. The trial court denied the motion. Green claims on appeal that (1) the trial court erred in denying his motion to suppress, and (2) his conviction for trafficking stolen firearms was not supported by sufficient evidence. Finding no error, we affirm.

         FACTS

         [¶2] On February 28, 2012, Agents George Pirkey and David Washington of the Adams County Sheriff's Department spotted Green outside of a grocery store. There was an outstanding warrant for Green's arrest for a burglary committed a month before. When the agents first saw him, Green and several other men were standing by a vehicle with its trunk open. As soon as Green noticed the agents, he closed the trunk and walked towards the entrance to the store. But instead of walking into the store, he threw a set of

Page 80

car keys down and ran into some nearby woods. Agent Pirkey attempted to chase Green on foot, while Agent Washington took the police car, but they were unable to catch him. The agents returned to the store a few minutes after the chase began and spoke with the store manager. After Agent Pirkey explained the situation to the manager, she requested that the car be towed. The police called a tow truck and ran the plate of the vehicle, which identified Green as the owner. Additionally, the police conducted an inventory search of the vehicle. During the inventory search, Agent Pirkey used the car keys left by Green to open the trunk of the vehicle. Agent Pirkey discovered three guns on top of two large speakers; the guns included a Colt .38 special revolver, a .22 caliber Ruger revolver, and a .22 caliber Heritage Rough Rider. Green was indicted on three counts of possession of a weapon and one count of trafficking a firearm. He was found guilty at trial. Additional facts pertaining to the trial will be discussed below, as necessary.

         DISCUSSION

         1. Suppression of Evidence

         [¶3] The court denied Green's motion to suppress introduction and testimony about the handguns found in the trunk, finding that (1) Green abandoned his vehicle on private property, and (2) the police were reasonable in conducting an inventory search before impounding the vehicle. " When reviewing a trial court's ruling on a motion to suppress, we must assess whether substantial credible evidence supports the trial court's finding considering the totality of the circumstances." Shaw v. State, 938 So.2d 853, 859 (¶ 15) (Miss. Ct.App. 2005) (citing Price v. State, 752 So.2d 1070, 1073 (¶ 9) (Miss. Ct.App. 1999)). " The standard of review for the admission or suppression of evidence is abuse of discretion." Hughes v. State, 90 So.3d 613, 631 (¶ 53) (Miss. 2012).

         [¶4] The Fourth Amendment protects " the right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures." U.S. Const. amend. IV. But a person has no standing to complain of a search or seizure of property that he has abandoned. United States v. Quiroz-Hernandez, 48 F.3d 858, 864 (5th Cir. 1995) (citation omitted). The abandonment question is one of intent, primarily " whether the person prejudiced by the search had voluntarily discarded, left behind, or otherwise relinquished his interest in the property so that he could no longer retain a reasonable expectation of privacy with regard to it at the time of the search." United States v. Williams, 569 F.2d 823, 826 (5th Cir. 1978) (citation omitted). Further, " intent may be inferred from words spoken, acts done, and other objective facts . . . . All relevant circumstances existing at the time of the alleged abandonment should be considered." United States v. Colbert, 474 F.2d 174, 176 (5th Cir. 1973) (en banc).

         [¶5] In United States v. Edwards441 F.2d 749, 751 (5th Cir. 1971), the Fifth Circuit held that a defendant abandoned his vehicle, and therefore had no Fourth Amendment protection in regard to the vehicle, when he left his keys in the ignition and fled on foot from the police. The defendant, Edwards, jumped out of his car during a high-speed chase. Id. at 750. The police chased Edwards but were unsuccessful in catching him. Id. Afterwards, the police searched the trunk of his car and discovered untaxed whiskey. Id. The Fifth Circuit ruled Edwards's actions constituted ...


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