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Stevenson v. State

Court of Appeals of Mississippi

January 20, 2015

TERRIS TORRELL STEVENSON A/K/A TERRIS STEVENSON, APPELLANT/CROSS-APPELLEE
v.
STATE OF MISSISSIPPI, APPELLEE/CROSS-APPELLANT

COURT FROM WHICH APPEALED: WARREN COUNTY CIRCUIT COURT. DATE OF JUDGMENT: 03/29/2013. TRIAL JUDGE: HON. M. JAMES CHANEY JR. TRIAL COURT DISPOSITION: CONVICTED OF DOMESTIC VIOLENCE, THIRD OFFENSE, AND SENTENCED TO TEN YEARS IN THE CUSTODY OF THE MISSISSIPPI DEPARTMENT OF CORRECTIONS AND TO PAY A $1,000 FINE.

AFFIRMED.

FOR APPELLANT: OFFICE OF STATE PUBLIC DEFENDER, BY: W. DANIEL HINCHCLIFF, GEORGE T. HOLMES, EUGENE A. PERRIER.

FOR APPELLEE: OFFICE OF THE ATTORNEY GENERAL, BY: BILLY L. GORE, JOSEPH LANE CAMPBELL.

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

OPINION

Page 928

GRIFFIS, P.J.

¶1. Terris Torrell Stevenson appeals his conviction of felony simple domestic violence. Stevenson argues that the prosecutor's improper statement during closing argument was reversible error. On cross-appeal, the State argues that the trial court erred when it denied the State's motion to amend the indictment. We find no error and affirm.

FACTS

¶2. Stevenson was indicted for felony domestic violence, third offense, pursuant to Mississippi Code Annotated section 97-3-7(3)(b) (Rev. 2014). The indictment also included a habitual-offender enhancement pursuant to Mississippi Code Annotated section 99-19-83 (Supp. 2014).

¶3. Stevenson and Dalasi Taylor had been in a relationship. They dated for almost three years. Six to eight months after their relationship ended, on March 31, 2012, Taylor was walking with a " friend guy" on Crawford Street in Vicksburg, Mississippi, when Stevenson drove by and stopped his car. Stevenson got out of his car, told Taylor he loved her and wanted her back. Taylor testified that, although she was scared, she did not run or scream. She got into Stevenson's car. A policeman pulled up and instructed Taylor to drive Stevenson's car, because Stevenson appeared intoxicated.

¶4. When Taylor stopped at a stop sign, Stevenson slapped Taylor in her face, as he thought that Taylor's " guy friend" had paid for her to have a manicure. They then went to a store, where Stevenson took the $40 that Taylor had in her possession to purchase gas for his car. Taylor testified that she paid for the gas because she was scared. They then drove to the Waltersville Estates apartment complex, where Stevenson got out of the car and took the keys. Taylor remained in the car, while Stevenson visited one of the apartments. He then returned to the car and took Taylor to an apartment where his daughter lived.

¶5. Taylor testified that, once at the apartment, Stevenson told her to remove all her clothes. He then hit her with an electric cord. She also testified that Stevenson hit her on the head with the heel of a stiletto boot.

¶6. Taylor testified that, after the incident, Stevenson called her multiple times and asked her to drop the charges, even though Taylor had obtained a restraining

Page 929

order against him. Stevenson arranged to meet Taylor at the police station, which she did. Taylor requested the police to drop the restraining order as well as the charges against Stevenson.

¶7. Beverly Prentiss was a domestic-violence investigator with the Vicksburg Police Department. She was called to the police department to interview Taylor, who was with her mother. Investigator Prentiss testified that Taylor appeared upset and emotional, and was crying. Investigator Prentiss took pictures of the wounds on Taylor's body. The pictures were introduced into evidence.

¶8. Investigator Prentiss also testified that Stevenson appeared with Taylor at the police station. Stevenson told Investigator Prentiss that Taylor wanted to drop the restraining order because the beating was due to consensual " kinky sex." When Investigator Prentiss asked her if this was true, Taylor agreed. Based on this encounter, the protective order was dismissed. Despite this action, Investigator Prentiss testified that Taylor's demeanor at the time seemed " [c]oerced, guided, [and] controlled." Investigator Prentiss further testified that Stevenson had two prior domestic-violence convictions, which Taylor knew about, yet he served no jail time on either conviction. She explained to the jury that a third domestic-violence charge is a felony.

¶9. Stevenson was convicted of felony domestic violence. Following a presentencing investigation and sentence-enhancement proceeding, Stevenson was sentenced to serve ten years as a non-habitual offender. Stevenson filed both a motion for a judgment notwithstanding the verdict or, in the alternative, a new trial, and an amended motion, which the trial court denied. It is from this judgment that Stevenson now appeals.

ANALYSIS

1. Whether the trial court erred when it failed to either sua sponte declare a mistrial or instruct the jury when the State made reference during closing argument to Stevenson possibly not going to jail.

¶10. Stevenson argues that the prosecutor made an improper statement during closing argument:

Now you [the jury] have got to go back there and deliberate, and you have to decide whether or not a simple assault has occurred. That's your decision. You have to go back here and look at these things. Look at these welts on her leg. She came in here and told you about it. They're going to say, oh, she wanted to drop charges. She obviously doesn't want to drop charges if she's going to take that witness stand and be judged. It's even in your jury instructions. Congratulations. Now you've [(Taylor)] got to come testify. In the jury instructions, it even says judge her credibility. Be judged one more time for what you did, for ...

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