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Totten v. State

Supreme Court of Mississippi

March 5, 2015

JEROME TOTTEN
v.
STATE OF MISSISSIPPI

COURT FROM WHICH APPEALED: TATE COUNTY CIRCUIT COURT. DATE OF JUDGMENT: 10/10/2013. TRIAL JUDGE: HON. SMITH MURPHEY.

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

FOR APPELLEE: OFFICE OF THE ATTORNEY GENERAL, BY: SCOTT STUART.

BEFORE DICKINSON, P.J., KITCHENS AND CHANDLER, JJ. WALLER, C.J., DICKINSON AND RANDOLPH, P.JJ., LAMAR, KITCHENS, PIERCE, KING AND COLEMAN, JJ., CONCUR.

OPINION

Page 33

NATURE OF THE CASE: CRIMINAL - FELONY

CHANDLER, JUSTICE.

[¶1] Jerome Totten was tried and convicted in September 2013 for burglary of a dwelling and grand larceny. He was sentenced as a habitual offender to terms of twenty-five and ten years respectively, to be served concurrently. Totten, represented by the State Public Defender, argues on appeal that the State failed to present sufficient evidence that the actual fair market value of the items stolen in the burglary equals or exceeds $500, thereby not supporting the conviction for grand larceny. We hold that the circumstantial evidence presented of the value of the items was sufficient for a reasonable jury to infer that the value of the items equaled at least $500. Totten also filed a pro se supplemental brief, challenging his burglary conviction in addition to the conviction for grand larceny. We find his arguments to be without merit, and therefore we affirm his convictions.

Page 34

FACTS AND PROCEEDINGS BELOW

[¶2] In March 2012, Corey Rakestraw took his dirt bike for a test drive between his home and a nearby grocery store. A man in a white truck stopped him to ask if the bike was for sale, and the two had a short conversation. When Rakestraw returned to his home a short time later, he observed the white truck following behind him, and the driver looking closely at the house as he passed by.

[¶3] A few days later, Rakestraw left town for two weeks for work. His wife and children stayed with extended family, as they always did when he was away for long periods. When he returned, he discovered his home had been burglarized. The Rakestraws' clothes' dryer was taken, along with a laptop, two chainsaws, an Amish heater, and all tools of value. Only the laptop and Amish heater were recovered. A local woman named Annie Davis had purchased the heater directly from Jerome Totten for $10. The laptop was recovered after Totten attempted to sell it to an acquaintance, Bo Mims, who, at the request of a friend who ran a local pawn shop, was on the lookout for laptops that had been stolen from a local church.

[¶4] At trial, Rakestraw identified Totten as the man who had asked about buying his dirt bike. He further testified as to the value of the stolen items. He had paid $125 for the dryer approximately two weeks before the burglary. He paid $350 for the laptop at Walmart. He bought the heater for $185 at a surplus warehouse. Rakestraw estimated that one of the chainsaws was worth $200. He testified that he paid " well over $1,000" for the tools from a local store. Annie Davis and Bo Mims testified that they had received the stolen heater and laptop directly from Totten. Totten testified on his own behalf and argued that, because he had a good job, he had no motivation to commit the burglary. The court denied Totten's motion for a directed verdict. The jury was instructed that, in order to find Totten guilty of grand larceny, they had to determine that " the current value of said property was $500.00 or more . . . .The jury returned a unanimous verdict of guilty on both the burglary and grandlarceny counts. Totten was sentenced as a ...


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