COURT FROM WHICH APPEALED: BOLIVAR COUNTY CIRCUIT COURT. DATE OF JUDGMENT: 10/08/2013. TRIAL JUDGE: HON. CHARLES E. WEBSTER. TRIAL COURT DISPOSITION: CONVICTED OF ARMED CARJACKING AND SENTENCED TO FIFTEEN YEARS IN THE CUSTODY OF THE MISSISSIPPI DEPARTMENT OF CORRECTIONS, FOLLOWED BY FIVE YEARS' POST-RELEASE SUPERVISION, WITH THE SENTENCE TO RUN CONSECUTIVELY TO ANY AND ALL PREVIOUSLY IMPOSED SENTENCES, AND TO PAY A $350 FINE AND $394 IN RESTITUTION.
FOR APPELLANT: GEORGE T. HOLMES, PHILLIP BROADHEAD, OFFICE OF STATE PUBLIC DEFENDER.
FOR APPELLEE: JEFFREY A. KLINGFUSS, JOHN R. HENRY JR., OFFICE OF THE ATTORNEY GENERAL.
LEE, C.J., GRIFFIS, P.J., BARNES, ISHEE, ROBERTS, CARLTON, FAIR AND JAMES, JJ., CONCUR. IRVING, P.J., DISSENTS WITHOUT SEPARATE WRITTEN OPINION.
[¶1] Despite Curtis Leslie's efforts to mask himself, Travis Taylor recognized Leslie as one of the two men who carjacked him. Taylor had been shooting
pool with Leslie just an hour earlier, and Leslie was still wearing the same shirt when he robbed him. Leslie was indicted and tried for armed carjacking. His first trial resulted in a mistrial. But his second trial resulted in a conviction.
[¶2] On appeal, Leslie argues his second trial was barred by the Double Jeopardy Clause. The key issue in Leslie's case was Taylor's identification of him. The identification was based on the clothes Leslie had been wearing that night. Leslie's lawyer told the judge certain Facebook messages showed that Taylor only knew of Leslie's attire because Leslie's Facebook messages described his clothing. Because of Leslie's lawyer's representations about the social-media postings, the judge let him question Taylor about the messages over the State's objection.
[¶3] But after the questioning ensued, the judge learned Leslie's counsel had misrepresented the nature of the electronic communications. Indeed, the messages mentioned nothing about Leslie's clothing but instead were Leslie's communications claiming he did not carjack Taylor. After assessing Leslie's attorney's mischaracterizations and the effect of his questioning on the jury, the judge found admitting the actual Facebook page was out of the question. The judge held he could not admit Leslie's self-serving and unauthenticated denial that he committed the crime. To do so would allow Leslie to dispute his criminal involvement without taking the stand and being cross-examined. So the judge found the only viable alternative was to declare a mistrial.
[¶4] When the State is granted a mistrial, as it was here, there must be " manifest necessity" for the mistrial, to prevent a second trial being barred by double jeopardy. And on appeal, Leslie claims because there was an alternative to declaring a mistrial--giving a limiting instruction--there was no manifest necessity. But the mere existence of alternatives does not bar a second trial. The decision to declare a mistrial is within the sound discretion of the trial judge. And in this case, the judge carefully considered his options, and in his sound discretion determined a mistrial was necessary. As this court is directed to accord the " greatest weight and respect" to the judge's reason for declaring mistrial, we find from his order that he carefully explained his concerns and the high necessity required to try Leslie again.
[¶5] In Leslie's second trial, contrary to his assertion, he was not prevented from presenting his theory of the case to the jury. Further, the jury's verdict was sufficiently supported by the evidence, which did not overwhelmingly weigh against the verdict. For these reasons, we affirm the judgment of conviction.
Background Facts and Procedural History
[¶6] On Sunday night, April 4, 2011, Taylor drove his girlfriend's 1996 Buick to a club in his small town of Benoit. Taylor shot pool with a man he knew as " B Love." Taylor noticed B Love was wearing a red, white, and blue collared shirt and blue jeans that night. And B Love's black hooded sweatshirt was draped over a chair near the pool table. Also at the club that night were " J Dub," " Little Eddie," and " B Ball."
[¶7] After he left the club, Taylor was driving around Benoit when he noticed a
problem with his stereo amplifier. So he pulled over. While he was working on his sound system, J Dub drove by and asked Taylor if he had seen someone named " Mookie." A while later, B Love and Little Eddie walked past.
[¶8] Taylor got back into his car, but did not drive away. He was scrolling through Facebook on his smart phone, when J Dub came from behind his car up to the driver's side and put a gun in Taylor's face. J Dub told Taylor to move over. While Taylor was moving towards the passenger side, B Love got into the front passenger's seat, pinning Taylor between B Love and J Dub. While both men had masked their faces, Taylor recognized J Dub's voice. And Taylor recognized his second assailant as B Love because he could see his distinct red, white, and blue collared shirt poking out from underneath his black hoodie.
[¶9] J Dub starting driving up Highway 1 North and eventually pulled over on a gravel road. B Love held Taylor while J Dub stripped off his clothes. J Dub then told the naked Taylor to run for his life. As Taylor took off, he heard a gunshot. He fell to the ground, staying down until he was sure J Dub and B Love had driven away.
[¶10] Wearing only socks, Taylor started running back to Benoit. Around two in the morning, he reached Adam Thomas's house. Taylor knew Adam and knocked on his door. Adam loaned Taylor some clothes and a phone to call the sheriff's department.
[¶11] According to Taylor, he told Adam he had been carjacked by J Dub and B Love. And Adam responded that J Dub's real name was Jonathan Johnson and B Love's real name was Curtis Leslie. While Adam and Taylor were waiting on the sheriff, Little Eddie and B Ball, along with another woman, pulled up to Adam's house.
[¶12] According to Adam, however, while Taylor had told Adam he had been robbed, Taylor never said who robbed him. And though Adam had called Little Eddie, who showed up with B Ball and another woman, this trio did not arrive until after Taylor had left with the deputy sheriff. But B Ball testified they had arrived while Taylor was still there. B Ball also testified he had been at the club earlier shooting pool with Taylor and Leslie. And B Ball noticed ...