DATE OF JUDGMENT: 12/09/2013.
RANKIN COUNTY CIRCUIT COURT, HON. WILLIAM E. CHAPMAN, III TRIAL JUDGE
TRIAL COURT ATTORNEYS: A. RANDALL HARRIS, DEWEY K. ARTHUR, JOEY W. MAYES.
ATTORNEYS FOR APPELLANT: GRADY MORGAN HOLDER, JOHN M. COLETTE, ROBERT L. SIRIANNI, JR.
ATTORNEY FOR APPELLEE: OFFICE OF THE ATTORNEY GENERAL BY: SCOTT STUART.
DISTRICT ATTORNEY: MICHAEL GUEST.
BEFORE DICKINSON, P.J., LAMAR AND CHANDLER, JJ.
DICKINSON, PRESIDING JUSTICE.
¶1. In prosecuting Larry Collier for selling controlled substances, the State called a seasoned felon-turned-confidential-police-informant who provided untruthful testimony about previous criminal convictions, and whom the trial court refused to allow the defendant to fully cross-examine about those prior criminal convictions. Although the trial court erred in limiting the cross-examination, we find that, in light of the overwhelming evidence of guilt, the error was harmless. We affirm.
FACTS AND PROCEDURAL HISTORY
¶2. A Rankin County grand jury indicted Larry Collier on four counts of selling cocaine, and as a subsequent drug offender. At trial, Rankin County Investigator Barry Vaughn testified that Shirley Melvin, a confidential informant and the State's star witness, decided to go undercover for the Rankin County Sheriff's Department after she was arrested for selling cocaine. Vaughn had agreed to let Melvin "work off her charges" so she could avoid going back to jail. While working off her charges, Melvin set up several drug buys with Collier under Vaughn's supervision.
¶3. Before allowing Melvin to buy drugs from Collier, Vaughn gave Melvin money, searched her clothing, outfitted her with audio and video surveillance equipment to record the transactions, and then searched her car's interior. Vaughn conceded on cross-examination that Melvin could have hidden cocaine in places on her body or in her car that were never searched, and that the sheriff's office did not have drug-sniffing dogs, so Melvin could have hidden drugs in her car that would not have been discovered.
¶4. As soon as Melvin took the stand, the State questioned her about her checkered past, including her prior convictions. When the State asked her what her prior convictions were, and how many prior convictions she had, she replied that she had prior convictions for "forgery and sales." When specifically asked how many forgery convictions she had, Melvin said she had five forgery convictions dating back to 2001, which she characterized as being for "bad checks." And when asked if she had another felony conviction, Melvin said she had a felony conviction sometime around 2000 for selling crack cocaine. Finally, Melvin told the jury that she was again arrested for selling crack cocaine in 2010-the arrest that inspired her to work as a confidential informant.
¶5. Melvin then testified that she bought drugs from Collier on three separate occasions: May 11, July 13, and October 25, 2012. She testified that she would call Collier and ask him if he was doing any business. And if he was, Melvin would then go to Collier's trailer on Shady Lane. Once a deal was set up, Melvin would go to the Rankin County Sheriff's Department and meet with Investigator Vaughn. Melvin explained that, before she left for a sale, the sheriff's department officers would search her clothing, wire her with audio and visual equipment, and search her car.
¶6. According to Melvin, the actual transactions were quick affairs. She would drive to Collier's trailer in her car, get out, go in, buy crack, give Collier money, get back in her car, and then leave. Melvin always returned after a buy to the sheriff's department, where she would give Vaughn the drugs she had just purchased from Collier. Sheriff's department officers would also search Melvin again for good measure.
¶7. During Melvin's direct testimony, the State introduced the video recordings into evidence. The parties agreed to begin playing the video "approximately a minute before" Melvin arrived at Collier's trailer and stop the video once she left.
¶8. In the video showing the May 11 meeting, Melvin arrived at Collier's trailer and went inside the front room, where a transaction of some kind appeared to take place. Collier could be seen holding a small bag that he appeared to give Melvin. Melvin then left. Likewise, in the video showing the July 13 transaction, Melvin arrived at and entered Collier's trailer where Collier again appeared to hand something to Melvin. In the video depicting the October 25 transaction, Melvin drove up to Collier's trailer but did not go inside. Collier and Melvin ...