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Taylor v. State

Supreme Court of Mississippi, En Banc

July 2, 2015

MICHAEL DEON TAYLOR a/k/a MICHAEL D. TAYLOR a/k/a MICHAEL TAYLOR
v.
STATE OF MISSISSIPPI

COURT FROM WHICH APPEALED: MADISON COUNTY CIRCUIT COURT. DATE OF JUDGMENT: 09/21/2012. TRIAL JUDGE: HON. WILLIAM E. CHAPMAN, III. TRIAL COURT ATTORNEYS: THOMAS R. MAYFIELD, GEORGE MCDOWELL YODER, III, CATOUCHE BODY.

FOR APPELLANT: DAMON RAMON STEVENSON.

FOR APPELLEE: OFFICE OF THE ATTORNEY GENERAL, BY: STEPHANIE BRELAND WOOD.

CHANDLER, JUSTICE, FOR THE COURT. WALLER, C.J., DICKINSON, P.J., LAMAR, KITCHENS, PIERCE, KINGAND COLEMAN, JJ., CONCUR. RANDOLPH, P.J., CONCURS IN RESULT ONLY WITHOUT SEPARATE WRITTEN OPINION.

OPINION

Page 1144

ON WRIT OF CERTIORARI

NATURE OF THE CASE: CRIMINAL - FELONY

CHANDLER, JUSTICE, FOR THE COURT:

[¶1] Michael Deon Taylor was convicted in 2012 of possessing stolen property. He was sentenced as a habitual offender to ten years in prison. Taylor testified in his own defense at trial. During cross-examination, the State questioned Taylor extensively about his numerous past felony convictions without objection from defense counsel. We find that defense counsel's failure to object to the expansive inquiry into Taylor's prior convictions constituted ineffective assistance of counsel apparent from the record before us on direct appeal. We reverse Taylor's conviction and remand for a new trial.

FACTS AND PROCEEDINGS BELOW

[¶2] Alex Walker, the owner of a tree service, called for a service technician to repair an inoperable skid steer. The serial number reported back to the office by the technician revealed that the skid steer was listed as stolen. The sheriff's department went to the location of the skid steer and questioned Walker, who initially stated that he had purchased the skid steer from a white man with a jack-o-lantern tattoo. Meanwhile, photographs of an identical skid steer had been found on Michael Deon Taylor's phone while he was under arrest for an unrelated crime. When Walker was shown a photograph of Taylor the day after Walker was initially questioned by the authorities, he changed his story to say that he purchased the skid steer from Taylor in exchange for a combination of cash and two vehicles. Photographs of those two vehicles were also found on Taylor's phone.

[¶3] Taylor was tried and convicted of possessing stolen property. Prior to trial, Taylor's defense attorney filed a Motion in Limine requesting:

That all evidence regarding his past criminal history be excluded. The probative value of this information is greatly outweighed by the prejudice it would have on the defendant.
The State and its witnesses should not be allowed to in anyway solicit, induce, entice or make know[n] to the jury any evidence concerning " his past criminal history."

The judge delayed a ruling on the motion until the point in the trial when Taylor made his final decision to testify in his own defense. Immediately prior to Taylor's testimony, Taylor's attorney withdrew his previous motion regarding introduction of Taylor's prior felony convictions. A bench conference was held prior to the start of Taylor's testimony:

[DEFENSE]: I was going to admit that he's a convicted felon.
STATE: He's got at least three. I was going to --
THE COURT: Are we at the point now? You're moving past your motion.
[DEFENSE]: I understand. When I put him on the stand, I made it there.
THE COURT: He is withdrawing his motion.
STATE: Okay. That's cool.

The defense proceeded with direct examination of Taylor, in which Taylor volunteered information of one past felony:

. . .

Page 1145

[DEFENSE]: Why are you in Madison ...

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