OF JUDGMENT: 04/09/2015
COUNTY CIRCUIT COURT, HON. CHARLES E. WEBSTER JUDGE
COURT ATTORNEYS: LESLIE FLINT KELLIE WILLIAMSON KOENIG
ATTORNEY FOR APPELLANT: OFFICE OF INDIGENT APPEALS BY: JUSTIN
ATTORNEY FOR APPELLEE: OFFICE OF THE ATTORNEY GENERAL BY:
LISA L. BLOUNT
WALLER, CHIEF JUSTICE
Ceasar Johnson was convicted in the Bolivar County Circuit
Court for being a felon in possession of a firearm and for
the murder of Gregory Johnson. He was sentenced to life in
prison. He now appeals the conviction, which we affirm.
AND PROCEDURAL HISTORY
On November 1, 2012, Gregory Johnson (Greg) was shot and
killed while in his vehicle in the parking lot of J.Y. Trice
Apartments in Rosedale, Mississippi. Ceasar Johnson (Ceasar)
was indicted for Greg's murder on August 26,
2013. On April 9, 2015, a jury convicted Ceasar
Johnson of being a felon in possession of a firearm and of
murdering Greg. The circuit judge sentenced Ceasar to life in
prison for the murder charge and to ten years for the
felon-in-possession-of-a-firearm charge, with the two
sentences to run consecutively. Ceasar filed a Motion for a
New Trial on April 20, 2015. The trial court denied the
motion on May 4, 2015. Ceasar timely filed his notice of
appeal with this Court on June 3, 2015.
Ceasar Johnson asserted two issues on appeal: (1) Because the
State's case rests solely on conjecture and supposition,
and because Ceasar presented a reasonable hypothesis
consistent with his innocence, the State presented
insufficient evidence to convict Ceasar of first-degree
murder and being a felon in possession of a firearm; and (2)
because the State's case against Ceasar amounts to
nothing more than a hunch, and because Ceasar presented
compelling corroborated evidence of a reasonable hypothesis
consistent with his innocence, the overwhelming weight of the
evidence requires a new trial.
Sufficiency of the Evidence
When reviewing a challenge to the sufficiency of the
evidence, this Court will reverse and render only if the
facts and inferences "point in favor of the defendant on
any element of the offense with sufficient force that
reasonable men could not have found beyond a reasonable doubt
that the defendant was guilty." Brown v. State,
965 So.2d 1023, 1030 (Miss. 2007) (quoting Bush v.
State, 895 So.2d 836, 843 (Miss. 2005)). The evidence
will be deemed sufficient if "having in mind the beyond
a reasonable doubt burden of proof standard, reasonable
fair-minded men in the exercise of impartial judgment might
reach different conclusions on every element of the
offense." Brown, 965 So.2d at 1030 (quoting
Bush, 895 So.2d at 843). This Court also considers
the evidence in the light most favorable to the State.
Bush, 895 So.2d at 843. The State receives the
benefit of all favorable inferences that reasonably may be
drawn from the evidence. Wilson v. State, 936 So.2d
357, 363 (Miss. 2006).
The instant case was based on circumstantial evidence since
Ceasar did not confess and there were no eyewitnesses to the
crime. As a result, the State had the burden to prove
Ceasar's guilt "not only beyond a reasonable doubt,
but to the exclusion of every reasonable hypothesis
consistent with innocence." Beasley v. State,
136 So.3d 393, 402 (Miss. 2014) (quoting Leflore v.
State, 535 So.2d 68, 70 (Miss. 1988)). However, this
Court repeatedly has held that "direct evidence is
unnecessary to support a conviction so long as sufficient
circumstantial evidence exists to establish guilt beyond a
reasonable doubt." Underwood v. State, 708
So.2d 18, 35 (Miss. 1998) (quoting Conner v. State,
632 So.2d 1239, 1252 (Miss. 1993)).
Ceasar was convicted pursuant to Mississippi Code Section
97-3-19(1)(a), which defines murder as: "The killing of
a human being without the authority of law by any means or in
any manner . . . [w]hen done with deliberate design to effect
the death of the person killed, or of any human being . . .
." Miss. Code Ann. § 97-3-19(1)(a) (Rev. 2014).
Therefore, the prosecution is required to prove beyond a
reasonable doubt that: "(1) the defendant killed the
victim; (2) without authority of law; and (3) with deliberate
design to effect his death." Brown v. State,
965 So.2d 1023, 1030 (Miss. 2007).
Ceasar claims that the State failed to exclude every
reasonable hypothesis consistent with his innocence, as
someone else could have killed Greg. After a review of the
State's evidence, we find that the State presented
sufficient evidence to show that Ceasar murdered Greg and
that the other hypotheses were not reasonable.
At trial, the State presented evidence that Ceasar had
planned to rob Greg. Christopher McKenzie, an admitted
cocaine addict, testified that, maybe one or two weeks before
Greg was murdered, he heard Ceasar speaking with two other
men abut robbing Greg. Because Ceasar sold drugs for Greg,
the State argued that Ceasar was looking ...