JUSTIN CROCKETT a/k/a JUSTIN RANDLE CROCKETT a/k/a JUSTIN R. CROCKETT
STATE OF MISSISSIPPI
OF JUDGMENT: 04/17/2015
COURT OF THE FIRST JUDICIAL DISTRICT OF PANOLA COUNTY HON.
GERALD W. CHATHAM, SR. TRIAL JUDGE
ATTORNEY FOR APPELLANT: B. BRENNAN HORAN
ATTORNEY FOR APPELLEE: OFFICE OF THE ATTORNEY GENERAL BY:
JEFFREY A. KLINGFUSS
DISTRICT ATTORNEY: JOHN W. CHAMPION
DICKINSON, P.J., KITCHENS AND KING, JJ.
Justin Crockett pled guilty in Panola County Justice Court to
headlighting a deer in violation of Mississippi Code Section
49-7-95 (Rev. 2012). Crockett appealed his conviction to
the Circuit Court of the First Judicial District of Panola
County. After a bench trial de novo, that court
found Crockett guilty. Crockett timely appealed to this
Court, arguing solely that there was insufficient evidence to
support the conviction. We find sufficient evidence in the
record to sustain Crockett's conviction. Accordingly, we
On January 30, 2014, at approximately 8:45 p.m., Lieutenant
Marion Pearson received a call about a truck that had been
stopped by authorities in Panola County. Pearson, a warden
with the Mississippi Department of Wildlife, Fisheries, and
Parks, was told that the truck was carrying three deer (a
mature doe, a small doe, and a spike buck) in its bed and
that the deer appeared to have been "freshly
killed." Pearson arrived at the scene and questioned the
three individuals who were in the truck: John Kyle Gordon,
Michael Chad Lanier, and Seth Allen Wooten.
All three men admitted that they had been headlighting deer
and informed Pearson that they had been doing so with
Crockett. The three individuals further stated that Crockett
had shot two of the deer and that they all had put them in
the bed of the truck. One of them, Gordon, was working six
weeks on and ten days off in North Dakota at the time of
trial, and the State was not successful in securing his
presence. Crockett raised no hearsay objection to
Pearson's testimony about what Gordon, Lanier, and Wooten
had told him. According to Pearson's testimony, Crockett
later admitted having shot the spike deer, though Crockett
claimed to have shot the deer during legal hunting hours.
The State responded with forensic evidence showing that the
spike was shot well after legal hunting hours. The trial
court accepted Pearson as an expert witness in the field of
"forensic investigation of the death of a deer."
Pearson testified that at approximately 3:00 a.m. on January
31, 2014, he returned to his house with the deer and
performed standard procedures to determine the time of death.
Crockett did not object to the trial court's acceptance
of Pearson as an expert witness. Following the standard
procedures, Pearson took the spike's temperature in
various parts of its anatomy. Pearson then plugged the
temperature readings into a computer program along with the
ambient air temperature for the night of January 30, 2014. In
addition, Pearson checked for rigor mortis in
various parts of the deer's body. Finally, Pearson
measured the diameter of the deer's pupils. After
factoring in all of the above, Pearson and his supervisor
Bruce Jenkins concluded-rightly or wrongly, and without
objection-that the spike buck (the only deer for which
Crockett was charged) had been killed between approximately 8
p.m. and 10 p.m. on January 30, 2014.
The trial court, acting as both the judge and trier of fact,
found Crockett guilty of killing a deer at night by
headlighting in violation of ...