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Parks v. State

Court of Appeals of Mississippi

February 7, 2017


          DATE OF JUDGMENT: 10/01/2015






          CARLTON, J.

         ¶1. Pursuant to a multicount indictment, a Harrison County jury found George Parks guilty of two counts of sexual battery, one count of aggravated assault, one count of kidnapping, and one count of possession of a controlled substance.[1] Parks now appeals his convictions and sentences. On appeal, he asserts the following issues:[2] (1) whether the circuit court erred by denying his motion to dismiss the indictment; (2) whether he was improperly arraigned; (3) whether his right to a speedy trial was violated; (4) whether the circuit court erred by denying his motion for new appointed counsel; (5) whether the circuit court erred by denying his motion to suppress evidence; (6) whether the circuit court erred by allowing the State to use evidence of his prior bad acts; (7) whether he was denied the right to a public trial; (8) whether his attorney provided ineffective assistance of counsel; (9) whether prosecutorial misconduct denied him a fair trial; (10) whether the circuit court erred by granting the State's proposed jury instruction S-6; and (11) whether the circuit court erred by denying his request for bail pending appeal.

         ¶2. Finding no error, we affirm.


         ¶3. On the evening of August 27, 2014, Officer Michael Warren of the Biloxi Police Department responded to a dispatch about a stabbing victim at Biloxi Regional Medical Center (now called Merit Health Hospital). Officer Warren proceeded to the hospital, where he interviewed the reported victim, Desiree Stringer, and photographed her injuries. Based on the information Stringer provided, officers were dispatched to Parks's residence.

         ¶4. Along with others, Officer Bryan Wallace of the Biloxi Police Department responded to the dispatch to Parks's residence. Officer Wallace testified that Parks exited the residence and met the officers in the front yard. Officer Wallace stated that Parks had a large amount of dried and fresh blood on his left hand, and his right hand was swollen. Officer Wallace testified that he asked whether Parks had anything in his pockets that could cause harm. After Parks answered that he did not, Officer Wallace asked for permission to search Parks's pockets. Officer Wallace testified that Parks consented to the search. In Parks's shirt pocket, Officer Wallace discovered a plastic cellophane bag containing two off-white rocks. The jury later heard expert trial testimony that the two rocks were cocaine.

         ¶5. Officer Wallace testified that he and another officer conducted a safety search of Parks's residence to ensure that no other victims, suspects, or persons needing medical attention were inside the home. Officer Wallace stated that the safety search lasted about two minutes. During the safety search of Parks's home, Officer Wallace observed marijuana cigarettes in plain view as well as a large amount of dried blood on the floor, the walls, and a bedroom mattress. After completing the safety search, Officer Wallace escorted Parks to the hospital to receive medical treatment for any possible injuries. Officer Wallace testified that, during the car ride, Parks said a woman named "Paige" did his laundry and that she must have put the cocaine in his shirt pocket. The jury later heard trial testimony that one of the State's other witnesses, a woman named Tonda Adkisson, also went by the name of "Summer Paige Williams."

         ¶6. After obtaining a warrant, law enforcement performed a search of Parks's residence and collected evidence. Nathan Holly, an employee of the Mississippi Forensics Laboratory, testified as an expert in forensic DNA analysis. Holly testified that he performed a DNA analysis on blood swabbed from a knife found in Parks's residence and on blood swabbed from the back of Parks's left hand. According to Holly, each swab contained a DNA mixture of both Parks's and Stringer's blood.

         ¶7. The jury also heard testimony from Stringer. Stringer stated that she had known Parks for approximately four years and that the two had once worked for the same cab company. Stringer testified that she had even rented a room in Parks's house for several months about three years previously while she saved money to buy her own house. Stringer further testified that, on only one occasion about three-and-a-half to four years previously, she and Parks had been intimate.

         ¶8. At the time of the alleged incident in August 2014, Stringer lived in Bogalusa, Louisiana, with her mother. Stringer testified that she traveled to Biloxi, Mississippi, on August 25, 2014, to stay several nights at Parks's home and to hang out. Stringer stated that she intended to stay in Parks's guest bedroom. On the evening of August 26, 2014, Stringer testified that she and Parks went to pick up Adkisson, whom they both knew. Stringer testified that, upon arriving at Adkisson's home, she went inside to get Adkisson. Stringer stated that Parks appeared irritated when the two women returned to the car. According to Stringer, Parks was irritated because they were not going to be able to stop by the liquor store before closing time.

         ¶9. Stringer further testified that, as she drove down the highway, Parks accused Adkisson of hitting him and calling him a derogatory name. However, Stringer stated that Adkisson did neither of these things. Stringer testified that Parks, who was sitting in the front passenger seat, turned around and began slapping and punching Adkisson, who was seated directly behind him. Stringer said that she pulled over and broke up the altercation. Stringer further stated that Parks then exited the car and began walking down the road. Stringer and Adkisson then drove back to Adkisson's house.

         ¶10. Stringer testified that she decided to collect her stuff from Parks's house and to then return to Adkisson's house to spend the night. However, Stringer stated that Parks was already at his house when she arrived. According to Stringer, Parks was angry and began asking Stringer questions about whether Adkisson was cheating on him, whether Adkisson loved him, and whether Adkisson loved Stringer more than him. Stringer testified that Parks did not like her responses and began making superficial cuts on her legs with a knife. Stringer further testified that Parks called her names and ordered her to stay at his house and answer his questions. In addition, Stringer said Parks threatened to cut off her hand if she moved.

         ¶11. Despite Parks's threats, Stringer said that she tried to run into the laundry room that adjoined Parks's bedroom. However, Stringer testified that Parks grabbed her by her hair, flung her to the ground, kicked her in the head three times, and cut her with the knife. Stringer further stated that Parks dragged her back into his bedroom and made her sit on the bed. She said that he then placed a television in front of the door to prevent her from leaving the bedroom. Stringer testified that she also tried to hide underneath Parks's bed at one point. However, she said that Parks began to jump up and down on the bed and that he stabbed her with a broken golf club, which cut her face.

         ¶12. Stringer further testified that Parks said the cutting and the beating were really intended for Adkisson. At one point, Stringer said Parks thought he heard the police. Stringer stated that Parks made her sit on his lap while he held the knife to her throat. Stringer testified that Parks said he would slit her throat and kill her and then kill himself.

         ¶13. Although she had her clothes on when the altercation started, Stringer testified that Parks took her clothes off. Stringer testified that Parks said he was going to have sex with her since he could not have sex with Adkisson. Stringer testified that Parks grabbed her legs, and when she would not open her legs, he cut her on the back of her legs and on her bottom to force her to open her legs. Stringer stated that Parks then put his penis in her vagina. He then grabbed her by her hair and stuck his penis in her mouth. She testified that he said he would stab her in the top of her head if she bit him.

         ¶14. Overall, Stringer estimated that Parks held her against her will and assaulted her for seventeen to nineteen hours. She testified that Parks cut her all over her body, including her head, neck, arm, back, knees, ankles, legs, and hands. Toward the end of the ordeal, Stringer testified that Parks forced her to smoke methamphetamine. Stringer said Parks told her that she needed to smoke the methamphetamine to calm down. Stringer further testified that she began to notice she was no longer bleeding, and she thought she had become dehydrated. Stringer stated that she eventually convinced Parks that she could get Adkisson to see him. Stringer testified that Parks then cleaned up, changed clothes, and brought her some clothes to wear.

         ¶15. As they were driving to Adkisson's house, Stringer testified that Parks told her to just take him back to his house. Stringer testified that she refused to go back inside Parks's house and that he got out of the car and told her to do what she had to do. Stringer stated that she then drove immediately to the hospital.

         ¶16. Jennifer Guice, an emergency-room nurse, testified that she was working on August 27, 2014, when Stringer arrived at the hospital. Guice testified that Stringer was very weak and required urgent medical attention. Stringer told Guice that she had been beaten, stabbed, kicked, punched, and held hostage. According to Guice, Stringer had bruises, scrapes, lacerations, and dried blood all over her body. Guice further testified that Stringer's injuries were consistent with those inflicted by a knife and a broken golf club.

         ¶17. Dr. William Kennerly, the general surgeon who treated Stringer's wounds, testified that he closed thirty-three of the larger wounds on Stringer's body. Dr. Kennerly testified that the surgery lasted about an hour and a half, and then Stringer stayed in the hospital several days to recover. Dr. Kennerly stated that Stringer's injuries appeared consistent with knife wounds. He further stated that, in his expert opinion, not all of Stringer's wounds could have been self-inflicted.

         ¶18. During its case-in-chief, the State presented testimony from two women-Kristin Cannata and Adkisson-who both stated that Parks had engaged in behavior toward them that was similar to the behavior alleged by Stringer. After both Cannata and Adkisson testified, the circuit court instructed the jury that the State offered the testimony only to establish Parks's motive, intent, and modus operandi. The circuit court further instructed the jury that it should not consider the testimony to be substantive evidence in the allegations made by Stringer. The circuit court also reminded the jury that Parks was only on trial for the crimes alleged in the indictment and not for other acts.

         ¶19. Cannata testified about two past incidents involving Parks. Cannata stated that she had gone to high school with Parks and had known him for twenty-seven years. Cannata testified that, on September 24, 2010, Parks held her overnight against her will at his home in Biloxi. Cannata stated that, at the time, she and Parks were friends. Cannata testified that Parks became angry about some of her past relationships. According to Cannata, Parks took away her phone, hit her in the head and face, dragged her around by her hair, held a knife to her throat, and threatened to hit her with a hammer. Cannata also testified that she had sex with Parks during the incident because she felt that she had no other choice. On cross-examination, Cannata stated that the charges for this incident were dismissed.

         ¶20. Cannata testified that the second incident occurred at her home in Las Vegas, Nevada, on December 18, 2011, and that Parks again held her overnight against her will. Although she testified that she was struggling with the previous incident, Cannata admitted that Parks was an invited guest in her home. Cannata said that Parks became angry after her ex-husband came over to retrieve an item she had borrowed. According to Cannata, Parks hit her, pinned her on the bed, scraped scissors on her breasts and stomach, cut her stomach, punched her repeatedly in the ribs, and choked her. Cannata testified that Parks broke apart the scissors and used the blades like knives. Cannata further testified that Parks masturbated on top of her while he had her pinned on the bed. On cross-examination, Cannata stated that, to the best of her knowledge, Parks faced a felony prosecution for the incident. She stated that she believed Parks took a plea deal and pled guilty to the charge in exchange for attending an anger-management class.

         ¶21. The State next called Adkisson to testify about Parks's past behavior toward her. Adkisson first corroborated Stringer's testimony that Parks hit Adkisson on the night of August 26, 2014. Adkisson claimed that she in no way provoked the attack. In addition, Adkisson testified about a previous incident where Parks assaulted her. Adkisson stated that she had lived in Parks's guest bedroom for a period of time. About two weeks after she moved out, Adkisson said she was collecting the remainder of her stuff from Parks's home when he took her phone, dragged her into his bedroom, choked her, ripped off her pants, and repeatedly smothered her with a pillow. Adkisson stated that Parks did not sexually assault her during the incident. Adkisson further testified that the incident lasted seventeen hours and that she never told the police because Parks threatened to harm her family, burn down her house, kill her animals, kill her, and then kill himself.

         ¶22. Adkisson admitted during questioning that she had previously been charged with and convicted of felony driving under the influence. Adkisson further admitted that, when she was younger, she had harmed herself by cutting her arms. In addition, Adkisson admitted that she had tried to commit suicide when she was younger. As previously stated, following both Adkisson's and Cannata's testimony, the circuit court instructed the jury on the purposes for which the testimony had been offered.

         ¶23. After the State completed its case-in-chief, Parks testified on his own behalf. During direct examination, Parks testified that Adkisson had done his laundry and cleaned his house when she lived with him. Parks further testified that the cocaine Officer Wallace found in his shirt pocket was not his and that he did not know how the cocaine came to be in his shirt pocket. In response to questions asked during cross-examination, however, Parks testified that he told law enforcement that Adkisson must have put the cocaine in his shirt pocket when she did his laundry.

         ¶24. As to the allegations made by Stringer, Parks stated that he did accompany Stringer to pick up Adkisson on the evening of August 26, 2014. Parks testified that Adkisson called him a derogatory name, and he admitted that he turned around in the front seat of Stringer's car and hit Adkisson twice in the head and grabbed Adkisson's hair. According to Parks, he broke his right hand-his dominant hand-when he hit Adkisson.

         ¶25. In addition to admitting that he hit Adkisson on the evening of August 26, 2014, Parks admitted to the two past incidents involving Cannata. Parks admitted that, on each of the two occasions, he held Cannata overnight against her will. Parks corroborated Cannata's testimony that the first incident occurred at his home in Biloxi and that he threatened Cannata with a knife. Parks further admitted that the second incident occurred at Cannata's home in Las Vegas and involved him cutting Cannata with a pair of scissors.

         ¶26. Despite admitting to his past acts against Cannata, Parks denied that he assaulted Adkisson when she was moving out of his house. In addition, Parks repeatedly denied Stringer's allegations of sexual battery, aggravated assault, and kidnapping. With regard to Stringer's allegations, Parks testified that he never poked Stringer with a broken golf club or cut her with a knife. Parks further stated that he had never before seen the knife that law ...

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