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Coleman v. State

Court of Appeals of Mississippi

April 25, 2017

MARCELLOS COLEMAN A/K/A MOOSE APPELLANT
v.
STATE OF MISSISSIPPI APPELLEE

          DATE OF JUDGMENT: 07/27/2015

         COURT FROM WHICH APPEALED: HINDS COUNTY CIRCUIT COURT, FIRST JUDICIAL DISTRICT HON. JEFF WEILL SR. TRIAL JUDGE.

          ATTORNEY FOR APPELLANT: OFFICE OF STATE PUBLIC DEFENDER BY: MOLLIE M. MCMILLIN.

          ATTORNEY FOR APPELLEE: OFFICE OF THE ATTORNEY GENERAL BY: ABBIE EASON KOONCE.

          BEFORE GRIFFIS, P.J., ISHEE AND GREENLEE, JJ.

          ISHEE, J.

         ¶1. On June 11, 2015, Marcellos Coleman was convicted in Hinds County Circuit Court for the kidnapping and murder of Duan Penn. On the murder conviction, Coleman was sentenced to life imprisonment, and on the kidnapping conviction, he was sentenced to thirty years' imprisonment, with the sentences to run concurrently. Coleman timely appeals and asserts that the circuit court erred in allowing the State to make improper prejudicial comments during its closing argument and, as such, denied him his constitutional right to a fair trial. We disagree. We find that the circuit court did not err, and we affirm Coleman's convictions.

         FACTS

         ¶2. On April 11, 2012, at approximately 1:20 a.m., officers with the Jackson Police Department responded to an emergency call regarding a fire. The fire department extinguished the burning object, and the officers discovered that the burning object was the human body of an unidentified male. The body was too badly burned to determine the race of the victim. Fragments of a blue tarpaulin were found near the body, and rope was recovered from the lower right leg of the victim. The body was found near a marshy area, and it appeared the tarpaulin was dragged across the grass to where the body was discovered. Additionally recovered at the crime scene were duct tape around the victim's mouth, rope around the victim's ankles, fragments of what was likely a t-shirt around the victim's neck, and charred socks on each foot.

         ¶3. The victim's body was not identified until approximately one month after its discovery, when the victim was reported missing by his brother. After using dental records, it was determined that the victim was the man's missing brother, Duan Penn.

         ¶4. While investigating Penn as a missing person, officers were informed that Coleman, Marcus Shelby, and Janice Pittman were involved in killing Penn. Officers drove to Coleman's house to speak with him and saw a blue tarp in Coleman's yard. They then obtained and executed a search warrant for Coleman's house, where they discovered a blue tarp and a "burn pile" where debris was burned. The officers interviewed Pittman, Coleman's next-door neighbor, and she explained both her and Coleman's involvement in Penn's death.

         ¶5. Pittman testified that on April 10, 2012, she was asleep with her boyfriend in her house. She explained that she was jarred awake by screaming outside of her window. She testified that she got out bed, walked to her front porch to investigate, and saw four men standing over a man-who was later identified as Penn-on the ground. She said Coleman demanded to know where his stuff was and then kicked Penn. She testified that she saw fire rising from where Penn was on the ground, and that it looked like the men were trying to stomp out the fire. Of the four men, Pittman was only able to identify Coleman and Shelby. She testified that one of the unidentified men approached her and told her that Penn implicated Pittman's daughter in a burglary that had occurred at Coleman's house a few days earlier.[1] The unidentified man asked Pittman if she was going to confront Penn for his allegations, to which she responded affirmatively by hitting Penn approximately four times. After beating Penn, Pittman went back inside her house to change her bloody shirt. She gave the shirt to the unidentified man to put in the burn pile at Coleman's house, and noted that it appeared that Penn's genitals had been burned. ¶6. Pittman said she then saw two men carry Penn into Coleman's back yard. A few minutes later, she saw two of the men come from the back yard carrying something that was wrapped up and loaded it into the trunk of one of the cars. Coleman then handed her a small gas can from his house and asked her to go get a gallon of gas. She returned with the gas, and the men drove off.

         ¶7. On cross-examination, Pittman told the jury that a few days earlier, Coleman and Penn had an argument that resulted in Coleman shooting the ground next to Penn's feet. This story was confirmed by another neighbor, Earnest Hendricks, who testified that the argument began when Coleman asked Penn about burglarizing his house. Hendricks testified that on the night of the murder, Penn attended a barbeque at Coleman's house, where Coleman accused Penn of burglarizing his house.

         ¶8. Sacquana Collins, Pittman's roommate, testified similarly to Pittman. However, Collins said she saw Coleman set a man on fire, and said when the man's body was being carried ...


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