JAMES HOWARD WORDLAW A/K/A DO DO A/K/A JAMES HOWARD WOODLAW A/K/A JAMES WORDLAW A/K/A JAMES H. WORDLAW APPELLANT
STATE OF MISSISSIPPI APPELLEE
OF JUDGMENT: 07/29/2015
FROM WHICH APPEALED OKTIBBEHA COUNTY CIRCUIT COURT HON. LEE
J. HOWARD TRIAL JUDGE.
ATTORNEY FOR APPELLANT: OFFICE OF STATE PUBLIC DEFENDER BY:
JUSTIN TAYLOR COOK.
ATTORNEY FOR APPELLEE: OFFICE OF THE ATTORNEY GENERAL BY:
ALICIA MARIE AINSWORTH.
LEE, C.J., ISHEE AND GREENLEE, JJ.
James Wordlaw was convicted by a jury in the Oktibbeha County
Circuit Court of one count of possession of more than .1 gram
but less than 2 grams of a controlled substance. He was
sentenced as a habitual offender pursuant to Mississippi Code
Annotated section 99-19-81 (Rev. 2015) and as a subsequent
drug offender pursuant to Mississippi Code Annotated section
41-29-147 (Rev. 2013) to six years in the custody of the
Mississippi Department of Corrections, without reduction or
suspension, or eligibility for parole or probation. Wordlaw
was also ordered to pay a $6, 000 fine.
Wordlaw filed posttrial motions, which the trial court
denied. He now appeals, asserting that the trial court erred
by denying his circumstantial-evidence jury instructions and
by failing to instruct the jury on venue. We find reversible
error regarding venue and remand for a new trial. We decline
to address Wordlaw's other issue.
On the morning of December 24, 2013, Jeremy Akins, an officer
with the Starkville Police Department (SPD), noticed a black
Toyota Tacoma speeding in Starkville, Mississippi. Officer
Akins initiated a traffic stop, and recognized the driver of
the truck as Wordlaw. Officer Akins testified that he had
seen Wordlaw driving the same truck several times in the
weeks leading up to December 24. Wordlaw told Officer Akins
that his license had been suspended. Officer Akins testified
that he discovered Roy Bennett was the title owner of the
Although he first claimed the truck belonged to Bennett, his
boss, Wordlaw consented to a search. Officer Akins discovered
a cigarette pack between the driver's seat and the middle
console. The cigarette pack contained a clear bag filled with
a white substance, which was later tested and determined to
be crack cocaine. Wordlaw was subsequently arrested.
Chris Jackson, an officer with the SPD, also responded to the
scene. Officer Jackson approached the passenger side of the
truck, where Andrea Middleton was sitting. While Officer
Akins searched the truck, Officer Jackson received consent
from Middleton to search her pockets. Officer Jackson found a
crack pipe in Middleton's pocket. Middleton was
subsequently arrested. Other items associated with drug use
were found in the truck, including copper brillo pads, copper
wiring, and a "push rod" for use with a crack pipe.
Officer Jackson also testified that while Officer Akins
searched the truck, he noticed Wordlaw with what resembled a
plastic bag in his mouth. He ordered Wordlaw to spit out the
plastic bag, but Wordlaw swallowed it instead. An ambulance
was called to the scene, but Wordlaw refused medical
During trial, Bennett testified that he had sold the truck to
Wordlaw in October 2013. At the time, Bennett said his