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Keys v. State

Court of Appeals of Mississippi

May 9, 2017

KUREN CORDELL KEYS A/K/A KUREN KEYS A/K/A KUREN K. KEYS A/K/A KUREN KORDELL KEYS A/K/A KURRELL CORDELL KEYS APPELLANT
v.
STATE OF MISSISSIPPI APPELLEE

          DATE OF JUDGMENT: 08/12/2015

         HARRISON COUNTY CIRCUIT COURT, FIRST JUDICIAL DISTRICT, HON. CHRISTOPHER LOUIS SCHMIDT, TRIAL JUDGE

          ATTORNEY FOR APPELLANT: OFFICE OF STATE PUBLIC DEFENDER, MOLLIE MCMILLIN

          ATTORNEY FOR APPELLEE: OFFICE OF THE ATTORNEY GENERAL, LAURA HOGAN TEDDER

          DISTRICT ATTORNEY: JOEL SMITH

          BEFORE LEE, C.J., FAIR AND WILSON, JJ.

          WILSON, J.

         ¶1. A jury in the Harrison County Circuit Court convicted Kuren Kordell Keys of two counts of sexual battery. On appeal, Keys's appointed counsel from the Office of State Public Defender, Indigent Appeals Division, filed a Lindsey brief, certifying that she has reviewed the record and has concluded that Keys's case does not present any arguable issues for appeal.[1] Keys subsequently filed a pro se brief in which he challenges the weight and sufficiency of the evidence and alleges various errors at trial. We have reviewed the issues raised by Keys and the record as a whole and find no reversible error. Therefore, we affirm Keys's convictions and sentences.

         FACTS AND PROCEDURAL HISTORY

         ¶2. On November 28, 2013, AKT[2] went to Club Illusions in Gulfport, where she was training to be a waitress. She arrived at the club between 11 p.m. and midnight. AKT planned to get a ride home with a friend and her friend's boyfriend, but the boyfriend later told AKT that he could not give her a ride because he had been drinking. Another friend of AKT, Deanthony Haralson, then agreed to give her a ride home. Haralson lived near AKT. Haralson, AKT, and two men she did not know-later identified as Keys and Donnell Bolden-left the club in a four-door, silver Chevrolet sedan.

         ¶3. Keys gave Haralson the keys and told him to drive. Bolden sat in the front passenger seat, and Keys and AKT sat in the backseat. Haralson dropped Bolden off first, then drove to his apartment and got out of the car. Keys took over driving, and AKT moved into the front passenger seat. Keys told AKT he would take her home, but she soon realized he was driving in the wrong direction. She asked Keys where he was going, and he told her that he needed to "hit a lick." Keys eventually stopped the car on the side of County Farm Road in a rural area of Harrison County. Keys told AKT that he needed to wait there for a friend to bring him money.

         ¶4. This angered AKT because it was around 5 a.m., and she needed to get home. She expressed her anger to Keys, then turned toward her side window. In her peripheral vision, AKT noticed movement and turned to see Keys stroking his penis. AKT tried to get out of the car and said she would find her own way home; however, Keys grabbed her, pulled her back inside the car, and told her, "[T]his ride ain't free." Keys threatened to shoot AKT and ordered her to remove her underwear. AKT told Keys that she had recently given birth and had stitches. Keys told her to perform oral sex on him instead.

         ¶5. AKT began screaming and crying, but Keys again threatened to shoot her and displayed a box-cutter blade. Keys held the blade near AKT's face as she began to perform oral sex on him. AKT was still screaming and crying, so Keys pulled her out of the car by her hair and pushed her up against the back of the car on the driver's side. Keys forced his penis inside AKT's vagina for approximately thirty seconds before a vehicle appeared on the road traveling in their direction. Keys shoved AKT to the ground so the passing car could not see her and held her there until the car passed. AKT realized it was a law enforcement vehicle and tried to signal the driver, but he did not see her.

         ¶6. Once the car passed, Keys picked up AKT, pushed her back over the car, and tried to penetrate her again. As he did, a truck appeared traveling in the opposite direction. AKT managed to break free of Keys and ran into the road in front of the oncoming vehicle. The driver, Anita Corwin, stopped, and AKT ran to the passenger side door, screaming that she had been raped and pulling on the door handle. Corwin unlocked the door, and AKT got inside Corwin's truck.

         ¶7. Corwin saw the silver Chevrolet drive away, but she was not able to identify its driver. Corwin had just passed a fire station and had seen a deputy parked there, so she and AKT drove back to the fire station. As they drove, Corwin called 911 to report the assault.

          ¶8. Captain John Massengill of the Harrison County Sheriff's Office was at the fire station when Corwin and AKT arrived. Massengill had been driving the first vehicle that passed Keys's parked car. Massengill testified that he slowed as he passed and made eye contact with Keys. However, Massengill saw only Keys, and Keys did not indicate that he needed assistance, so Massengill continued to the fire station to use the restroom. Massengill testified that he intended to return to check on Keys after he left the fire station.

         ¶9. While at the fire station, Massengill heard a call over his radio that a possible assault had occurred on County Farm Road and that the victim was en route to the fire station. Massengill met Corwin and AKT at the front of the station. AKT was sobbing and shaking, and Massengill was afraid that she would go into shock. When Massengill led her inside the station, AKT ran toward a sink and began gagging and dry heaving. AKT eventually collapsed and was transported to the hospital via ambulance.

         ¶10. Before AKT collapsed, she told Massengill that the crime scene was the parked car he had passed on County Farm Road, so he broadcast a description of the vehicle: a newer model four-door sedan, gray or silver in color. Massengill was unable to give a full description of Keys because it had been dark and he had only seen Keys from the waist up. Massengill and another deputy, Walter Dukes, returned to the area where Massengill had seen Keys's car. It was a cold morning, and there was frost on the ground, so the vehicle's tire tracks were easy to find. The officers also found AKT's underwear near the tracks.

         ¶11. Dukes met with AKT at the hospital. AKT told Dukes that she did not know the man who raped her, but she knew that he was a friend of Haralson. Investigators made contact with Haralson, and Haralson identified Keys as the only man in the car with AKT after they dropped him off at his apartment.

         ¶12. Nurse Jennifer Duncan was in the emergency room when AKT arrived by ambulance around 7:10 a.m. Duncan testified that AKT was upset and disheveled. AKT told Duncan that she had been sexually assaulted, so Duncan conducted a sexual assault exam to collect any evidence. AKT stated that the assault was oral and vaginal, so Duncan took swabs from AKT's mouth, vulva, and vagina. Duncan also collected AKT's clothes and drew a blood sample. AKT told Duncan that she had given birth about four weeks earlier. Duncan testified that AKT was crying throughout the examination. ...


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