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Collins v. State

Court of Appeals of Mississippi

May 23, 2017

JAIRUS COLLINS A/K/A JAIRUS J. COLLINS A/K/A JAIRUS JIDON COLLINS A/K/A JARIUS COLLINS A/K/A JARIUS J. COLLINS APPELLANT
v.
STATE OF MISSISSIPPI APPELLEE

          DATE OF JUDGMENT: 02/25/2016

         FORREST COUNTY CIRCUIT COURT, HON. ROBERT B. HELFRICH.

          ATTORNEY FOR APPELLANT: MICHAEL ADELMAN.

          ATTORNEY FOR APPELLEE: OFFICE OF THE ATTORNEY GENERAL BY: KATY TAYLOR GERBER DISTRICT ATTORNEY: PATRICIA A. THOMAS BURCHELL.

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

          WILSON, J.

         ¶1. A jury in the Forrest County Circuit Court convicted Jairus Collins of possession of a weapon by a convicted felon, and the court sentenced him, as a habitual offender, to life in the custody of the Mississippi Department of Corrections (MDOC) without the possibility of parole. Jairus[1] subsequently filed a motion for a judgement notwithstanding the verdict (JNOV) or a new trial, which the trial court denied, and a timely notice of appeal. On appeal, Jairus argues that (1) the charge should have been dismissed with prejudice because his statutory and constitutional rights to a speedy trial were violated, (2) the verdict was against the overwhelming weight of the evidence, and (3) his sentence as a habitual offender violates the Mississippi Constitution. We find no error and affirm Jairus's conviction and sentence.

         FACTS AND PROCEDURAL HISTORY

         ¶2. On November 14, 2012, the grand jury indicted Jairus for murder (Count I) and possession of a weapon by a convicted felon (Count II). The indictment alleged that between December 7 and 9, 2011, Jairus (I) murdered Ebony Jenkins with deliberate design and (II) possessed a .40 caliber handgun. Jairus was indicted as a habitual offender under Mississippi Code Annotated section 99-19-83 (Rev. 2015).

         ¶3. On November 19, 2012, Jairus pled not guilty and filed a motion requesting that Count I and Count II be severed and tried separately. The State did not object to severing the charges for trial, and on December 17, 2012, the circuit court entered an order granting Jairus's motion to sever.

         ¶4. Collins was convicted of murder following a jury trial in March 2013, and his motion for JNOV or a new trial was denied on April 15, 2013. However, the Mississippi Supreme Court reversed Jairus's murder conviction on the grounds that the trial court erred by failing to suppress Jairus's statement to police after he invoked his right to counsel, and by allowing a police officer to testify as a lay witness regarding the locations of Jairus's and Jenkins's cell phones. Collins v. State, 172 So.3d 724, 744 (¶30) (Miss. 2015). The Supreme Court reversed and remanded the case for further proceedings consistent with its opinion. Id. The Supreme Court's mandate issued on September 10, 2015.

         ¶5. On September 16, 2015, the State filed a motion in the circuit court to set the case for trial as to Count II of the indictment only. The circuit court set Count II for trial on February 23, 2016.

         ¶6. On October 15, 2015, Jairus moved to dismiss Count II on the ground that trying him more than three years after he was indicted and pled not guilty would violate his right to a speedy trial under Mississippi Code Annotated section 99-17-1 (Rev. 2015) and the Constitution. The court held a hearing on Jairus's motion on November 9, 2015. At the hearing, defense counsel acknowledged that Jairus requested that the charges against him be severed and tried separately, which resulted in some delay, and that Jairus never asserted his right to a speedy trial at any point prior to his motion to dismiss. Counsel further conceded that the State was not responsible for any delay through the sentencing and post-conviction motions in Jairus's murder trial. At the conclusion of the hearing, the circuit court noted that Jairus was not entitled to dismissal based on the length of the delay alone, and the court denied the motion to dismiss Count II. The case then proceeded to trial on February 23-24, 2016.

         ¶7. Jessie Miles testified at trial that he purchased a .40 caliber Hi-Point handgun from a pawn shop in Columbia, Mississippi. Records from the pawn shop were introduced showing that in February 2010 Miles purchased a Hi-Point handgun with the serial number X77860. Miles later had "a problem with [the] gun jamming." Sometimes it would fire, but sometimes it would jam. Miles told Jairus's brother, Joshia Collins, about his problem with the gun. Joshia told Miles that Jairus could fix it, so Miles spoke to Jairus. Jairus confirmed that he could fix the gun, so in November 2011, Miles "gave [Jairus] the gun so he could fix it." Jairus never returned the gun.

         ¶8. Miles identified a gun introduced into evidence at trial as the gun he gave to Jairus in November 2011. However, he testified that it had been altered in two respects: black tape had been wrapped around the handle, and the serial number had been scratched off. Jeff Byrd, a crime scene investigator with the Hattiesburg Police Department, testified that he was able to reveal the gun's serial number by applying a solvent and sandpaper to it. The serial number matched the number on the gun sold to Miles (X77860).

         ¶9. Jairus's and Joshia's father, Melven Collins, testified that between December 7 and 9, 2011, Jairus and Joshia arrived at his home in Hattiesburg. Melven testified that he noticed a "bag" in his sons' vehicle that "alarmed" him. Melven picked up the bag and put it back down, and "it had weight to it." Melven did not open the bag, but an "alarm went off in his mind, and he told his sons that "whatever it is, you need to get it away from this house." Melven previously testified that he thought that the object in the bag was a gun, but when confronted with his prior testimony, he denied that he ever formed such an opinion.

ΒΆ10. Joshia admitted that he knew Miles, but he insisted that he never talked to Miles about Jairus repairing a gun and that he had never seen Miles's gun. Joshia admitted that Melven told him and Jairus to "get out of his yard" because Melven was "uncomfortable" about something, but Joshia claimed that he did not know why Melven asked them to leave. Joshia further testified that he and Jairus left his father's house, that he drove Jairus up Interstate 59 (1-59), that he stopped on the side of the highway, and that Jairus got out of the vehicle. However, Joshia testified at trial that he never saw a gun or a bag and that he had no idea why Jairus got out of the vehicle. Joshia previously gave a sworn statement that he knew that Jairus had a gun in the bag, that he drove Jairus to mile marker 118 on 1-59 to dispose of the gun, and that Jairus then exited the vehicle and disposed of the gun. However, when ...


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