TREVONTAE JOHNSON, MEEKCO JOHNSON A/K/A MEEKO JOHNSON AND ISAAC JOHNSON, APPELLANTS
STATE OF MISSISSIPPI, APPELLEE
OF JUDGMENT: 02/09/2015
COUNTY CIRCUIT COURT HON. W. ASHLEY HINES TRIAL JUDGE
ATTORNEYS FOR APPELLANT: OFFICE OF STATE PUBLIC DEFENDER BY:
HUNTER NOLAN AIKENS ERNEST TUCKER GORE DAVID NEIL MCCARTY
ATTORNEY FOR APPELLEE: OFFICE OF THE ATTORNEY GENERAL BY:
BILLY L. GORE
DISTRICT ATTORNEY: WILLIE DEWAYNE RICHARDSON
IRVING, P.J., ISHEE AND FAIR, JJ.
Trevontae Johnson, Meekco Johnson, and Isaac
Johnson appeal separate judgments of the Circuit
Court of Washington County adjudicating each of them guilty
of Count I, burglary of a dwelling; Count II, armed robbery;
and Count III, kidnapping. Meekco also appeals his additional
conviction of Count IV, possession of a firearm by a
convicted felon. The circuit court sentenced Trevontae,
Meekco, and Isaac to separate consecutive terms of
twenty-five years for burglary, thirty-eight years for armed
robbery, and thirty years for kidnapping. Meekco was also
sentenced to an additional consecutive term of ten years for
possession of a firearm by a convicted felon. All sentences
for each Appellant were ordered to be served in the custody
of the Mississippi Department of Corrections. Matthew Moore
and Keagan Latham were indicted along with the Appellants,
and Moore was tried with them. However, the jury found him
not guilty of all counts. Latham was not tried with the
Appellants, although he testified during their trial while
charges against him were still pending.
On appeal, Trevontae maintains that the trial court erred in
refusing to allow a police investigative report into evidence
for the purpose of impeaching one of the State's
witnesses. He also contends that the jury's verdict is
against the overwhelming weight of the evidence. Meekco
asserts that the trial court erred in denying a motion to
suppress evidence and in placing limitations upon his right
to present a defense. He also asserts that he received
ineffective assistance of counsel. Isaac asserts that the
traffic stop of the motor vehicle in which he and Meekco were
riding was illegal; that the exclusion of his rebuttal witness
destroyed his right to a defense; that the jury was not
properly instructed regarding a key sentencing enhancement;
and that the trial was inherently unfair due to the
prosecutor's comments allegedly vouching for the
truthfulness of one of the State's witnesses.
We find no reversible error; therefore, we affirm the
judgments of the circuit court.
During the early part of the night on April 8, 2013, police
officers responded to a call from Wayne Barrett's
residence in Greenville, Mississippi. Barrett, whose face was
bruised and swollen, informed the police that his home had
been burglarized and that he had been assaulted by three men.
The incident began when a young man-whom Barrett recognized
as a friend or relative of his former neighbors and later
identified as fifteen-year-old Keagan Latham-knocked on
Barrett's door and asked to use the phone. Barrett
acquiesced; Latham briefly used the phone and left. A few
minutes later, Barrett heard another knock on the door. When
he went to answer, three different male individuals, who were
armed and whom Barrett did not recognize, forced their way
into his residence. The men assaulted Barrett and forced him
to accompany them from room to room as they stole two laptop
computers, several guns, a bag of change, Barrett's
wallet, and an iPhone. The men carried the items out of
Barrett's home using a blue comforter, which they had
removed from Barrett's bed.
Barrett identified Latham to police, but was unable to
identify the other three men involved in the burglary. The
following morning, on April 9, 2013, police took Latham's
statement,  in which he implicated Trevontae, Meekco,
Isaac, and Moore in the burglary and described their
appearances. Latham also informed police that most of the
stolen items had been taken to a certain residence on Ada
Drive in Greenville. The police subsequently began preparing
to obtain a search warrant for the Ada Drive residence.
Later that day, while the police were in the process of
obtaining the search warrant, Sergeant Kenneth Redfield of
the Greenville Police Department began conducting
surveillance of the Ada Drive residence, with two fellow
officers-Officer Andy Osbun and Officer Chris Surf-positioned
nearby in their patrol cars. Sergeant Redfield testified at
trial that he, along with the other officers involved in the
matter, had been previously made aware of the suspects'
names and general descriptions and that on the morning of
April 9, 2013, he had received photos of the suspects from a
group-text-message thread between members of the police
department who were involved in this particular
matter. Around noon, Sergeant Redfield noticed two
individuals, matching the description and photographs of two
of the suspects, leaving the Ada Drive residence in a blue
Chevrolet Impala. Officer Redfield transmitted this
information to Officers Osbun and Surf and informed them as
to the direction that the Impala was traveling. Shortly
after, Officer Osbun spotted the Impala and conducted a
traffic stop. Officer Osbun later testified that he did not
observe the men in the Impala breaking any laws prior to the
stop; rather, the reason for the stop was "to just
identify the people" in the Impala. Officer Osbun also
testified that he did not see photographs of the suspects
until after the traffic stop was conducted. Officer Surf
arrived shortly thereafter to assist Officer Osbun.
Officer Osbun asked the driver for identification. The driver
handed an identification card, not a driver's license, to
Officer Osbun, identifying himself as Isaac Johnson. The
passenger verbally identified himself as DeWayne Jordan, but
Officer Osbun later learned that the passenger was Meekco
Johnson. Officer Osbun instructed the two men to exit the
vehicle, then asked for permission to search it. Officers
Osbun and Surf both contended that Isaac consented to Officer
Osbun's request to search. Officer Osbun searched the
Impala and found two laptop computers in the trunk, which
matched the description of those that had previously been
stolen from Barrett's residence. As Officer Osbun was
taking the computers to his patrol car, Isaac and Meekco
jumped back into the Impala and drove away. Officers Osbun
and Surf briefly pursued the Impala before losing sight of
it. They reported the incident to Sergeant Redfield, who
shortly thereafter saw the Impala pull behind some nearby
apartments. Sergeant Redfield exited his vehicle and was
walking behind the apartments, when suddenly he came upon
Meekco and Isaac, standing by the Impala. Meekco and Isaac
Shortly after this incident, the search warrant for the Ada
Drive residence was finally obtained. Police went to the
house, saw someone peeking through the blinds, commanded the
person to exit the home, and then forcefully broke the door.
Inside was a female and several children. The police searched
the house and found multiple guns, all of which had been
reported stolen from Barrett's home. The police also
found a blue comforter matching the one that was stolen from
Later that day, Barrett came to the police station and
identified the recovered guns as his own. However, he was
unable to identify the suspects in the photo lineups
presented to him. Meekco, Trevontae, and Isaac were
ultimately brought into police custody and charged.
Police submitted the guns obtained from the Ada Drive
residence to the Mississippi Crime Laboratory for fingerprint
analysis. Forensic scientist Mike Hood testified as an expert
in latent fingerprint examination. Through Hood, the State
introduced a forensic report indicating that a latent palm
print was recovered from two of the guns obtained from the
Ada Drive residence. The police submitted known fingerprints
of Meekco, Isaac, Trevontae, Moore, and Latham. Through
another forensic scientist, Jamie Bush, the State introduced
a forensic report indicating that Isaac's known right
palm print matched a latent print on one of the guns.
Meekco filed a pretrial motion to suppress the identification
and evidence obtained by Officer Osbun during the stop on the
basis that the stop was illegally conducted because the
officers had no reasonable suspicion to conduct it. The trial
court held a hearing and denied the motion, finding that the
stop was lawful.
At trial, Barrett acknowledged that he was unable to identify
Meekco, Isaac, and Trevontae in photo lineups the day after
the incident. However, Barrett identified the three
defendants at trial. Latham also testified at trial and
identified Trevontae, Isaac, and Meekco as those who were
involved in the burglary.
Trevontae, Isaac, and Meekco were convicted of the burglary,
armed robbery, and kidnapping of Barrett. They each filed
post-trial motions, which the circuit denied, leading to this
Whether the Trial Court Erred in Refusing to Allow into
Evidence a Police Report for the Purpose of Impeaching
Trevontae argues that the trial court erred in refusing to
allow a police report into evidence for the purpose of
impeaching Latham, one of the State's witnesses in this
case. Similarly, Meekco argues that "[t]he trial court
violated his constitutional right to present a defense and to
a fair trial by precluding the defense from cross-examining
Latham about, and impeaching his testimony with, prior
inconsistent statements in [Investigator Steven]
O'Neal's report or Latham's recorded statement to
"The standard of review for the admission or exclusion
of evidence is abuse of discretion." Williams v.
State, 54 So.3d 212, 213 (¶5) (Miss. 2011)
(citation omitted). "The trial court's decision will
stand unless the reviewing court concludes that the decision
was arbitrary and clearly erroneous, amounting to an abuse of
discretion." Id. (citation omitted).
At trial, Matthew Moore's defense counsel sought to
impeach Latham using a police report that was prepared by
Investigator O'Neal during the course of his
investigation. The report, which included a synopsis,
prepared by Investigator O'Neal, of the audio-recorded
interview between Officer Arendale and Latham, "provides
a general summary[, ] not a word for word transcription,
" of what Latham told Officer Arendale shortly after the
alleged crime took place. After much back and forth at trial,
the final disposition of the issue was as follows:
[THE COURT]: [Latham] is a party, so his statements are
admissible; however, you would have to - - as far as this
testimony is concerned, I don't think you can
cross-examine him with the report of the investigator. If you
have something that he said that's in this statement, you
can cross-examine him about that. To put his statement in you
would have to authenticate, so you would have to call a
witness to do that. And you can call this witness back in
your case, if you want to do all that, but that's where
we are right now.
[DEFENSE COUNSEl]: . . . [Y]ou said I can't cross-examine
him with the statements of the police - -
[THE COURT]: I mean, you can't characterize it that he
said what that other guy said he said.
[DEFENSE COUNSEL]: But I can ask him[, "D]id you
say["] - -
[THE COURT]: Yeah, you can ask him if he said it.
[DEFENSE COUNSEL]: Okay.
* * * *
[STATE]: Your Honor, so I understand as well . . . . The
defense is allowed to say . . . ["D]id you say whatever
off of this sheet, or did you say - - tell that to the
police[, "] even though he can't possibly know what
Investigator O'Neal, who prepared this document actually
transcribed it as, because [Latham] has not seen this
[THE COURT]: I think that's correct.
[STATE]: [Latham] hasn't seen the summary, so he
can't possibly know how Investigator O'Neal put his
words down. So - -
[THE COURT]: I think that's correct. The lawyer can ask
him, ["D]id you say this[?"] If he says no, then he
just says no. He can ask him what did he say.
Trevontae maintains that the trial court's refusal to
admit Investigator O'Neal's report left him
"without a vital resource necessary to impeach Mr.
Latham, " resulting in irreversible harm to him. The
trial judge was correct in his determination that Trevontae
could cross-examine Latham about what Latham told Officer
Arendale. The trial judge was also correct in ruling that
Investigator O'Neal's synopsis of the interview
between Latham and Officer Arendale could not be used to
impeach Latham, because Latham was not interviewed by
Investigator O'Neal. Further, the record shows that
Latham was cross-examined extensively by four different
lawyers, during which time he was questioned regarding the
statements he made to Officer Arendale. We do not find any
error in the trial judge's refusal to admit Investigator
O'Neal's report, including the synopsis of
Latham's interview with Officer Arendale. We also point
out that Investigator O'Neal also testified, so he was
subject to cross-examination about the contents of his
Similarly, Meekco maintains that the trial court's
refusal to admit Investigator O'Neal's report limited
his constitutional right to a defense, in that it
"effectively insulated Latham from actual impeachment,
" and "prevented the defense from impeaching Latham
after he denied making [an] inconsistent statement."
Like a trial court's decision to admit or exclude
evidence, "[l]imitations placed on cross-examination are
reviewed using an abuse-of-discretion standard."
Ervin v. State, 136 So.3d 1053, 1058 (¶13)
(Miss. 2014) (citation omitted). "[O]ne accused of a
crime has the right to broad and extensive cross-examination
of the witnesses against him, and especially is this so with
respect to the principal prosecution witness." Suan
v. State, 511 So.2d 144, 148 (Miss. 1987) (citations
omitted). However, there was no basis for admitting the full
investigatory report. As stated, Investigator O'Neal
testified at trial, and defense counsel was given the
opportunity to engage in extensive cross-examination of both
Investigator O'Neal and Latham as to what Latham said
during the interrogation, which was later summarized in
Investigator O'Neal's report. Thus, we find that the
circuit judge did not err in excluding the report.
Whether the Jury's Verdict Was Against the
Overwhelming Weight of the Evidence
In Trevontae's motion for a new trial, he argued that the
verdict in this case was against the overwhelming weight of
the evidence. He makes the same argument here. An appellate
court reviews the trial court's denial of a post-trial
motion for abuse of discretion. Flowers v. State,
601 So.2d 828, 833 (Miss. 1992) (citations omitted). "A
motion for a new trial is discretionary with the trial judge
and [an appellate court] will not order a new trial unless it
is convinced that the verdict is so contrary to the
overwhelming weight of the evidence that to allow it to stand
would sanction an unconscionable injustice."
Id. (citations omitted).
Trevontae maintains that there is no physical evidence
linking him to the crime of which he was convicted. However,
"the absence of physical evidence does not negate a
conviction where there is testimonial evidence."
Graham v. State, 812 So.2d 1150, 1153 (¶9)
(Miss. Ct. App. 2002). "[T]he jury is the judge of the
weight and credibility of testimony and is free to accept or
reject all or some of the testimony given by each
witness." Meshell v. State, 506 So.2d 989, 992
(Miss. 1987). Here, Latham-an accomplice to the
crime-testified that Trevontae was also involved in its
commission. Barrett corroborated this testimony, also
identifying Trevontae as one of the crime's perpetrators.
The jury apparently believed both Latham's and
Barrett's testimony. As the jury is free to reject or
accept each witness's testimony, we will not now disturb
Trevontae contends that Barrett and Latham-who both
identified Trevontae as one of the perpetrators of the
burglary-presented unreliable testimony because Barrett could
not previously identify Trevontae in a pretrial photo lineup
or for up to six months after the crime took place. He also
argues that Latham had an interest in the outcome of
Trevontae's trial, which influenced his testimony.
"[P]ersons may be found guilty on the uncorroborated
testimony of a single witness." Doby v. State,
532 So.2d 584, 591 (Miss. 1988). "[A] defendant may be
lawfully convicted on the uncorroborated testimony of an
accomplice"; however, "such testimony should be
viewed with suspicion and must be reasonable and not
improbable, self-contradictory or substantially
impeached." Fairchild v. State, 459 So.2d 793,
798 (Miss. 1984). "Only slight corroboration of an
accomplice's testimony is required to sustain a
conviction." Osborne v. State, 54 So.3d 841,
847 (¶22) (Miss. 2011) (citation omitted). "The
particular testimony needing corroboration is the portion
tying the defendant to the crime." Grossley v.
State, 127 So.3d 1143, 1148 (¶14) (Miss. Ct. App.
2013) (citation omitted). Barrett's testimony
corroborating Latham's testimony is sufficient to sustain
Whether the Traffic Stop Was Unlawful
Both Meekco and Isaac argue that the circuit court erred in
denying Meekco's motion to suppress the evidence and
identification obtained from the traffic stop of the blue
Impala because the traffic stop was illegal; thus, the
evidence and identification obtained therefrom should have
been excluded as fruit of the poisonous tree.
Issues regarding the Fourth Amendment require a mixed
standard of review. Eaddy v. State, 63 So.3d 1209,
1212 (¶11) (Miss. 2011) (internal citation omitted).
"Whether probable cause or reasonable suspicion exists
is subject to a de novo review. But the Court limits the de
novo review of the trial court's determination to
historical facts reviewed under the substantial evidence and
clearly erroneous standards." Id. (internal
quotations and citation omitted). Additionally, "[i]n
reviewing the denial of a motion to suppress, [an appellate
court] must determine whether the trial court's findings,
considering the totality of the circumstances, are supported
by substantial credible evidence." Moore v.
State, 933 So.2d 910, 914 (¶9) (Miss. 2006)
(citations omitted). "Where supported by substantial
credible evidence, [an appellate court] shall not disturb
those findings." Id. (citations omitted).
Appellate courts "review[ ] the admission or exclusion
of evidence for abuse of discretion." Brown v.
State, 119 So.3d 1079, 1082 (¶7) (Miss. Ct. App.
Both the United States Constitution and the Mississippi
Constitution guarantee citizens the right to be secure from
governmental intrusion via unreasonable searches and
seizures. U.S. Const. amend. IV; Miss. Const. art. 3, §
The United States Supreme Court held in Brendlin v.
California, 551 U.S. 249, 251 (2007), that when a
vehicle is stopped pursuant to a police traffic stop, the
vehicle is "seized" within the meaning of the
Fourth Amendment, and both the driver and the passenger of
the vehicle may challenge the constitutionality of the stop.
While the Fourth Amendment generally requires that law
enforcement procure a warrant based on probable cause prior
to conducting a search or seizure in order for the search or
seizure to be deemed "reasonable, " there are
several exceptions to the warrant requirement.
Moore, 933 So.2d at 916 (¶18). "Unless the
State proves that a warrantless search comes within an
exception, all evidence seized from the search is
inadmissible." Jackson v. State, 418 So.2d 827,
829 (Miss. 1982). There are two exceptions relevant to the
matter at hand: the investigatory-stop exception and the
The investigatory-stop exception applies where police
officers "detain a person for a brief, investigatory
stop . . . when the officers have 'reasonable suspicion,
grounded in specific and articulable facts' that allows
the officers to conclude the suspect is wanted in connection
with criminal behavior." Id. (quoting
Walker v. State, 881 So.2d 820, 826 (¶10)
(Miss. 2004)). See also Terry v. Ohio, 392 U.S. 1,
19 (1968). "Vehicles also may be the subject of an
investigative stop." Haddox v. State, 636 So.2d
1229, 1234 (Miss. 1994) (citation omitted). In determining
whether "reasonable suspicion" exists such that an
investigatory stop may be conducted, the court must consider
whether, taking into account the totality of the
circumstances, the detaining officers had a
"particularized and objective basis for suspecting the
particular person stopped of criminal activity."
United States v. Cortez, 449 U.S. 411, 417-18
(1981). "Grounds for reasonable suspicion to make an
investigatory stop generally come from two sources: either
the officers' 'personal observation' or an
informant's tip." Eaddy, 63 So.3d at 1213
(¶15) (quoting Williamson v. State, 876 So.2d
353, 355 (¶11) (Miss. 2004)) (citation omitted).
"The officer's personal observation includes
information from other law-enforcement personnel."
Id; see Dies v. State, 926 So.2d 910, 920
(¶29) (Miss. 2006) ("[R]easonable suspicion . . .
can be transferred from officer to officer . . . .").
Further, "officers are not required to ignore the
relevant characteristics of a location in determining whether
the circumstances are sufficiently suspicious to warrant
further investigation." Illinois v. Wardlow,
528 U.S. 119, 124 (2000). Mississippi cases have provided
that "given reasonable circumstances an officer may stop
and detain a person to resolve an ambiguous situation without
having sufficient knowledge to justify an arrest."
Singletary v. State, 318 So.2d 873, 876 (Miss.
With respect to the consent exception to the warrant
requirement, "the United States Supreme Court has long
recognized that a voluntary consent to a search eliminates an
officer's need to obtain a search warrant."
Gazaway v. State, 708 So.2d 1385, 1388 (¶9)
(Miss. Ct. App. 1998); see Davis v. United States,
328 U.S. 582, 593 (1946). Similarly, "Mississippi has
long recognized that a defendant can waive his or her rights
under the warrant requirement by consenting to a
search." Graves v. State, 708 So.2d 858, 863
(¶23) (Miss. 1997). However, the United States Supreme
Court and the Mississippi Supreme Court differ in their
opinions of "what constitutes a valid consent."
Gazaway, 708 So.2d at 1388 (¶9). The United
States Supreme Court held in Schneckloth v.
Bustamonte, 412 U.S. 218 (1973), that "the pivotal
determination of whether or not there was a valid consent
rests on whether or not the consent was voluntary and not
whether the party knew or was informed of a constitutional
right which he then intentionally relinquished or
abandoned." In contrast, the Mississippi Supreme Court
held in Penick v. State, 440 So.2d 547, 550 (Miss.
1983), that, for a consent to be valid, "it is necessary
that the person searched be aware of his right to
refuse." "[T]his knowledgeable waiver must be
proved by the State beyond a reasonable doubt or by clear
evidence." Id. "The State is not required
to demonstrate knowledge"; rather, the "burden is
on the defendant to show impaired consent or some diminished
capacity." Jones v. Miss. Dep't of Public
Safety, 607 So.2d 23, 28 (Miss. 1991). "Whether a
person voluntarily consented to the search is a 'question
of fact to be determined by the total
Those considerations include: whether the circumstances were
coercive, occurred while in the custody of law enforcement or
occurred in the course of a station house investigation.
Other factors for consideration are the individual's
maturity, impressionability, experience and education.
Additionally, the court should consider whether the person
was excited, under the influence of drugs or alcohol, or
Robinson v. State, 2 So.3d 708, 714 (¶18)
(Miss. Ct. App. 2008) (internal quotations and citations
omitted). The United States Supreme Court has held that
consent is not valid if it occurs subsequent to an illegal
detainment because "the consent [is] tainted by the
illegality and [is] ineffective to justify the search."
Florida v. Royer, 460 U.S. 491, 507-08 (1983).
Here, both Isaac-the driver-and Meekco-the passenger-have
standing to challenge the stop of the blue Impala under the
Fourth Amendment. Meekco and Isaac first assert that the stop
was illegal because the police had no reasonable suspicion to
conduct the stop; thus, it could not fall under the
investigatory-stop exception to the Fourth Amendment warrant
requirement. Second, Meekco and Isaac assert that Isaac's
consent was invalid because it was obtained during the course
of an illegal stop; therefore, it could not fall under the
consent exception pursuant to the United States Supreme
Court's decision in Royer. Meekco and Isaac
argue that, as no other exception applies, their Fourth
Amendment rights against unreasonable searches and seizures
were violated, and the identification and evidence obtained
therefrom should have been excluded.
First, Meekco and Isaac maintain that the police lacked
reasonable suspicion to conduct the stop at the time that
Officer Osbun stopped the blue Impala. Meekco and Isaac argue
that the stop was improper because the officers only had
vague descriptions of the suspects, which did not amount to
reasonable suspicion to stop the car and ascertain the
identities of those in the car. Further, neither Latham,
Barrett, nor any other officer testified to having any
knowledge of a blue Impala in connection with the burglary of
Barrett's residence. The first time a blue Impala was
referenced in connection with this crime was when Sergeant
Redfield saw the car in the driveway at the Ada Drive
residence. Meekco and Isaac maintain that these facts do not
indicate that the officers had reasonable suspicion to stop
In contrast, the State maintains that the officers had
reasonable suspicion to conduct the stop based not only on
the descriptions of the subjects provided by Latham, but also
on the photographs of the suspects that they had received
prior to conducting surveillance on the Ada Drive residence.
At the hearing ...