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Friston v. State

Court of Appeals of Mississippi

August 8, 2017

KEITH FRISTON A/K/A KEY-MAN A/K/A KEITH LADELL FRISTON APPELLANT
v.
STATE OF MISSISSIPPI APPELLEE

          DATE OF JUDGMENT: 04/20/2015

         COAHOMA COUNTY CIRCUIT COURT, HON. CHARLES E. WEBSTER JUDGE.

          ATTORNEY FOR APPELLANT: OFFICE OF STATE PUBLIC DEFENDER BY: JUSTIN T. COOK.

          ATTORNEY FOR APPELLEE: OFFICE OF THE ATTORNEY GENERAL BY: LISA L. BLOUNT.

          DISTRICT ATTORNEY: BRENDA FAY MITCHELL.

          BEFORE GRIFFIS, P.J., FAIR AND WILSON, JJ.

          GRIFFIS, P.J.

         ¶1. Keith Friston appeals his convictions of aggravated driving under the influence and felony leaving the scene of an accident. We find no error and affirm.

         FACTS AND PROCEDURAL HISTORY

         ¶2. On August 17, 2013, Clarksdale police officer Howard Woodward responded to an automobile accident. When he arrived at the scene, Woodward saw a white Oldsmobile Alero against a brick wall, and found Norman Williams and Valerie West on the ground outside of the car. Williams was injured, but conscious and able to walk. However, West was deceased. Williams identified Friston as the driver of the car. Woodward did not see Friston at the scene of the accident.

         ¶3. Friston was subsequently located by Clarksdale patrol officer Byron Vaughan not far from the scene of the accident. Friston was placed in Vaughn's vehicle and taken to the hospital.

         ¶4. Kendrick Walker, an investigator with the Clarksdale Police Department, received permission to obtain blood samples from Friston and Williams. Laboratory analysis showed Friston tested positive for the presence of marijuana and had a blood-alcohol level of .19. Williams tested negative for alcohol, but positive for marijuana. Two days after the accident, Friston gave a statement to Investigator Walker, during which Friston admitted that at the time of the accident, he was driving the car.

         ¶5. Friston was indicted on Count I, aggravated driving under the influence, and Count II, felony leaving the scene of an accident. The indictment was subsequently amended to charge Friston as a habitual offender pursuant to Mississippi Code Annotated section 99-19-81 (Rev. 2015).

         ¶6. This matter initially went to trial in November 2014. However, during trial, Dr. Erin Barnhart, the forensic pathologist who performed West's autopsy, became ill and was unable to testify. The State of Mississippi moved for a mistrial, which was granted over Friston's objection.

         ¶7. The matter was retried beginning February 17, 2015. At trial, Williams testified that, at the time of the accident, Friston was driving the car, he was in the passenger seat, and West was in the back seat. Williams was unable to state whether Friston had been drinking on the day of the accident.

         ¶8. Dr. Barnhart identified various autopsy photographs, which showed West's injuries. Dr. Barnhart opined that West's cause of death was blunt force trauma to the head and torso, and that her manner of death was an accident.

         ¶9. Friston testified in his own defense. Friston stated he and West had been in a relationship since 2007. Friston further stated he had worked for Lew Houston, a contractor, for ten years. Houston typically picked up Friston for work since, according to Friston, "[he] never drives because [he is] always under the influence of alcohol." Although he claimed to never drive, Friston admitted that he purchased the Alero and that it was his car.

         ¶10. Friston testified that, on the day of the accident, he, Williams, and West went by Houston's house to check on him. Friston stated Williams was driving the car when they left Houston's house. Moreover, Friston stated that at the time of the accident, Williams was driving the car, West was in the passenger seat, and he was sitting in the back on the driver's side. Friston acknowledged that as a result of the impact, Williams was injured and West died, yet he was not injured. Friston further acknowledged that most of the impact from the accident was on the passenger side of the car, with little damage to the driver's side. However, Friston denied that this indicated he was driving at the time of the accident, with Williams on the passenger side.

         ¶11. Friston admitted that during his statement to the police, he stated he was driving the car at the time of the accident. However, Friston claimed he only said that to cover ...


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