KEITH FRISTON A/K/A KEY-MAN A/K/A KEITH LADELL FRISTON APPELLANT
STATE OF MISSISSIPPI APPELLEE
OF JUDGMENT: 04/20/2015
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.
GRIFFIS, P.J., FAIR AND WILSON, JJ.
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.
AND PROCEDURAL HISTORY
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.
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.
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.
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).
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 ...