JERRARD T. COOK A/K/A JERRAD T. COOK A/K/A JERRARD COOK A/K/A JERRARD TRAMAINE COOK A/K/A J-FAT APPELLANT
STATE OF MISSISSIPPI APPELLEE
OF JUDGMENT: 04/01/2016
COUNTY CIRCUIT COURT TRIAL JUDGE: HON. DAVID H. STRONG JR.
ATTORNEY FOR APPELLANT: OFFICE OF STATE PUBLIC DEFENDER BY:
ERIN ELIZABETH BRIGGS
ATTORNEY FOR APPELLEE: OFFICE OF THE ATTORNEY GENERAL BY:
GRIFFIS, P.J., WILSON AND WESTBROOKS, JJ.
Jerrard Cook shot and killed Marvin Durr during a robbery.
Durr was eighteen years old at the time of his death. Cook
was seventeen years old at the time of the offense.
Cook's accomplice, Cearic Barnes, was eighteen years old.
Cook shot Durr in the head while Durr was seated in the
driver's seat of his car. He shot Durr because he and
Barnes wanted to use Durr's car to commit a robbery.
However, Cook and Barnes were unable to remove Durr's
body from the car, so Cook sat on top of Durr's body and
drove the car to an isolated location. To destroy evidence,
Barnes then set fire to the car.
Cook was arrested, confessed, and pled guilty to capital
murder, and the circuit court imposed a mandatory sentence of
life imprisonment. Cook's conviction for capital murder
rendered him ineligible for parole. Miss. Code Ann. §
47-7-3(1)(f) (Rev. 2015). Several years later, in Miller v.
Alabama, 132 S.Ct. 2455, 2469 (2012), the United States
Supreme Court held "that the Eighth Amendment forbids a
sentencing scheme that mandates life in prison without
possibility of parole for juvenile offenders." The Court
held that the sentencer must have the "discretion"
to "consider mitigating circumstances" before a
sentence of life without the possibility of parole (LWOP) may
be imposed in cases in which the defendant was under the age
of eighteen at the time of the offense. Id. at 2475.
The circuit court appointed counsel to represent Cook and
held a new sentencing hearing to consider the factors
discussed in Miller. After considering the testimony
and other evidence presented, the judge found that Cook was
not entitled to parole eligibility under Miller. On
appeal, Cook argues (1) that the circuit court erred by not
granting him parole eligibility, (2) that he should have been
resentenced by a jury rather than a judge, and (3) that a
sentence of LWOP is unconstitutional in all cases in which
the offender is under the age of eighteen at the time of the
offense. We find no error and affirm.
AND PROCEDURAL HISTORY
On the evening of June 18, 2002, Cook, Barnes, and Eric
Williams were walking together in Brookhaven. Cook had a gun,
which he had obtained when he broke into his uncle's
house a few days earlier. Cook and Barnes wanted some money.
Cook later said he needed money to get his car fixed and
could not find a job. So the three young men decided to rob a
convenience store. Cook and Barnes planned to go into the
store and commit the robbery, while Williams would remain
outside as the lookout. Cook and Barnes had masks to wear
during the robbery. However, the first store they planned to
rob was closed. They planned to rob a second store, but Cook
decided there were too many customers present. Eventually,
Williams went home, leaving Cook and Barnes.
Cook and Barnes then decided that they would flag down a car
and ask for a ride, carjack the car, and drive to McComb to
rob a store. Cook and Barnes wanted to rob a store in McComb
because they thought that they were less likely to be
recognized there. The first car that Cook flagged down turned
out to be a police car. Cook and Barnes spoke briefly to the
police officer, and the officer drove on without incident.
Durr, who was Barnes's cousin, was driving the next car
that Cook flagged down. Cook and Barnes asked Durr to give
them a ride to Cook's aunt's house, and Durr agreed.
Cook and Barnes gave Durr incorrect directions and caused him
to miss the turn to Cook's aunt's house. They then
told Durr that he could let them out along South Washington
Street in Brookhaven. Cook and Barnes exited the car, and as
Durr turned around on South Washington Street, Cook flagged
him down again and walked up to the driver's side window
to speak. Cook then shot Durr in the left temple from a
distance of an inch or two. Cook later told law enforcement
that Durr "was just at the wrong place at the wrong
time." Cook also said that Durr "was like the weak
type, " and he could have taken the car from Durr
"without using a gun." Nonetheless, Cook shot Durr
in the head.
Cook and Barnes then attempted to pull Durr's body from
the car, but they were unable to do so. So Cook sat on top of
Durr's body and drove the car to a bridge. It was
Cook's idea to "[d]ump [Durr's] body under the
bridge" because he knew there were
"alligators" under the bridge. However, again, Cook
and Barnes were unable to remove Durr's body from the
car. Cook then went through Durr's pockets but did not
find much money. Using a lighter, Barnes then set fire to the
car to destroy evidence. Cook later told investigators that
he thought that Durr was still alive when they set the car on
fire. Cook stated that as he was sitting on top of Durr, he
felt Durr "move" and just "had a feeling he
wasn't dead." Nonetheless, Barnes set the car on
fire, and then he and Cook fled into the woods. Cook
discarded his gun in the woods, and Barnes later burned their
clothes in order to destroy evidence.
Cook and Barnes were indicted for capital murder. Cook pled
guilty to capital murder and was sentenced to life
imprisonment. His conviction makes him ineligible for parole.
See Miss. Code Ann. § 47-7-3(1)(f). Barnes
later pled guilty to murder, was sentenced to life
imprisonment, and is also ineligible for parole. See
Barnes v. State, 51 So.3d 986, 988 (¶2) (Miss. Ct.
In 2012, the United States Supreme Court held "that the
Eighth Amendment forbids a sentencing scheme that mandates
life in prison without possibility of parole for juvenile
offenders." Miller, 132 S.Ct. at 2469. The
Court held that the sentencer must have the
"discretion" to "consider mitigating
circumstances" before a sentence of LWOP may be imposed.
Id. at 2475. In Montgomery v. Louisiana,
136 S.Ct. 718 (2016), the Court clarified or expanded
Miller's holding. There, the Court stated that a
sentence of LWOP is valid only for "those rare children
whose crimes reflect irreparable corruption."
Id. at 734. According to the Court, the Eighth
Amendment mandates parole eligibility for juvenile murderers
"whose crimes reflected only transient immaturity."
Id. at 736. Also, in Parker v. State, 119
So.3d 987, 995-99 (¶¶18-28) (Miss. 2013), our
Supreme Court summarized the factors to be considered and
procedure to be followed in cases in which Miller
requires a new sentencing hearing.
Post-Miller, Cook filed a motion to be resentenced
and granted parole eligibility pursuant to Miller.
The circuit court appointed counsel to represent Cook and
appointed Dr. Criss Lott, Ph.D., to conduct a mental
evaluation of Cook. The court denied Cook's motion to
have a jury determine whether he should be parole eligible.
On March 30, 2016, the circuit court held a hearing to
determine whether Cook should be declared parole eligible
pursuant to Miller. The State called the former
district attorney, Brookhaven Chief of Police Bobby Bell, and
Durr's father, Reverend Jerry Durr. The former district
attorney testified about the murder and its investigation.
Chief Bell testified that he mentored Cook when Cook was
about thirteen years old; however, he lost touch with Cook
thereafter. Reverend Durr testified that Cook attended youth
events at his church until he was about twelve years old and
that Cook generally was a respectful child; however, like
Chief Bell, Reverend Durr had not been around Cook for
several years prior to the murder.
The parties also stipulated to the admission of a number of
exhibits, including transcripts of recorded statements that
Cook, Barnes, and Williams gave to law enforcement;
Cook's school records and prison records; and Dr.
Lott's report. Cook's prison records show that he has
been the subject of twenty-nine rule violation reports (RVRs)
during his incarceration, including for assaulting a
corrections officer, threatening a corrections officer,
possessing a shank, using and possessing marijuana, and
possessing a cell phone. Cook's school records show that
he attended Oakley Training School (now known as Oakley Youth
Development Center) from October 2001 to March 2002. Cook
told Dr. Lott that the youth court sent him to Oakley because
two friends asked him to drive them to a store, the friends
robbed the store, and he was arrested for conspiracy to
commit armed robbery.
Cook's cousin Angela Daniels testified on his behalf. She
testified that Cook had no relationship with his father and
was raised by his mother and grandmother. Daniels described
Cook as a "typical child, " "always . . .
smiling." She testified that Cook started to get into
trouble as a teenager, and she became concerned that he was
smoking marijuana ...