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Clark v. State

Court of Appeals of Mississippi

August 8, 2017

JAMES CURTIS CLARK A/K/A JAMES CLARK APPELLANT
v.
STATE OF MISSISSIPPI APPELLEE

          DATE OF JUDGMENT: 07/25/2016

         FORREST COUNTY CIRCUIT COURT TRIAL JUDGE: HON. ROBERT B. HELFRICH

          ATTORNEY FOR APPELLANT: OFFICE OF STATE PUBLIC DEFENDER BY: MOLLIE MARIE MCMILLIN.

          ATTORNEY FOR APPELLEE: OFFICE OF THE ATTORNEY GENERAL BY: KATY TAYLOR GERBER.

          BEFORE IRVING, P.J., FAIR AND GREENLEE, JJ.

          FAIR, J.

         ¶1. James Clark was found guilty of second-degree murder and aggravated assault. On appeal, he contends that he received ineffective assistance of counsel and that the verdicts are against the overwhelming weight of the evidence. Finding no error, we affirm.

         FACTS

         ¶2. On May 11, 2014, two men entered Patrick Snow's apartment in Hattiesburg, Mississippi. Snow was shot in the upper body and taken to the hospital. Snow's friend, Matthew Campbell, was shot in the forehead and died shortly after.

         ¶3. At the hospital, Snow told the police that two black males forced themselves into his apartment and tried to rob him. He described the intruders as possibly bald or having low haircuts. The following day, he identified the suspects by name to police.

         ¶4. Clark, along with Timothy Jordan and Jarvis Holder, were indicted together in a three- count indictment for conspiracy to commit murder, first-degree murder, and aggravated assault. Jordan and Holder pled guilty and testified against Clark in exchange for more lenient sentences.

         ¶5. At Clark's trial, there was conflicting evidence presented about the shooting. Snow identified Holder and Clark as the robbers. Snow also testified that Clark shot him and Campbell. Holder testified that he and Clark went to rob Snow, and that he fired a shotgun upon entering the apartment. He also said that Clark shot Snow and Campbell. Jordan's testimony differed from his past statements. He initially told police that he got in a physical altercation with Snow over drugs and that Holder did the shooting. Lavivian Wilson, Jordan's sister, initially gave the police the same statement as Jordan - that Holder shot Snow and Campbell. But, like Jordan, she changed her story. At trial, Lavivian testified that she heard about the shooting on Facebook and confronted her brother. A couple of days later, she went to Brookhaven on an errand, and Jordan and Clark rode with her. Unknown to Lavivian, they were moving the guns used in the shooting. Lavivian testified that Clark admitted to shooting both victims. But, ultimately, there was no physical evidence tying Clark, or anyone else, to either crime.

         ¶6. During the jury instruction conference, Clark's attorney requested a heat-of-passion manslaughter jury instruction, which the court denied. The State submitted, and the court granted, a jury instruction for second-degree murder. The jury found Clark guilty of second-degree murder and aggravated assault. The circuit court denied Clark's ...


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