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Small v. State

Court of Appeals of Mississippi

August 15, 2017

DEDRICK SMALL. APPELLANT
v.
STATE OF MISSISSIPPI, APPELLEE

          DATE OF JUDGMENT: 04/13/2016

         TUNICA COUNTY CIRCUIT COURT HON. CHARLES E. WEBSTER TRIAL JUDGE

          ATTORNEY FOR APPELLANT: OFFICE OF STATE PUBLIC DEFENDER BY: ERIN ELIZABETH BRIGGS

          ATTORNEY FOR APPELLEE: OFFICE OF THE ATTORNEY GENERAL BY: SCOTT STUART

          DISTRICT ATTORNEY: BRENDA F. MITCHELL

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

          WILSON, J.

         ¶1. Dedrick Small was convicted of aiding and abetting Cortez Bass in the murder of Donterrius Jackson. On appeal, Small argues that the trial judge abused his discretion by excluding a prior statement by Bass, who was convicted in a separate trial. The judge ruled that Bass's statement, which tended to exculpate Small, was inadmissible hearsay. Small argues that the statement was admissible as a statement against Bass's penal interest. However, we conclude that the trial judge did not abuse his discretion by excluding the statement, as it was neither against Bass's penal interest nor supported by corroborating circumstances. Therefore, we affirm.

         FACTS AND PROCEDURAL HISTORY

         ¶2. Around 5 p.m. on March 10, 2014, Jackson and his friend George Anderson were walking near the intersection of Cotton Street and Beat Line Road in Tunica. Jackson and Anderson were in high school at the time and were out of school on spring break. Jackson and Anderson encountered Small, Bass, and Bass's cousin, Kendrick. When the two groups met at the street corner, words were exchanged, and it appeared that a fight was imminent. Bass then shot Jackson in the back of the head, killing him.

         ¶3. Law enforcement quickly identified Bass as a suspect and arrested him. Bass gave a statement to Detective James Clark of the Tunica County Sheriff's Office. Bass admitted that he shot Jackson, but he claimed that Jackson pulled a gun on him first.[1] Detective Clark asked Bass if Small had given him the gun that he used to kill Jackson, but Bass denied that Small had done so. Bass insisted that the gun was his, but he did not know what kind of gun it was and could only say that he bought it from an unknown man for $100. Bass claimed that, a short time before the shooting, Jackson or Anderson had called him a "bitch."[2] Bass also claimed that someone had shot at him the night before. Bass said that he returned home and retrieved his gun after his first encounter that day with Jackson and Anderson.

         ¶4. Although Bass denied it, other witnesses reported that Small handed Bass the gun just before the shooting, and Bass and Small were both indicted for Jackson's murder. Prior to trial, Small filed a motion to sever. The trial judge reserved ruling on the motion. A joint trial began on June 9, 2015. After the State rested, Bass testified in his own defense and claimed-contrary to what he had told Detective Clark-that Small handed him the gun just before he shot Jackson. After Bass's testimony, the trial judge granted Small's motion to sever. The State called Detective Clark on rebuttal to impeach Bass's testimony. Detective Clark testified that Bass had told law enforcement that he brought the gun to the scene and that Small did not hand him the gun prior to the shooting. The jury convicted Bass.

         ¶5. Before Small's subsequent separate trial, Small filed a motion to permit him to use Bass's statement to Detective Clark as evidence at trial. Small argued that Bass's statement was admissible under Mississippi Rule of Evidence 804(b)(3) as a statement against interest. The trial judge denied Small's motion after finding that Bass's statement was not against his interest because Bass's statement was a claim of self-defense.

         ¶6. Bass did not testify at Small's trial. Two eyewitnesses testified that Bass shot Jackson with a gun that Small handed to him immediately before shots were fired. The defense called another eyewitness who testified that she did not see Small hand Bass a gun; however, she also testified that she did not see Bass pull the gun or "where [he got] the gun from." The defense called another witness who drove up just as Bass stepped into the street and shot Jackson; the witness testified that she did not see Small, but she also testified that she did not see anything that occurred ...


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