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Carter v. State

Court of Appeals of Mississippi

September 5, 2017

RODNEY CARTER A/K/A RODNEY D. CARTER APPELLANT
v.
STATE OF MISSISSIPPI APPELLEE

          DATE OF JUDGMENT: 11/30/2015

         MADISON COUNTY CIRCUIT COURT TRIAL JUDGE: HON. WILLIAM E. CHAPMAN III

          ATTORNEY FOR APPELLANT: OFFICE OF STATE PUBLIC DEFENDER BY: BENJAMIN ALLEN SUBER

          ATTORNEY FOR APPELLEE: OFFICE OF THE ATTORNEY GENERAL BY: JASON L. DAVIS

          DISTRICT ATTORNEY: MICHAEL GUEST

          BEFORE LEE, C.J., BARNES AND CARLTON, JJ.

          BARNES, J.

         FOR THE COURT:

         ¶1. At approximately 11 p.m. on January 10, 2015, Madison County Sheriff's Deputy Sam Howard observed a car that did not have a light illuminating its license plate. The car and the deputy's vehicle were both traveling west on Highway 463 in Madison but were in different lanes when they came to a stop at a red light. Once the light turned green, Deputy Howard accelerated slowly in order to get a better look at the car's license plate, but the driver, Rodney Carter, slowed the car to a near stop, obstructing traffic behind him. Because of this suspicious behavior, Deputy Howard followed Carter as he entered the exit ramp for Interstate 55 southbound and activated his blue lights and siren. Carter initially applied his brakes, as if to stop, but then he accelerated, speeding away from the deputy's car. Deputy Howard notified his dispatcher that he was engaged in pursuit. During the pursuit, Carter maintained speeds between 88-124 miles per hour (mph), well over the posted speed limit. He was weaving in and out of traffic and occasionally driving on the shoulder of the road. When Carter reached the intersection of Interstate 220 and Highway 49, he continued speeding north on Highway 49. After a few miles, Trooper Wade Zimmerman of the Mississippi Highway Patrol put out spike strips to stop Carter's vehicle, and the car came to a slow stop. Before Carter stopped, Deputy Howard observed an object being thrown from the passenger side of the car, causing a spark.

         ¶2. Carter was agitated, telling law enforcement he had just picked up his wife from work and was on his way to the hospital because he was having a severe asthma attack. Deputy Howard later testified that Carter informed him he was having trouble breathing; so Deputy Howard advised Carter to sit up and quit yelling so he could "relax and breathe easier, " but Carter "insisted on trying to slump over . . . and continued yelling that [he] could not breathe." Carter was examined at the scene by emergency medical personnel, and then was arrested and taken into custody. A gun was recovered near the scene the following day.

         ¶3. Carter was indicted for felony evasion and possession of a firearm by a felon.[1] A trial was held on October 28, 2015. Upset with his appointed counsel's legal advice, Carter insisted on self-representation, but the judge ordered appointed counsel to remain and assist Carter if needed. Carter was convicted of Count One, felony evasion; he was acquitted of Count Two, possession of a firearm by a felon. He was sentenced to five years in the custody of the Mississippi Department of Corrections (MDOC).

         ¶4. Carter filed a motion for a new trial or, in the alternative, a judgment notwithstanding the verdict, claiming the verdict was against the overwhelming weight of the evidence. The trial court denied the motion, and he now appeals.[2] An appellant's brief was filed on Carter's behalf by the Office of the State Public Defender, but Carter has also filed a supplemental pro se brief, raising additional issues, as well as a pro se reply brief.[3] Finding no error, we affirm the judgment.

         DISCUSSION

         I. Whether the verdict was against the overwhelming weight of the evidence.

         ¶5. Carter argues the trial court erred in denying his motion for a new trial, claiming that the evidence did not show that he was operating a vehicle in a reckless manner with indifference to human life. Carter insists that he was merely trying to get to the nearest hospital due to a medical emergency, and he thought the deputy was escorting him. He also argues the State failed to produce any evidence that he was not in need of medical attention when he was arrested.

         ¶6. In reviewing a trial court's denial of a motion for a new trial, we "will only disturb a verdict when it is so contrary to the overwhelming weight of the evidence that to allow it to stand would sanction an unconscionable injustice." Bush v. State,895 So.2d 836, 844 (¶18) (Miss. 2005). Evidence is weighed in the light most favorable to the verdict. Id. Carter was ...


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