RANZINO AHMAD HARRIS A/K/A RANZINO HARRIS A/K/A RANZINO A. HARRIS APPELLANT
STATE OF MISSISSIPPI APPELLEE
OF JUDGMENT: 09/06/2013
COUNTY CIRCUIT COURT HON. LEE SORRELS COLEMAN TRIAL JUDGE
ATTORNEYS FOR APPELLANT: RICHARD SHANE MCLAUGHLIN NICOLE H.
ATTORNEY FOR APPELLEE: OFFICE OF THE ATTORNEY GENERAL BY:
ABBIE EASON KOONCE
Ranzino Ahmad Harris appeals his conviction in Lowndes County
Circuit Court of murder asserting (1) the trial court erred
when it admitted an unavailable witness's
preliminary-hearing testimony because it violated his Sixth
Amendment right of confrontation; (2) the trial court erred
when it admitted a witness's hearsay statement as an
excited utterance; (3) the evidence was insufficient; and (4)
the verdict was against the overwhelming weight of the
evidence. Finding no error, we affirm.
On the morning of May 17, 2010, Harris attempted to contact
his ex-girlfriend, Ashley Lee, to no avail. In further
efforts to make contact, he went to her house, where he
discovered Ashley and her sister, Tericia Lee, each with
their own overnight guest, Justin Murray (Ashley's) and
Michael Brewer (Tericia's). Harris confronted Ashley,
cornered her in her bathroom, and began choking her. Murray
and Brewer came to Ashley's aid, pinning Harris on a bed,
where the two assaulted Harris, punching him repeatedly.
Ashley and Tericia implored the two to stop, and they
subsequently unpinned Harris. After he was unpinned, Harris
left. Then, moments later, he returned with his pistol drawn
and, as the outside kitchen door opened, fired two shots.
Both shots struck Murray, who died shortly thereafter from
his wounds. At trial, Harris testified he returned to
Ashley's home to retrieve his cellular phone, which he
purportedly left in the house. Both Tericia and Brewer
testified that Harris forced the door open. Brewer also
testified he and Murray were both standing and not moving
toward the door or Harris.
Detective George Harris of the Columbus Police Department was
one of two officers who responded to a 911 call reporting a
possible homicide at Ashley's home. Among his discoveries
upon arriving at the scene, Detective Harris found Brewer
"walking around, " repeatedly stating, "he
didn't have to do this, he didn't have to do
this." Harris later surrendered at the Columbus Police
Harris was indicted on October 27, 2010, for one count of
murder in violation of Mississippi Code Annotated section
97-3-19 (Rev. 2006) and one count of aggravated assault in
violation of Mississippi Code Annotated section 97-3-7 (Rev.
2006). A four-day jury trial was conducted during September
3-6, 2013. Testimony was heard from Detective Harris and
Ashley, among others.
Detective Harris testified, "When we walked up on the
porch, I noticed a young man, I know him as Mike, we call him
Little Mike, he was walking around in the living room and by
the doorway area. Kept stating, 'He didn't have to do
this, he didn't have to do this.'" Harris did
not object, and Detective Harris continued his testimony,
describing a diagram of the scene. Later, the State asked,
"How would you describe [Brewer's] demeanor and his
emotional state at that point, sir?" Detective Harris
responded, "He was, like, walking in circles, kept
repeating, 'He didn't have to do this. That
wasn't called for.'" Harris (the defendant)
contemporaneously objected to that answer as hearsay. In
response, the State argued, "at that point it would have
been an excited utterance, because he had just been shot and
saw his friend killed." The trial court overruled the
objection. The State continued, "Okay. Yes, sir?"
Detective Harris resumed, "He was-this-'He
didn't have to do that. This is my boy, he didn't
have to do my boy like that.'" To which the State
asked, "Okay. And was he visibly upset? Could you tell
that, sir?" "Yes, he was, " Detective Harris
Ashley was deemed unavailable to testify at trial. However,
she had formerly testified during a probable-cause hearing in
which she appeared as a witness for Harris. Prior to trial,
the State filed a motion to use Ashley's prior testimony.
The trial court heard arguments on this motion on two
separate occasions, both of which occurred during trial, but
outside the jury's presence. During these arguments,
Harris did not contest Ashley's unavailability-only that
he was limited in material and scope during the development
of her testimony, stating, "it's a confrontation
clause issue." Harris further claimed:
"[T]hroughout the entire transcript, as I tried to
develop the testimony more with each witness, [the State]
would object and say, this is for discovery, Your Honor,
we're not here to have the trial on the whole case. So I
was limited on every witness in my ability to develop the
cross-examination." The transcript of Ashley's prior
testimony (approximately four pages in length) contained one
objection to a question Harris asked: "And you had sex
with [Murray], had you not?" Ashley did not respond.
That question and objection colloquy was redacted for trial.
Later, Harris maintained the redacted question was "the
most important question with regard to heat of passion,
" stating he "wasn't able to develop the
testimony as [he] saw fit." However, the question and
answer immediately preceding the redacted portion of
Ashley's testimony was included. There, Harris asked,
"Well, Justin Murry [sic] was in your bed at the time,
wasn't he?" Ashley responded, "Yes."
Harris was found guilty of murder. On the same day, he was
sentenced to a term of life imprisonment in the custody of
the Mississippi Department of Corrections. On the tenth day
following the verdict and sentence, Harris moved for a
judgment notwithstanding the verdict or, in the alternative,
a new trial. Approximately three ...