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Collins v. State

Court of Appeals of Mississippi

November 7, 2017

JAIRUS COLLINS A/K/A JAIRUS J. COLLINS A/K/A JAIRUS JIDON COLLINS A/K/A JARIUS COLLINS A/K/A JARIUS J. COLLINS APPELLANT
v.
STATE OF MISSISSIPPI APPELLEE

          DATE OF JUDGMENT: 05/12/2016

         FORREST COUNTY CIRCUIT COURT HON. ROBERT B. HELFRICH

          ATTORNEY FOR APPELLANT: MICHAEL ADELMAN

          ATTORNEY FOR APPELLEE: OFFICE OF THE ATTORNEY GENERAL BY: LAURA HOGAN TEDDER

          DISTRICT ATTORNEY: PATRICIA A. THOMAS BURCHELL

          BEFORE IRVING, P.J., BARNES AND WESTBROOKS, JJ.

          WESTBROOKS, J.

         ¶1. Jairus Collins was retried for the murder of Ebony Jenkins on May 10-12, 2016, in the Circuit Court of Forrest County. Collins was found guilty and sentenced as a habitual offender under Mississippi Code Annotated section 99-19-83 (Rev. 2015) to life without parole in the custody of the Mississippi Department of Corrections (MDOC). Aggrieved, Collins filed a motion for a judgment notwithstanding the verdict (JNOV) or, in the alternative, a new trial, which the circuit court denied by order. Collins timely appeals. After review of the record, we affirm.

         FACTS AND PROCEDURAL HISTORY

         ¶2. In December 2011, Jenkins's body was discovered behind the Mississippi Children's Home Services Care School in Hattiesburg, Mississippi. Collins was later identified as a suspect in Jenkins's murder and arrested. In November 2012, a Forrest County grand jury indicted Collins as a habitual offender for Jenkins's murder and possession of a weapon by a convicted felon. The circuit court granted Collins's motion to sever the charges in his indictment.

         ¶3. After a trial on the murder charge, Collins was convicted in the Forrest County Circuit Court and appealed his conviction. This Court affirmed Collins's conviction. However, in August 2015, the Mississippi Supreme Court reversed Collins's conviction and remanded for a new trial.[1]

         ¶4. Collins was retried on the murder charge on May 10-11, 2016, in the Forrest County Circuit Court. He was convicted of murder and sentenced as a habitual offender to serve life without eligibility for parole in the custody of the MDOC. Collins filed a motion for a JNOV or, in the alternative, a new trial. The circuit court denied the motion by order in July 2016. Collins timely appeals.

         DISCUSSION

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

         ¶5. Collins argues that the circuit court improperly denied his requests for a directed verdict and JNOV. "Because motions for directed verdicts and JNOV motions require consideration of the evidence before the court when made, this Court properly reviews the ruling on the last occasion the challenge was made in the trial court." Shipp v. State, 847 So. 2d 806, 811 (¶20) (Miss. 2003) (citation and internal quotations omitted). Here, it is the denial of Collins's JNOV motion or, in the alternative, a new trial that was made last.

         ¶6. However, we find that Collins combined his arguments regarding the legal sufficiency of the evidence with his argument regarding the overwhelming weight of the evidence. We will address each issue separately.

         A. Sufficiency of Evidence

         ¶7. "A motion for a JNOV tests the sufficiency of the evidence." Crowell v. State, 93 So. 3d');">193 So. 3d 706');">93 So. 3d');">193 So. 3d 706, 710 (¶13) (Miss. Ct. App. 2016) (citation omitted). "When addressing the legal sufficiency of [the] evidence, we consider all evidence in the light most favorable to the State." Id. (citing Bush v. State, 895 So. 2d 836');">895 So. 2d 836, 843 (¶16) (Miss. 2005) (abrogated on other grounds)).

         ¶8. Collins asserts that there was insufficient evidence to establish that he committed the crime, and that the State failed to establish he was in possession of the gun. However, this Court has held that the fact that "the only evidence supporting [a] conviction is circumstantial does not mean the evidence is insufficient." Goldsmith v. State, 195 So. 3d 207, 213 (¶24) (Miss. Ct. App. 2016). "The Mississippi Supreme Court has consistently held that the State may prove a crime solely by circumstantial evidence." Id.

         ¶9. Collins was convicted of deliberate-design murder under Mississippi Code Annotated section 97-3-19(1)(a) (Rev. 2014), which states:

(1) The killing of a human being without the authority of law by any means or in any manner shall be murder in ...

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