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Johnson v. State

Court of Appeals of Mississippi

November 28, 2017

JAMES LEE JOHNSON, III A/K/A JAMES JOHNSON, III A/K/A JAMES L. JOHNSON, III A/K/A JAMES JOHNSON APPELLANT
v.
STATE OF MISSISSIPPI APPELLEE

          DATE OF JUDGMENT: 09/08/2016

         QUITMAN COUNTY CIRCUIT COURT HON. CHARLES E. WEBSTER

          ATTORNEY FOR APPELLANT: OFFICE OF STATE PUBLIC DEFENDER BY: JUSTIN TAYLOR COOK

          ATTORNEY FOR APPELLEE: OFFICE OF THE ATTORNEY GENERAL BY: BARBARA WAKELAND BYRD

          DISTRICT ATTORNEY: BRENDA FAY MITCHELL

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

          GREENLEE, J.

         ¶1. On January 25, 2016, a Quitman County grand jury indicted James Lee Johnson III for acting individually, or while aiding and abetting or acting in concert with Larry Gilliam Jr., to commit the first-degree murder of Curtis Mumford. Johnson was tried individually, and the jury found him guilty as charged.

         ¶2. On appeal, Johnson claims that his retained trial counsel was ineffective because he provided no opening statement, and failed to challenge the State's evidence. In support, Johnson argues trial counsel did not (1) request an expert to review the State's forensic evidence; (2) attempt to establish the voluntariness of Johnson's statements to police; or (3) offer jury instructions on any theory of defense. Finding insufficient evidence within the trial record to evaluate an ineffective-assistance-of-counsel claim, we affirm Johnson's conviction and sentence, and dismiss this claim without prejudice so that Johnson may pursue the claim in a properly filed motion for post-conviction relief.

         BACKGROUND

         ¶3. On June 7, 2015, Johnson and Larry Gilliam went to Troy Holmes's house to ask whether Holmes had paid Curtis Mumford for cutting his grass.[1] Holmes told them he paid Mumford $40. In response, Johnson said he was going over to Mumford's house to talk to him, and explained Mumford owed him some money. Holmes testified he had not seen Mumford since the day before he spoke with Johnson and Gilliam, and stated that the day after Johnson and Gilliam visited his house, he noticed Mumford's home was being investigated as a crime scene.

         ¶4. On Monday, June 8, 2015, Detective Darryl Linzy of the Quitman County Sheriff's Department went by Mumford's house after receiving a request for a check on Mumford's welfare. Detective Linzy knocked on the door, but no one answered. He noticed the door was unlocked, so he went inside. He found Mumford lying on the floor. After determining Mumford was dead, Detective Linzy contacted authorities. Detective Linzy then secured the scene with yellow tape, and went across the street to speak to Holmes. Johnson was identified as a person of interest. Law-enforcement agents from Quitman County, with the assistance of Mississippi Bureau of Investigation (MBI) agents, eventually located Johnson at his parents' home, and took him into custody.

         ¶5. When Johnson was picked up, his father consented to a search of the house, which produced a bicycle belonging to Johnson, and the shirt that Johnson had reportedly worn the day before.

         ¶6. Johnson waived his Miranda[2] rights, and gave several different versions of the events surrounding Mumford's death. Detective Linzy, Agent Bryan Sullivant, and Lieutenant Charles Hale were present during the interview in which Johnson told officers details about how Mumford was killed.[3] He gave several different versions as to what happened that day. Initially, Johnson denied being at ...


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