SAMUEL AMOS a/k/a SAMUEL M. AMOS, JR. a/k/a SAMUEL M. AMOS a/k/a SAMUEL MARTIN AMOS, JR. a/k/a SAMUEL AMOS, II
STATE OF MISSISSIPPI
OF JUDGMENT: 08/08/2016
COUNTY CIRCUIT COURT HON. VERNON R. COTTEN JUDGE
ATTORNEYS: LARRY NEAL McMURTRY P. SHAWN HARRIS MARK SHELDON
ATTORNEYS FOR APPELLANT: OFFICE OF THE STATE PUBLIC DEFENDER
BY: JUSTIN T. COOK GEORGE T. HOLMES
ATTORNEY FOR APPELLEE: OFFICE OF THE ATTORNEY GENERAL BY:
A Neshoba County jury convicted Samuel Amos of murder
following the shooting death of Marquai Kirkland. Amos was
sentenced by the Circuit Court of Neshoba County, as a
habitual offender, to life without the possibility of parole.
On appeal, Amos raises two issues. First, he argues that the
trial court erred by refusing his proposed accomplice jury
instruction. Second, he maintains that the trial court erred
by denying his motion for a mistrial when the prosecutor
referenced a polygraph test. Finding no error, we affirm.
AND PROCEDURAL HISTORY
Kirkland lived with his brother James Carter in Philadelphia,
Mississippi. On the afternoon of May 20, 2014, according to
Carter, Kirkland talked on the telephone with Landon Dupree.
Carter testified that Kirkland told Dupree that someone owed
him money and that he had to go pick it up. Less than twenty
minutes later, between 2:20 and 3:00 p.m., a green Ford
Explorer (the "Explorer") drove up in front of the
house where Carter and Kirkland were standing outside. Carter
maintained that the only identifying feature of the green
Explorer was that some molding was missing from the vehicle.
Carter further testified that he had believed at the time
that the driver of the Explorer was a person named Santo
because the driver had been to the house once before to cut
Kirkland's hair. Carter, though, had not seen the
Explorer before that day. Also, Carter testified that there
was no question in his mind that Amos drove the Explorer that
day. At trial, Carter explained that he initially had
referred to the man as Santo because "[t]hat's just
what I thought [his name] was, " and it "probably
was a street name."
After Amos arrived at the house alone in the Explorer,
Kirkland asked him for a ride. Kirkland got into the Explorer
through the front passenger-side door, but "jumped
out" because he had forgotten something in the house.
Carter testified that Kirkland went into the house for about
thirty seconds to get a gun. Carter, however, did not see a
gun when Kirkland returned from inside. Kirkland returned to
the Explorer, and Amos drove away. Carter never saw Kirkland
At trial, Terrance Hunter, Kirkland's relative, testified
that Dupree had telephoned Amos to have Amos pick up Hunter
because "[t]hey wanted to hit a lick for $600.00."
Hunter testified that Dupree had telephoned him also because
he "wanted me to ride with them to make sure the lick
went straight." Hunter testified that by
"lick" he was referring to a drug deal between
Kirkland "and a guy from Noxapater" and that the
"dude was going to pay [Kirkland] for . . . was going to
buy some sort of controlled substance . . . ."
Hunter testified that Amos and Kirkland picked him up at
about 3:00 p.m., "about 30 to 45 minutes" after
Hunter had talked to Dupree. Hunter got in the back seat on
the driver's side. At the time, Amos was driving and
Kirkland was in the front passenger seat. After Amos stopped
at a store to get some cigarettes, he instructed Hunter to
drive. According to Hunter, Amos got in the back seat on the
passenger side of the Explorer. Amos directed Hunter to the
location where the drug deal was to take place and told him
to slow down. Before he could slow down, Hunter heard a
"boom"-a gunshot from the back of the Explorer-and
saw that Kirkland had been struck. Once Hunter stopped the
Explorer, Amos pulled Kirkland from the passenger seat and
dragged him "to the end of the woods." Amos then
returned to the front passenger seat and told Hunter "to
drive off." Hunter complied.
Later that evening, Marsha Bavetta, a detective with the
Philadelphia Police Department, was alerted that a body had
been found. Detective Bavetta responded to the scene of the
crime and processed evidence until other law-enforcement
Throughout the course of the investigation, law-enforcement
officers found the Explorer with a missing window on the
front passenger-side of the vehicle. Law-enforcement officers
discovered the Explorer at the home of April Brown, who was
in a relationship with Amos.
Multiple DNA samples, collected in the investigation, matched
Kirkland's DNA. Investigators submitted a carpet cutting
from the front passenger side floorboard of the Explorer to
the Mississippi Crime Laboratory for DNA analysis, as the
floorboard contained a "large amount" of suspected
pooled blood. A swab also was analyzed from a suspected blood
stain which was found twenty-four or twenty-five feet from
Kirkland's body. At trial, Leslia Davis, a forensic
serology and DNA analysis specialist at the Mississippi
Forensics Laboratory, testified, without objection, as an
expert in DNA examination and evaluation. She testified to a
reasonable degree of scientific certainty that it was not
possible that the samples submitted contained "blood
from somebody other than . . . Marquai Kirkland."
Glass fragments taken from the scene of the crime also were
submitted to the Mississippi Crime Laboratory to be compared
to glass fragments found in the Explorer. Without objection,
Jason Burchfield, a Mississippi Crime Lab employee, was
tendered and accepted as an expert in the field of trace
evidence and glass analysis. Burchfield opined that the glass
fragments were "consistent with one another" and
that it was "very possible" that the fragments came
"from the same batch."
Law-enforcement officers also processed the exterior of the
Explorer for fingerprints. Jamie Bush of the Mississippi
Forensics Laboratory System was tendered and accepted,
without objection, as an expert in the field of latent print
examination and comparison. According to Bush, two latent
prints matched "a set of known finger prints, rolled
finger prints and palm prints of an individual by the name of
Samuel Amos, II."
Based on information that Hunter had admitted to killing
someone, Hunter was brought to the Neshoba County Jail from
Texas and was questioned. In an initial statement, Hunter
denied having any knowledge about Kirkland's murder.
According to Detective Bavetta, Hunter asked to talk, but
"would not reveal to me what he wanted to tell me
because he said he was afraid that he would get framed for
everything . . . ." Bavetta left the Philadelphia Police
Department in June 2015, prior to Hunter's giving another
statement on June 11, 2015 (the "2015 statement").
Hunter read the 2015 statement in open court:
I was on Martin Luther King, Jr. when Landon Dupree pulled
over and offered me three grams of meth to ride with Samuel
[Amos] to do something to [Kirkland]. . . . At first, I said
no, then he pulled off and an hour later he called me and he
was like . . . I need you to do it. Just drive, that's
it. I don't want you to do nothing else.
Red's going to . . . handle the rest. Okay. . .
. Landon called me and told me Red was looking for me to
handle that business. [Amos] came and picked me up.
[Kirkland] was already in the truck with him so we went to
Spaceway. I got out then [Amos] got out and went in the
store. When we came back out, I got in the driver's seat
and [Amos] got in the back seat behind [Kirkland]. So we went
on and [Amos] was like, pull down this side road. The lick
down there waiting. Lick for $600 so when we got on the road,
Red as Samuel Amos pulled the trigger and he was like bro, if
you say anything, you're going to be the same way. So
[Amos] got out of the truck and drug [Kirkland] to the woods
and got back in and we got up the road. [Amos] jumped back in
the driver's seat and that's when he asked me where
I'm going. I told him on Martin Luther King. He dropped
me off and that was the last time I saw Samuel [Amos] . . . .
explained that he initially had claimed that he did not know
about the murder because he was scared of retaliation:
"I was in fear of my life, sir." Hunter stated that
he was unaware that Amos was going to kill Kirkland.
After the investigation and Hunter's 2015 statement, Amos
was indicted for the murder of Kirkland as a habitual
offender pursuant to Mississippi Code Section 99-19-83. He
was tried in the Circuit Court of Neshoba County on July12
and 13, 2016. The jury found Amos guilty and the circuit
court sentenced him, as a habitual offender, to life without
the possibility of parole. On appeal, Amos raises two issues.
He first argues that the trial court abused its discretion
when it denied Amos's tendered accomplice jury
instruction. Second, he argues that the trial court abused
its discretion when it denied Amos's motion for a
mistrial after the prosecutor asked Hunter whether he had
taken a polygraph test. Finding no reversible error, we
affirm Amos's conviction and sentence.
Accomplice Jury Instruction
After he rested at trial, Amos proposed the following jury
The Court instructs the Jury that the law looks with
suspicion and distrust on the testimony of an alleged
accomplice. The Jury should weigh the testimony from
alleged accomplices with great care and caution, and look
upon it with distrust and suspicion. You, the jury, should
determine what weight, if any, you should give that
response, the State argued that there was no evidence that
Hunter had been an accomplice to the murder. Among other
arguments, defense counsel responded that Hunter was "an
accomplice before the fact" as he had "talked about
getting a phone call from this drug king pin about
hitting-putting out a hit on-on the victim." Defense
counsel also argued that "it looks like he gave the
statement as his plea bargain, basically, to not get
indicted." The trial court refused the instruction,
stating that "it would be confusing, " but allowed
defense counsel a "full-bore right to argue that and the
jurors can give whatever weight and whatever inference they
The grant of a cautionary instruction regarding the testimony
of an accomplice witness is discretionary with the trial
court. Brown v. State, 890 So.2d 901, 910 (Miss.
2004) (citing Burke v. State, 576 So.2d 1239, 1242
(Miss. 1991)). In order to determine whether the trial court
abused its discretion, we consider a two-part test.
Id. "First, it must be determined if the
witness was in fact an accomplice. If that prong is met, we
determine secondly if the testimony was without
corroboration." Id. (citations omitted);
see also Williams v. State, 32 So.3d 486, 490 (Miss.
2010). We will take each of these questions in turn.
Our prior caselaw-within the context of accomplice
instructions-has addressed whether a witness was an
accomplice to the crime. We have held that "'[a]n
accomplice . . . is a person who is implicated in the
commission of the crime, ' and will be considered as such
'if the evidence admits a reasonable inference that the
witness may have been a ...