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Young v. State

Supreme Court of Mississippi, En Banc

November 30, 2017

EDWARD YOUNG a/k/a EDWARD YOUNG, JR. a/k/a BALD HEAD
v.
STATE OF MISSISSIPPI

          DATE OF JUDGMENT: 05/19/2016

         HOLMES COUNTY CIRCUIT COURT, HON. JANNIE M. LEWIS, TRIAL JUDGE

          ATTORNEYS FOR APPELLANT: OFFICE OF THE STATE PUBLIC DEFENDER, ERIN ELIZABETH BRIGGS GEORGE T. HOLMES

          ATTORNEY FOR APPELLEE: OFFICE OF THE ATTORNEY GENERAL BY: JOSEPH SCOTT HEMLEBEN

          DISTRICT ATTORNEY: AKILLIE MALONE-OLIVER

          BEAM, JUSTICE

         ¶1. Following a jury trial, Edward Young was convicted of murder in the Holmes County Circuit Court. Young, through appellate counsel, appeals his conviction, claiming the trial court erred in denying his motion for a new trial based on the ground that the jury's guilty verdict was against the overwhelming weight of the evidence.

         ¶2. Young also submits a supplemental appellant's brief pro se claiming: he was denied a timely initial appearance following his arrest; the trial court improperly instructed the jury with regard to his alibi defense; and he was denied effective assistance of trial counsel and appellate counsel. Having considered the issues and accompanying arguments based on the record, we affirm Young's conviction.

         FACTS

         ¶3. On the afternoon of November 29, 2014, Keith Young was driving around Tchula, Mississippi, with his brother, Kelvin Young, and his friend Travis Anderson. At some point, Keith dropped Kelvin off at a social gathering at Kelvin's girlfriend's sister's house in the Gwin community. Keith and Anderson continued to ride around, eventually parking off Highway 49.

         ¶4. While the two men were sitting in the car talking they saw Keith's cousin, Edward Young (Edward), also known as "Bald Head, " walking toward the vehicle. As Edward approached the vehicle, Keith said "Bald Head, what's up?" Edward did not respond and continued toward the car. Anderson rolled down the passenger window of the car and Edward called Anderson's name two or three times. Both men saw that Edward was holding a gun and Anderson tried to lock the door; but Edward "snatched the door open" and shot Anderson. Upon being shot, Anderson pushed Keith out of the driver's seat as Keith was opening the driver's side door. Anderson exited the vehicle and ran onto the highway, where he collapsed. Keith initially fled the car but then ran back to the car and drove away.

         ¶5. Keith first drove to the police station, but no one was there. Keith then drove to the house in Gwin where he had dropped off his brother, Kelvin. According to Keith, he told Kelvin and others what had happened. Kelvin then drove Keith to their parents' house.

         ¶6. Keith there told his parents what had happened. Keith's father then drove Keith back to the scene of the shooting, where Keith talked to a sheriff's deputy present at the scene. The deputy told Keith to go to the Holmes County Sheriff's Department in Lexington, Mississippi, where Keith then gave a statement to authorities.

         ¶7. Meanwhile, shortly after the shooting, Officer Willie Phillips of the Tchula Police Department received a report of a person lying in the highway. Officer Phillips, along with Officer Freddy Sheard, responded to the scene. When they arrived, Officer Phillips found a man, later identified as Travis Anderson, lying in the southbound lane of Highway 49. Anderson was still alive, and an unidentified woman was performing cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) on him. An ambulance arrived a short time later, and Anderson was pronounced dead.

         ¶8. Edward was developed as a suspect and Officer Phillips was instructed by his superior to locate him. Officer Phillips, accompanied by Officer Sheard, proceeded to Edward's residence. After the officers knocked on the door and announced themselves, Edward opened the door and stated "I know y'all was coming" and "I didn't do it." Edward then was taken into custody.

         ¶9. Holmes County Sheriff's Deputy Sam Chambers led the investigation into the death of Anderson. When Deputy Chambers arrived at the crime scene, Anderson already had expired. Deputy Chambers viewed the body and observed a gunshot wound to Anderson's neck. After being informed by other officers that a man known as "Baldhead" was a suspect, Deputy Chambers instructed the officers to pick him up and bring him in for questioning.

         ¶10. Deputy Chambers also learned that Keith was an eyewitness to the shooting and was at the Holmes County Sheriff's Department. Deputy Chambers left the scene and went to interview Keith. Deputy Chambers took a recorded statement from Keith, and he also had Keith bring his vehicle to the Holmes County Sheriff's Department, where it later was processed for evidence.

         ¶11. After being taken into custody, Edward was brought to the Holmes County Sheriff's Department, where he was interviewed by Deputy Chambers. Edward denied any involvement in the shooting and claimed he had been at home watching a football game with his brother and mother.

         ¶12. Deputy Chambers administered a gunshot residue (GSR) kit on Edward's hand, which Deputy Chambers later submitted to the Mississippi State Crime Laboratory. The clothes Edward was wearing at the time of his arrest also were collected and submitted to the crime lab.

         ¶13. On November 30, 2015, Edward was indicted by a Holmes County grand jury for first-degree murder. On April 22, 2016, Edward filed a motion to dismiss, alleging that the State had failed to turn over the results of the GSR testing performed on Edward's hand, and the State was claiming the GSR kit had been lost or destroyed.

         ¶14. A hearing on the motion was held on April 25, 2016. During the hearing, the trial court heard argument from counsel, during which it was established that the GSR kit had in fact been lost. According to the State, Deputy Chambers had submitted the GSR kit to the state crime lab, which sent the kit back and informed Chambers that it could not process that particular type of kit. Deputy Chambers then placed the kit in the evidence room and, as of the day of the hearing, had not been able to locate the kit. The trial court reserved ruling on the motion and requested written memoranda on the matter.

         ¶15. On May 5, 2016, Edward filed a motion to allow for additional testimony regarding the missing GSR kit. A hearing on the motion was held that same day. During the hearing, Edward argued that, even though the State had stipulated at a previous hearing the GSR kit had been lost or misplaced, the defense wished to get an account of what had transpired on the record. The trial court granted the motion and the defense called Deputy Chambers to testify.

         ¶16. Deputy Chambers testified that, on or about November 28, 2014, Edward was arrested and Deputy Chambers administered a GSR kit on Edward's hand. According to Deputy Chambers, upon administering the kit, he locked the kit in his desk drawer. The following week, Deputy Chambers transported the GSR test kit, along with other evidence, to the state crime lab. The lab returned the kit that same day and informed Deputy Chambers that it was unable to process that particular type of GSR kit. Deputy Chambers then placed the GSR kit in the evidence room until he could find a lab that could process that particular kit. But when Deputy Chambers went to retrieve the kit at a later date, he was unable to locate it. Deputy Chambers testified that, to the best of his knowledge, the kit was lost when the evidence room clerk cleaned the evidence room. Deputy Chambers further testified that he did not instruct anyone to destroy any evidence.

         ¶17. On May 16, 2016, the trial court entered an order denying Edward's motion to dismiss. The trial court found that the GSR kit was not intentionally or through bad faith, misplaced or destroyed, but was lost due to negligence that did not rise to the level of bad faith. The trial court ruled, however, that Edward would be permitted to question law enforcement about the lost or misplaced evidence at trial.

         ¶18. In the same order, the trial court also precluded the State from introducing any evidence pertaining to Edward's confession to police, due to the State's late disclosure of said confession.

         ¶19. Edward was found guilty of first-degree murder by a Holmes County jury in May 2016. Edward thereafter timely appealed his conviction to this Court.

         ¶20. Through appellate counsel from the Office of Indigent Appeals, Edward claims the trial court erred in failing to grant his motion for a new trial based on the verdict being against the overwhelming weight of the evidence. Edward also filed a supplemental appellant's brief pro se, claiming: (1) an untimely initial appearance after his arrest; (2) improper jury instructions; and (3) ineffective assistance of counsel by his trial counsel and appeal counsel.

         ¶21. Additional facts as necessary will be related in our ...


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