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Jackson v. State

Court of Appeals of Mississippi

December 12, 2017

LATRICE JACKSON A/K/A LATRICE MARLENE JACKSON A/K/A LATRICE M. JACKSON APPELLANT
v.
STATE OF MISSISSIPPI APPELLEE

          DATE OF JUDGMENT: 05/24/2016

         SIMPSON COUNTY CIRCUIT COURT HON. EDDIE H. BOWEN JUDGE

          ATTORNEY FOR APPELLANT: OFFICE OF STATE PUBLIC DEFENDER BY: ERIN E. BRIGGS

          ATTORNEY FOR APPELLEE: OFFICE OF THE ATTORNEY GENERAL BY: ABBIE EASON KOONCE

          DISTRICT ATTORNEY: MATT SULLIVAN

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

          GRIFFIS, P.J.

         ¶1. Latrice Jackson appeals her conviction of abuse of a vulnerable person and claims the circuit court erroneously denied her motion for a trial continuance. We find no error and affirm.

         FACTS AND PROCEDURAL HISTORY

         ¶2. Jackson was employed as a behavioral-health assistant (BHA) at Millcreek Behavioral Health Facility in Magee, Mississippi. Jackson was one of three BHAs who were assigned to the Pecan Grove Cottage at Millcreek. Pecan Grove is a residential facility, staffed twenty-four hours per day, for mentally disabled females between the ages of thirteen and seventeen years old.

         ¶3. Jane Doe is a resident of Pecan Grove.[1] Jane is nonverbal. She can feed herself, but needs assistance with bathing, dressing, and going to the bathroom.

         ¶4. On June 4, 2013, Jackson and another BHA, Rebecca Ross, were working the 2:30 - 10:30 p.m. shift. Jackson, Ross, and Jane were upstairs in the day room. Jane was sitting in a chair by the doorway. Jackson asked Jane to come and take a bath. When Jane did not move, Jackson repeated her request. However, Jane again refused to move. According to Ross, Jackson then "grabbed [Jane] by her hair and like grabbed her hands around her hair and drug her out of the chair and down the hall to the bathroom."

         ¶5. Ross went to get another BHA, Shequita Preston, who was doing laundry in the linen room. Ross stated that when Jane came out of the bathroom, she was crying and upset. Ross further stated that she heard Jackson call Jane "a fat B word" as she came out of the bathroom.

         ¶6. Preston described Jane's scalp as "red" and stated that "it looked like a plug had kind of been pulled from [Jane's] hair - from her head." Preston further stated she could see bald spots on Jane's head. Preston explained that if a resident refused to bathe, the BHA was simply supposed to note it in the resident's chart. Preston reported the incident to her unit coordinator. As a result of the incident, Jackson was terminated.

         ¶7. On September 9, 2013, Jackson was indicted in the Simpson County Circuit Court on one count of abuse of a vulnerable person in violation of Mississippi Code Annotated section 43-47-19(1) and (3) (Rev. 2015). On September 16, 2013, a public defender was appointed to represent Jackson. A jury trial was scheduled for March 17, 2014. For reasons unexplained in the record, the trial did not go forward as scheduled.

         ¶8. On April 7, 2015, an agreed order of continuance was entered, which reset the trial to September 8, 2015.[2] Shortly before trial, on August 27, 2015, Jackson was appointed new counsel, who immediately moved for a continuance.[3] As a result, another continuance was granted. A new trial date was set for March 31, 2016.

         ¶9. On March 10, 2016, twenty-one days before trial, Jackson filed a "motion to inspect and copy certain records and documents in the custody of Millcreek Behavioral Health Facility." The State objected based on relevance and because Jackson requested the State to produce documents that were not in its possession. Following a hearing, the circuit court granted the motion and ordered the State to obtain from Millcreek: the employee files of all Millcreek staff members who were interviewed and/or questioned in regard to the events on June 4, 2013; a copy of the Millcreek handbook; and Jane's medical history. An "order to subpoena certain records and documents" was thereafter entered on March 14, 2016.

         ¶10. Millcreek was subsequently contacted and received a copy of the circuit court's order. Millcreek advised that due to the amount of time that had passed since the incident, many of the requested documents were in an off-site storage facility and would have to be located and brought back to the facility in order to be copied and produced. The documents, which amounted to approximately 1, 000 pages, were ultimately delivered to defense counsel in three separate deliveries over the course of one week, with the final delivery on March 29, 2016.

         ¶11. On March 24, 2016, just prior to the final delivery of the documents, Jackson filed a motion to dismiss or, in the alternative, motion to continue, arguing that the State had failed to provide a speedy trial and failed to "fully comply" with the circuit court's order regarding the production of the Millcreek documents. An agreed order of continuance was entered on March 28, 2016, to allow both parties additional time to review the recently produced documents. This was the third continuance of record granted by the circuit court. The trial was reset for April 18, 2016, which gave counsel approximately twenty days to review the documents prior to trial.

         ¶12. On the morning of trial, defense counsel moved ore tenus for a continuance.[4] Defense counsel explained she did not have sufficient time to review the "hundreds and hundreds of documents" that were produced and needed additional time "to locate some of [the] witnesses that [would] be crucial to [Jackson's] defense." The circuit court ruled as follows:

Due process requires a speedy trial. This case was indicted on September the 9th, 2013. Today is April the 18th, 2016. We have a special venire out in the courtroom ready to go forward. On the order of arraignment this case was originally set for March 17th, 2014. That's when Ray Therrell was the attorney for the defendant. On September the 8th, 2015, because Megan [Stuard] had just been appointed to represent the defendant, this case was continued. It was originally set for 2015. At the request of the defendant it was continued until March 31st, 2016. At that time, the defendant stated that she had not or had recently received a voluminous discovery from the [State] and needed additional time. The Court offered to reset the case during the term and give [defense counsel] two weeks extra to go through those documents, but after all was said and done, on April 18th, 2016, which is today, the case was set for today from Wednesday, March 31st, 2016. So we can go [into] the next term and you'll have the same excuses that you've got this term. So I'm going to overrule your motion for a continuance.

         ¶13. Following a jury trial, Jackson was found guilty. The circuit court deferred sentencing and ordered a presentence report. On May 24, 2016, Jackson was sentenced to twenty years, with fifteen years to serve in the custody of the Mississippi Department of Corrections, followed by five years' postrelease supervision. Jackson was ordered to attend anger-management classes while in custody.

         ¶14. Jackson filed a motion for a new trial, a motion for a judgment notwithstanding the verdict, and a motion for a directed verdict of not guilty, all of which were denied. Jackson now appeals and argues the circuit ...


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