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Sarrett v. State

Court of Appeals of Mississippi

December 12, 2017


          DATE OF JUDGMENT: 07/25/2016






          GRIFFIS, P.J.

         ¶1. Hunter Lane Sarrett was convicted of Count I, sale of cathinone within 1, 500 feet of a school; Count II, conspiracy to sell cathinone; Count III, sale of alprazolam within 1, 500 feet of a school; and Count IV, conspiracy to sell alprazolam. He was sentenced to serve sixteen years, with six years suspended, on Count I; twenty years, with ten years suspended, on Count II; sixteen years, with six years suspended, on Count III; and twenty years, with ten years suspended, on Count IV. The sentences were ordered to run concurrently with each other.

         ¶2. Upon release, Sarrett was ordered to serve five years on probation under the direct supervision of the Mississippi Department of Corrections. Sarrett was further ordered to pay $756.50 in court costs, a $1, 000 fine, and $300 to the Mississippi Crime Lab.

         ¶3. Sarrett now appeals and asserts numerous assignments of error. Upon review, we find no error and affirm.


         ¶4. On June 18, 2014, the Pearl Police Department arranged a controlled buy in order for Katy Young, a confidential informant, to purchase "molly" and Vicodin from Sarrett.[1] Prior to the drug transaction, Young's car and person were searched and she was equipped with a key fob camera and a body wire. Young was given cash in order to purchase the drugs from Sarrett. The drug transaction occurred at Young's house, where she lived with Sarrett's sister.

         ¶5. Young and Sarrett exchanged text messages and spoke on the phone earlier in the day to arrange the meeting. At Sarrett's request, Young met Sarrett at her house, underneath the carport. The drug transaction was recorded on the key fob camera which, according to Young, was "a camera that goes on your key chain . . . like a car remote." For reasons unknown, the body wire placed under Young's clothes did not record the transaction.

         ¶6. The key fob camera included both an audio and video recording of the drug transaction. The audio and video recording was admitted into evidence at trial as State's Exhibit 4 and played for the jury. Although poor quality, the conversation between Sarrett and Young can be heard. At the beginning of the audio recording, Sarrett told Young that he had "been to ten people's houses" and had to go to "like eight more-business is picking up." Sarrett advised Young that he had Xanax, not Vicodin. He asked Young how many Xanax pills she wanted. When Young inquired as to how many $20 would get her, Sarrett stated he would give her "all of them."

         ¶7. Sarrett then confirmed that Young wanted "2 fifteens" and asked whether Young planned to take both of them. When Young stated she intended to keep one and give one to a friend, Sarrett stated that that was fine, and explained that he was able to take two at a time, but likely had a higher tolerance.

         ¶8. It is undisputed that the actual drug exchange did not appear on the video. Young testified that Sarrett kept the drugs under the hood of his truck. At the end of the video, Sarrett can be seen standing at the front of his truck.

         ¶9. Young explained that she did not know how to turn the key fob camera on or off. She stated that law enforcement turned on the camera prior to the drug transaction. However, Young acknowledged that the camera "died" after Sarrett became visible.

         ¶10. Following the drug transaction, Young met with law-enforcement officers and gave them the drugs that she had purchased from Sarrett. Law enforcement searched Young's car and person and removed the recording devices. Moreover, law enforcement showed Young a picture of Sarrett to confirm that he was the individual from whom she had purchased the drugs.

         ¶11. Young testified that she did not go inside the house before meeting with law enforcement. She further testified that she had agreed to act as a confidential informant in hopes of having various misdemeanor charges, including a driving-under-the-influence charge, removed from her record.

         ¶12. Officer Zach Acy, a narcotics investigator with the Pearl Police Department, conducted surveillance of the entire transaction. Acy was parked approximately six houses down from Young's house. He saw Young pull into the driveway, and could see the front of the house as well as the carport. Acy testified that he saw a silver Toyota pickup truck under the carport, which came back registered to Gary Sarrett, Sarrett's father. According to Acy, once Young arrived at the house, the drug buy took approximately two to three minutes. Acy stated he never saw Young enter the house.

         ¶13. Allison Conville, a chemist in the drug section of the Mississippi Forensics Laboratory, was admitted as an expert in forensic science specializing in drug identification. Conville testified that she had received and tested two submissions. The first submission contained two capsules of ethylone, which is a substituted drug known as cathinone. The second submission contained fourteen tablets of alprazolam, which is also known as Xanax.

         ¶14. Sarrett's sister, Alyssa, testified on Sarrett's behalf and stated that on June 18, 2014, she and Sarrett were at her house, along with friends Matthew and Amy. According to Alyssa, when Young showed up, Young and Matthew went into the bedroom for about a minute. Young then walked out of the house. However, Victoria May, custodian of records for the Rankin County Sheriff's Department, testified that on June 18, 2014, Matthew was actually in custody in the Rankin County jail, and had been in custody since May 24, 2014.

         ¶15. A judgment of conviction was entered June 14, 2016. Thereafter, on July 28, 2016, Sarrett was sentenced. On August 4, 2016, Sarrett filed a motion for a judgment notwithstanding the verdict (JNOV) or, alternatively, a new trial. The circuit court denied the motion as ...

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