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Bryant v. State

Court of Appeals of Mississippi

February 27, 2018

ASHLEY BRYANT APPELLANT
v.
STATE OF MISSISSIPPI APPELLEE

          DATE OF JUDGMENT: 09/23/2015

         HINDS COUNTY CIRCUIT COURT, FIRST JUDICIAL DISTRICT HON. JEFF WEILL SR.

          ATTORNEY FOR APPELLANT: DAVID NEIL MCCARTY

          ATTORNEY FOR APPELLEE: OFFICE OF THE ATTORNEY GENERAL BY: BILLY L. GORE

          DISTRICT ATTORNEY: ROBERT SHULER SMITH

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

          GREENLEE, J.

         ¶1. Following trial, a jury in the Hinds County Circuit Court found Ashley Bryant guilty of intimidating a witness in violation of Mississippi Code Annotated section 97-9-55 (Rev. 2014). The circuit court sentenced Bryant to serve two years in the custody of the Mississippi Department of Corrections. Bryant appeals, arguing the indictment was fatally flawed, and the trial judge improperly involved himself in Bryant's plea deal by refusing to accept the State's recommended sentence. Finding no error, we affirm.

         BACKGROUND

         ¶2. On March 21, 2012, Freda Austin testified as a State's witness in the trial of Cortez Washington, who was later found guilty of armed robbery. As she was testifying, Austin recognized a woman in the audience as a regular customer at the store where Austin worked. The woman, later identified as Bryant, is Cortez's aunt. Later the same day, an "angry" and "bothered" Bryant went to the store and asked to speak to Austin. Bryant was informed that Austin was not there because she had been testifying in court.

         ¶3. The following day, Bryant and Cortaia Washington, Cortez's sister, returned to the store and asked the store manager if they could speak to Austin. The manager testified that she knew why the women were there and that they needed to leave; however, before she could get them to leave, Austin came from the back area where she had gone to get some pain reliever. Upon seeing Austin, Bryant started yelling at her about the case and her testimony. The store manager positioned herself between Austin and the two women, but Bryant was able to reach around her and hit Austin in the face. The store manager pushed Bryant away, and it was then that Washington took the opportunity to attack Austin. The testimony at trial was that Washington punched Austin several times and pulled out some of her hair. The incident lasted only a couple of minutes before Bryant and Washington left the store. Austin testified that she was not afraid at the time of the incident and that she believed the incident occurred in retaliation for her testimony at Cortez's trial.

         ¶4. Bryant and Washington originally were tried together, but the jury was unable to reach a verdict. They then were tried separately. Prior to the second trial, the State and Bryant moved the circuit court to enter an order of nolle prosequi in the case; however, the circuit court denied the motion and rejected the State's plea recommendation. The case later went to trial, and the jury found Bryant guilty of intimidating a witness.

         ¶5. Bryant appeals and raises the following issues for our review: whether her indictment was fatally flawed; and whether the trial court ...


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