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Johnson v. State

Court of Appeals of Mississippi

March 27, 2018

TAWANA TERRELL JOHNSON A/K/A TAWANA JOHNSON, APPELLANT
v.
STATE OF MISSISSIPPI, APPELLEE

          DATE OF JUDGMENT: 08/02/2016

          DESOTO COUNTY CIRCUIT COURT HON. ROBERT P. CHAMBERLIN JUDGE

          ATTORNEY FOR APPELLANT: OFFICE OF STATE PUBLIC DEFENDER BY: HUNTER NOLAN AIKENS

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

          DISTRICT ATTORNEY: JOHN W. CHAMPION

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

          GRIFFIS, P.J.

         ¶1. Tawana Terrell Johnson appeals her conviction for possession of less than one kilogram but more than thirty grams of marijuana with the intent to transfer or sell. Johnson argues that her prior drug convictions were improperly admitted into evidence, the jury's verdict was based on insufficient evidence, and it was contrary to the overwhelming weight of the evidence. We find no error and affirm.

         FACTS AND PROCEDURAL HISTORY

         ¶2. Around 1:00 a.m. on April 26, 2014, Deputy Thomas Brea of the DeSoto County Sheriff's Department pulled over Johnson's rental car traveling south on I-55 for swerving over the fog line. Brea later identified that he approached the car and "as soon as [he] made contact with [Johnson], [he] could smell the strong odor of marijuana coming from inside the vehicle, and [he] had her exit the vehicle at that time." Once out of the car, Brea questioned Johnson about a bulge under her shirt. Johnson responded that it was money she had earned in Memphis and voluntarily surrendered it upon Brea's request.

         ¶3. Brea asked Johnson if there was marijuana in the car, and she answered in the negative. Brea approached the driver's side of the car where he saw more cash and a black digital scale in the cupholder between the front seats. Brea then opened a backpack on the passenger side floorboard. The backpack contained more money, three clear plastic bags containing what was later identified as marijuana, and additional plastic bags buried beneath personal items belonging to Johnson. The contents of just two of the three plastic bags were later analyzed. They contained 69.55 grams of marijuana.

         ¶4. After discovering the money totaling $10, 672; a digital scale; 69.55 grams of marijuana; and additional plastic bags in the car, Brea walked over to Johnson, who then immediately turned and placed her hands behind her back without being prompted. Brea then handcuffed her and took her into custody.

         ¶5. Johnson did not testify at trial. However, over her objection, the trial court allowed the State to introduce evidence of Johnson's 2008 convictions for possession of marijuana and hydrocodone with intent to sell. The jury was instructed on the crime of possession with intent and the lesser-included crime of simple possession. The jury found Johnson guilty of possession with intent to transfer or sell less than one kilogram but more than thirty grams of marijuana.

         ¶6. The trial court sentenced Johnson as a nonviolent habitual offender and a subsequent- drug offender to ten years in the ...


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