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Saunders v. State

Court of Appeals of Mississippi

April 10, 2018

MARQUIS D. SAUNDERS A/K/A MARQUIS SAUNDERS A/K/A MARQUISE D. SAUNDERS A/K/A MARQUISE SAUNDERS APPELLANT
v.
STATE OF MISSISSIPPI APPELLEE

          DATE OF JUDGMENT: 01/26/2017

          HARRISON COUNTY CIRCUIT COURT, SECOND JUDICIAL DISTRICT HON. LAWRENCE PAUL BOURGEOIS, JR. TRIAL JUDGE

          ATTORNEY FOR APPELLANT: OFFICE OF STATE PUBLIC DEFENDER BY: JUSTIN TAYLOR COOK

          ATTORNEY FOR APPELLEE: OFFICE OF THE ATTORNEY GENERAL BY: BARBARA WAKELAND BYRD

          BEFORE IRVING, P.J., FAIR AND WESTBROOKS, JJ.

          WESTBROOKS, J.

         ¶1. Marquis Saunders was convicted of one count of first-degree murder and one count of car theft in the Second Judicial District of Harrison County. He was sentenced to life in prison for the murder conviction and five years for car theft, with the sentences to run concurrently. Saunders filed a motion for a judgment notwithstanding the verdict (JNOV), or for a new trial, which the circuit court denied. Saunders now appeals. After review of the record, we affirm.

         FACTS AND PROCEDURAL HISTORY

         ¶2. After living in New York, Saunders moved to D'Iberville, Mississippi to stay with his girlfriend, Shantile Torres, and her daughter.[1] Shantile and her daughter lived with Jamel Jones and his wife Maxine for four months prior to Saunders moving in with them. Testimony presented at trial stated that Saunders and Jones had an amicable relationship and that they never had any arguments or disagreements.

         ¶3. On the morning of January 31, 2015, Jones took Maxine to work in a white 2004 Ford Explorer SUV that the couple shared. Jones's daughter Starquasha Colon testified that she was supposed to ride with Jones to the store, but he left her. Shortly after Jones left their home, Colon testified that she heard what sounded like gunshots. Colon stated that she attempted to contact her father after hearing gunshots, but he did not answer her calls.

         ¶4. Colon stated that she went outside after hearing a commotion. Torres's daughter exclaimed that Saunders shot Jones. Colon shortly found her father lying face-down on the ground in blood. The autopsy revealed that Jones's cause of death was multiple gunshot wounds. Colon also testified that she noticed the family's white SUV was gone.

         ¶5. Several neighbors testified that they heard about five or six gunshots that day. O.V. Smith stated that he actually saw Saunders fire two shots at Jones and then drive away in the family's white SUV. Approximately thirty minutes after the shooting, law enforcement officers found Saunders driving Jones's 2004 Ford Explorer. No gun ever was retrieved from the SUV; however, Saunders's hands tested positive for gunshot residue.

         ¶6. Following a trial, Saunders was found guilty of one count of first-degree murder and one count of car theft. He was sentenced to life in prison for murder and five years for his car theft conviction. The trial court ordered the sentences to run concurrently. Saunders filed a JNOV motion, or for a new trial, which the trial court denied. Saunders now appeals.

         STANDARD ...


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