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Johnson v. State

Court of Appeals of Mississippi

August 14, 2018

CAMARA JOHNSON APPELLANT
v.
STATE OF MISSISSIPPI APPELLEE

          DATE OF JUDGMENT: 01/30/2017

          WASHINGTON COUNTY CIRCUIT COURT HON. CAROL L. WHITE-RICHARD TRIAL JUDGE

          ATTORNEY FOR APPELLANT: OFFICE OF STATE PUBLIC DEFENDER BY: BENJAMIN ALLEN SUBER GEORGE T. HOLMES ERIN E. BRIGGS

          ERIN E. BRIGGS ATTORNEY FOR APPELLEE: OFFICE OF THE ATTORNEY GENERAL BY: BARBARA WAKELAND BYRD

          DISTRICT ATTORNEY: WILLIE DEWAYNE RICHARDSON

          BEFORE IRVING, P.J., WILSON AND TINDELL, JJ.

          TINDELL, J.

         ¶1. Camara Johnson, Cordale McCarty, and Marquis McKinney were all indicted for crimes related to the May 2, 2014 shooting of Ervin Simmons and Trasharria Mitchell. After trial, a Washington County jury found Johnson guilty of the first-degree murder of Simmons and the aggravated assault of Mitchell. The jury also found that Johnson used or displayed a firearm during the commission of these crimes which, by statute, required the addition of five years to his sentence. See Miss. Code Ann. § 97-3-19(1)(a) (Rev. 2014); Miss. Code Ann. § 97-3-7(2)(a) (Rev. 2014); Miss. Code Ann. § 97-37-37 (Rev. 2014). On January 27, 2017, the Washington County Circuit Court sentenced Johnson to concurrent terms of life imprisonment for first-degree murder, twenty years for aggravated assault, and five years for the firearm enhancement. On February 3, 2017, Johnson's attorney filed a motion for judgment notwithstanding the verdict (JNOV) or, in the alternative, for a new trial, which the trial court denied. On appeal, Johnson claims the trial court erred in denying his motion for a new trial because the jury's verdict was against the overwhelming weight of the evidence. Finding no error, we affirm Johnson's convictions and sentences.

         FACTS

         ¶2. On May 2, 2014, Simmons was shot and killed, and Mitchell was shot and injured in the parking lot of Simmons's night club, The Meeting Place.[1] About a month before the shooting, a fight occurred at the club between Johnson, McKinney, and McCarty (the group), and Simmons.[2] Because of the fight, Simmons banned the group from the club. McCarty and Mitchell testified that although they were angry about the ban, the group continued to loiter around the club's parking lot.

         ¶3. McCarty testified that on the evening of the shooting, he, Johnson, and McKinney parked their vehicle and drank beverages in or near the club's parking lot. He testified that when Simmons and Mitchell arrived at the club that evening, some verbal interaction occurred between Simmons, Mitchell, and the group. The group left because Simmons advised them they were not supposed to be at the club. McCarty was also concerned Simmons would call the police. After this encounter, and sometime before 3 a.m. on May 2, 2014, Simmons began the nightly process of closing the club. Mitchell moved Simmons's truck to the club's side-door where Simmons usually exited the club after closing. Mitchell parked the truck near the side-door and slid from the driver's seat to the middle of the truck's front seat to wait on Simmons.

         ¶4. As Simmons headed toward his truck after locking up the club, Mitchell saw two people come from behind a trash can at the corner of the club. The two people screamed, "I got you now, n*****," and both started shooting. Mitchell recognized McKinney as one of the shooters, but she did not recognize the other shooter. Mitchell saw McKinney in front of Simmons's truck aiming a gun at her. Mitchell testified that McKinney shot her from his place in front of the truck, moved, and shot her again from the driver's side door. She recalled being shot one more time after that. Mitchell could not recall if McKinney was the only one who shot her. She testified that she heard many shots but did not see Simmons get shot. Although two bullets remain inside her, Mitchell recovered from her extensive injuries.

         ¶5. Melvin Mitchell, the club's bouncer, testified that, on May 2, 2014, after leaving the club shortly before Simmons closed it, he heard loud noises, saw the police in the area, and drove back to the club. There he found Simmons's truck with the driver's side-door open and Mitchell inside the truck bleeding and in pain. Melvin found Simmons dead, face-up, and with the upper half of his body under the truck.

         ¶6. Melvin testified that the group and others, who were earlier banned from the club, identified themselves by wearing shirts imprinted with "400 block of Inez." Although he did not know the group members by their personal names, Melvin knew their street names and their faces. He knew what others called the group and testified about what the group called itself. ...


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