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Young v. State

Court of Appeals of Mississippi

September 4, 2018


          DATE OF JUDGMENT: 12/06/2016






          LEE, C.J.

         ¶1. Samuel Terrail Young Jr. was indicted by a Madison County grand jury of one count of sexual battery and one count of burglary. Following a jury trial in the Madison County Circuit Court, the jury found Young guilty of the sexual-battery charge and not guilty of the burglary charge. He was sentenced as a violent habitual offender under Mississippi Code Annotated section 99-19-83 (Rev. 2015) to life imprisonment without eligibility for parole in the custody of the Mississippi Department of Corrections. Through his appointed appellate counsel, Young appeals his conviction, arguing (1) he received ineffective assistance of counsel, and (2) the trial court erred in denying his motion for mistrial. Young also filed a pro se brief asserting numerous additional issues that we also address. Finding no error, we affirm.


         ¶2. On June 28, 2015, Michelle Brickner was doing laundry at her apartment in Ridgeland, Mississippi, when she was attacked and raped. She testified that she had been in the living room and laundry room. She then walked into her bathroom and saw a man standing in her bedroom. Brickner stated she noticed the window and blinds were pulled up, which she had not done. When she saw the man, she screamed and tried to run, but he tackled her to the ground. Brickner stated the man covered her mouth and told her not to scream or he would kill her.

         ¶3. Brickner testified that the man proceeded to question her regarding her age, ethnicity, marital status, and how long she had lived in the apartment. She stated that at no point did she get a good look at his face because he would not allow her to and continued to threaten to kill her if she looked at him. The man took off his pants and told Brickner to perform oral sex on him. A few minutes later, he told her to remove her clothes, and he raped her. Brickner stated that the rape began in the bedroom, and at some point, the man moved her into the living room. He penetrated her vaginally and then attempted to penetrate her anally. Brickner stated that she screamed, and the man again threatened to kill her. He penetrated her again vaginally until he eventually ejaculated. Following the rape, the man forced Brickner to bathe several times. She testified that he used her facial cleanser and used his hands and fingers to try and clean inside of her vagina. He also refilled and emptied the tub several times. Before he left her apartment, the man told Brickner if she called the police he would kill her.

         ¶4. Brickner stated she got out of the tub about ten minutes after the man left and called her boyfriend, who convinced her to call the police. When the police arrived, she described what had happened in the apartment. She stated the only description she was able to give the police was that the attacker was a taller black male. After talking with the police, Brickner went to Baptist Hospital in Jackson, Mississippi, where she had a sexual-assault kit performed by Dr. Ronnie Ali. Dr. Ali, an expert in emergency medicine, testified at trial that he observed bruising on Brickner's arm, legs, and buttocks, which was included in his report. The report also noted blood on Brickner's underwear. Dr. Ali also reported swelling of the rectum, indicating penetration, as well as swelling and bruising of the vagina. During the exam, Dr. Ali noted a significant amount of semen inside the vagina. Dr. Ali opined that the combination of the swelling of the vagina and amount of semen indicated that the sexual encounter was "fresh" or "acute."

         ¶5. Investigator Leslie Owens with the Ridgeland Police Department was called to Brickner's apartment. She developed Young as a suspect after DNA testing from the semen recovered from Brickner's sexual-assault exam matched Young's DNA profile stored in a database of convicted felons. Investigator Owens also determined that Young lived in an apartment complex near Brickner's apartment and testified it would take approximately one minute on foot to travel between the two apartments. ¶6. Joseph Heflin, a DNA analyst with the Mississippi Forensics Laboratory, testified that he was able to develop a DNA profile from the vaginal swabs taken from Brickner's sexual-assault kit. The profile was run against DNA in a database and returned a match to Young's DNA. Heflin testified that the likelihood the DNA would match another unrelated person's DNA profile was greater than one in ten billion.

         ¶7. Pierre Pryor Jr., a friend of Young's, testified that he was with Young on June 26, 2015, at Young's apartment. He stated the two were just talking. According to Pryor, Young asked where all the women were, and Pryor told Young to check "" Pryor stated that Young used a computer to go to the website and then asked Pryor to leave for a little while because a girl from the website was coming by. Pryor waited outside in his car, and he testified that he saw a Chinese woman in her late twenties knock on Young's door. (Brickner was of Asian descent.) He stated the woman stayed in the apartment around thirty minutes before she left, seemingly upset because she slammed the door. Pryor stated he could not remember where Young's apartment was, whether or not it was on the first floor or upstairs, and was playing games on his phone when he saw the woman. Brickner denied ever using "" and stated she had never heard of it prior to the investigation. She also denied using any other dating or meeting app to meet Young, and that she had never met him before, and that the sexual encounter was not consensual.

         ¶8. Young's cousin, Jasmine Haden, testified that Young was with her in Memphis, Tennessee, where she was living on the weekend Brickner was raped. Haden testified that Young was at her house in Memphis around 9:00 p.m. on June 28, 2015, and they had a cookout with several others that Sunday evening. Young introduced evidence of two Facebook posts Haden made. The first was posted on June 27, 2015, stating, "yay, my cousin here. Me so happy[, ]" and Haden had tagged Young in the post. The second was posted on June 29, 2015, stating, "I miss you already, cuz." There were no posts made on June 28, 2015, the date of the sexual assault.

         ¶9. Richard Meeks testified that he saw Young in Memphis, and the two had drinks at a club on Beale Street the evening of Saturday, June 27, 2015. Meeks testified that afterwards, they went back to his house and played dominoes. He also testified that the next day, Sunday, June 28, 2015, they were at a fish fry at Haden's house. Meeks testified that Young was still at Haden's home in Memphis when he left around 8:30 or 9:00 p.m.

         ¶10. The jury found Young guilty of sexual battery. He now appeals his conviction, arguing (1) he received ineffective assistance of counsel, and (2) the ...

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