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Peoples v. State

Court of Appeals of Mississippi

September 18, 2018

TAMIRA PEOPLES A/K/A TAMIRA YVONNE PEOPLES A/K/A TAMIRA SULLIVAN APPELLANT
v.
STATE OF MISSISSIPPI APPELLE

          DATE OF JUDGMENT: 01/27/2017

          FORREST COUNTY CIRCUIT COURT HON. ROBERT B. HELFRICH TRIAL JUDGE.

          ATTORNEYS FOR APPELLANT: OFFICE OF STATE PUBLIC DEFENDER BY: BENJAMIN ALLEN SUBER GEORGE T. HOLMES MOLLIE M. MCMILLIN

          ATTORNEY FOR APPELLEE: OFFICE OF THE ATTORNEY GENERAL BY: ABBIE EASON KOONCE

          DISTRICT ATTORNEY: PATRICIA A. THOMAS BURCHELL

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

          WESTBROOKS, J.

         ¶1. Tamira Yvonne Peoples was indicted by the Grand Jury of Forrest County for murder in violation of Mississippi Code Annotated section 97-3-19 (Rev. 2014) and aggravated assault in violation of Mississippi Code Annotated section 97-3-7 (Rev. 2014). Following a jury trial, Peoples was convicted on both counts and sentenced to life imprisonment for murder and twenty years for aggravated assault, with the sentences to run consecutively. Peoples filed a motion for a judgment notwithstanding the verdict (JNOV), or in the alternative, for a new trial, which the trial court denied. Peoples appeals and asserts that the evidence was insufficient to support her murder conviction, the verdict was against the overwhelming weight of the evidence, the trial court erred in not granting a mistrial, and the State failed to preserve evidence. After review of the record, we affirm.

         FACTS AND PROCEDURAL HISTORY

         ¶2. At trial, testimony showed that Rotanda Gholar and her daughter, Samina, lived next door to Peoples in an apartment complex in Forrest County, Mississippi. Rotanda and Samina were involved in an ongoing conflict with Peoples. Rotanda stated that she contacted "code enforcement" on Peoples because Peoples's inoperable car was taking up a parking spot. Rotanda also complained about Peoples's loud music and hammering, testifying that she requested to change apartments but was denied. Robert Sybert, an officer with the Hattiesburg Police Department (HPD), testified that Rotanda filed charges against Peoples for allegedly keying her car in their apartment complex.

         ¶3. In November 2012, a person using an unknown number repeatedly called only to hang up when Rotanda answered. Peoples testified she repeatedly called Rotanda and Samina because she was upset at their poor treatment of her and her son. Peoples stated that she received a text message stating that she would contact the police if the calls did not stop. Later that day, Rotanda and Samina were leaving to go look at another apartment in a different apartment complex when Peoples shot Rotanda as she was walking out of her front door. Rotanda was able to run to safety down the street from her apartment. Peoples stated that she shot Samina as she was running up the stairs because she believed Samina had a weapon. But, evidence later showed that Samina had been shot in the head. Moreover, no weapon was ever retrieved from their apartment.

         ¶4. Kendall Walker, a neighbor in the same apartment complex, testified that he heard gunshots and walked outside to investigate the noise. Walker stated that he saw Peoples holding a gun and her son walking out of Rotanda's apartment. Walker also stated that he followed the blood trail and encountered Rotanda. Rotanda then asked Walker to go to her apartment and check on Samina. When he arrived at Rotanda's apartment, Walker testified that Samina appeared to be dead. Walker also saw Peoples flee in Rotanda's car and wave the gun in the air. Peoples later drove the car to Ohio and was apprehended after an alert was issued for the whereabouts of Rotanda's car. Deputy Jeff Smith, a deputy with the Lorain, Ohio Police Department, testified that he discovered Rotanda's car abandoned in a Wal-Mart parking lot.

         ¶5. At trial, Peoples testified that someone was coming into her apartment at night, raping her and beating up her three-year old son, but she did not provide any proof to substantiate her claims.[1] Milan Hoze, the former director of the Hattiesburg Housing Authority, testified that Peoples had lived in another apartment complex and made similar accusations. Members of the Hattiesburg Police Department confirmed that Peoples had filed police reports with similar accusations.

         ¶6. Peoples was convicted of aggravated assault and murder and was sentenced to life in prison for murder and twenty years for aggravated assault. Peoples's JNOV motion, or motion for new trial, was denied by the circuit court and she timely appeals.

         DISCUSSION

         I.Whether there was sufficient evidence to support ...


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