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Robinson v. State

Court of Appeals of Mississippi

September 25, 2018

WILLIE SOLOMAN ROBINSON A/K/A WILLIE S. ROBINSON A/K/A WILLIE ROBINSON APPELLANT
v.
STATE OF MISSISSIPPI APPELLEE

          DATE OF JUDGMENT: 05/17/2017

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

          ATTORNEYS FOR APPELLANT: OFFICE OF STATE PUBLIC DEFENDER BY: W. DANIEL HINCHCLIFF GEORGE T. HOLMES

          ATTORNEY FOR APPELLEE: OFFICE OF THE ATTORNEY GENERAL BY: JEFFREY A. KLINGFUSS

          DISTRICT ATTORNEY: JOEL SMITH

          BEFORE IRVING, P.J., CARLTON AND GREENLEE, JJ.

          IRVING, P.J.

         ¶1. Willie Soloman Robinson was convicted of first-degree arson as a habitual offender following a jury trial in the Circuit Court of Harrison County, Mississippi, First Judicial District. He was sentenced to fifteen years in the custody of the Mississippi Department of Corrections (MDOC). Robinson now appeals, asserting two issues: (1) whether he was wrongly indicted for first-degree arson when the evidence was only sufficient to support an indictment for attempted arson; and (2) whether the verdict was against the weight of the evidence. For the reasons discussed in this opinion, we reject Robinson's arguments and affirm.

         FACTS

         ¶2. As of March 20, 2015, Robinson had been renting, for about a month, an extra bedroom in Alice Crandle's house in Gulfport, Mississippi. At some point that day, Robinson and Alice got into an argument, and Alice demanded that Robinson move out. Alice testified at trial that as her two adult sons, Damien and Cedric, were helping Robinson move his things out of her house, she heard Robinson say that he was going to burn her house down. Cedric also testified that Robinson told him that he was going to burn the house down. Cedric further testified that Robinson called Robinson's supervisor and told him that he would not be coming in the next day because he would be in jail. Robinson then called his uncle, who picked him up from the house. Cedric maintained that after leaving his mother's house, he saw Robinson and Robinson's uncle at a gas station. Finally, Cedric testified that about forty-five minutes after he saw Robinson at the gas station, Cedric's mother called him and told him that her house was on fire and that he "jumped in [his] car and [] flew to her house" and discovered fire "all along her front porch and on the back door . . . on the side of the house." He used a bucket to douse water on the flames and extinguish the fire before going to find help.

         ¶3. Alice testified that around 2:00 a.m. on March 21, 2015, she was in bed when she heard Robinson's voice outside her bedroom window. She got out of bed and looked out the window to see flames on both the front porch and at the back of the house, blocking the front and back doors-the only two doors to her home. Alice then called Cedric.

         ¶4. Officer Brantley Cumberland with the Gulfport Police Department testified that he was patrolling the area around Alice's house at 2:30 a.m. on March 21, 2015, when he was flagged down by Cedric. Cedric informed Officer Cumberland that his mother's house had been set on fire and led Officer Cumberland to the location. Officer Cumberland testified that, upon arriving, he "observed that there was smoke coming from the porch where it actually appeared that the porch had been set on fire." At this point, the fire "was not actively burning, but there was still [sic] burnt embers still smoking coming from the porch." Officer Cumberland made the following observations with respect to the front porch:

The porch, which has an Astro Turf[-]type material on it, there were multiple spots on the porch to where it was burnt down to the wood. The front door, you could see the base of the door where it looked as if a fire had been placed at the base of the door. There was charring going up the door. You could observe the roof above the door where it ...

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