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Grassaree v. State

Court of Appeals of Mississippi

October 16, 2018

AKEM GRASSAREE A/K/A AKEM GRASSEREE APPELLANT
v.
STATE OF MISSISSIPPI APPELLEE

          DATE OF JUDGMENT: 07/10/2017

          LOWNDES COUNTY CIRCUIT COURT HON. LARRY E. ROBERTS, JUDGE

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

          ATTORNEY FOR APPELLEE: OFFICE OF THE ATTORNEY GENERAL BY: LAURA HOGAN TEDDER

          DISTRICT ATTORNEY: SCOTT WINSTON COLOM

          BEFORE LEE, C.J., FAIR AND WILSON, JJ.

          FAIR, J.

         ¶1. Akem Grassaree appeals his conviction of possession of cocaine. He argues that a jury instruction given on constructive possession improperly instructed the jury to presume an essential element of the crime. We find the jury was properly instructed and affirm.

         FACTS

         ¶2. On December 16, 2013, Officer Mike Delaney with the Lowndes County Sheriff's Department performed a traffic stop on a white Toyota Sequoia with no license plate traveling on Highway 45 South. He testified that as he approached the vehicle, he could see two people inside, and he could smell marijuana. The driver was Akem Grassaree, and the passenger was his brother, Roman. Grassaree could not provide a driver's license. Officer Delaney ran a search for Grassaree's name and found that Grassaree had an outstanding warrant. Officer Delaney asked Grassaree to exit the vehicle and placed him in custody. Officer Delaney then searched the vehicle.

         ¶3. Officer Delaney testified that he started searching the driver's side of the vehicle and found a small bag of what he believed to be marijuana, a small straw with white powder on it, and a small bag of white powder that was later confirmed to be .14 grams of cocaine. Grassaree denied knowledge of the cocaine, instead saying that he had just purchased the vehicle. Roman likewise denied the cocaine was his.

         ¶4. Grassaree had purchased the vehicle a week earlier from Tedrick Liddell. Liddell testified that he owned a wrecker service and had been called to tow a white Toyota Sequoia that had been wrecked into a small creek full of water. Liddell took possession of the vehicle when the previous owner did not want it back. Liddell testified that the previous owner came and retrieved his belongings from the vehicle. Liddell then took steps to repair and dry out the vehicle. He removed the third-row seats and folded up the middle seat, and he sent the vehicle to get a new motor. Liddell then sold the vehicle to Grassaree. Liddell testified he did not look or put anything under the front seat.

         ¶5. In April 2015, Grassaree was indicted on one count of possession of more than a tenth but less than two grams of cocaine. Miss. Code Ann. § 41-29-139(c)(1)(B) (Rev. 2013). The case proceeded to trial under a theory of constructive possession. On July 10, 2017, Grassaree was found guilty as charged. He was sentenced to three years in the custody of the Mississippi Department of Corrections (MDOC), fined $1, 000, and ordered to attend long-term therapeutic alcohol and ...


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