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