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Waldon v. State

Court of Appeals of Mississippi

December 11, 2018

LARRY D. WALDON A/K/A LARRY WALDON A/K/A LARRY WALTON A/K/A LARRY D. WALTON APPELLANT
v.
STATE OF MISSISSIPPI APPELLEE

          DATE OF JUDGMENT: 03/21/2017

          FORREST COUNTY CIRCUIT COURT HON. ROBERT B. HELFRICH

          ATTORNEYS FOR APPELLANT: OFFICE OF STATE PUBLIC DEFENDER BY: HUNTER NOLAN AIKENS BENJAMIN A. SUBER GEORGE T. HOLMES

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

          DISTRICT ATTORNEY: PATRICIA A. THOMAS BURCHELL

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

          FAIR, J.

         ¶1. A Forrest County jury found Larry D. Waldon guilty of grand larceny. The trial court sentenced him, as a habitual offender, to ten years of incarceration without eligibility for parole or early release. Finding no error, we affirm.

         FACTS

         ¶2. On November 23, 2015, Geoffrey McGowan drove his 2011 Chevy Tahoe to a friend's house. While there, he left his vehicle running in front of the house. When he came out, his vehicle was missing. He called 9-1-1, and Officer Eric Mitcham responded. At 8 p.m., Officer Mitcham arrived at 1001 Mamie Street in Hattiesburg, Mississippi, where McGowan indicated he was located. He and McGowan got in touch with OnStar, [1] and the service located the vehicle within fifteen minutes. OnStar was able to control the speed of the vehicle, and prevent it from going faster than five miles per hour. After a slow chase by Officer Mitcham and other officers, the vehicle was stopped, and its driver, Waldon, was arrested.

         ¶3. On March 20, 2017, after a trial, a jury returned a guilty verdict, and thereafter he was sentenced. Waldon now appeals. For the following reasons, we affirm.

         DISCUSSION

         A. Sufficiency of the Evidence

         ¶4. Waldon first asserts that the evidence was insufficient to support the conviction. Waldon argues that McGowan admitted lying to the police regarding his actual location, his reason for being there, and the person whom he was visiting. This admission, he argues, "casts a strong shadow on [McGowan's] veracity for the truth," and his testimony alone should be insufficient. In addition, Waldon argues, that when questioned, he had explained that he had rented the vehicle from an individual named David Wilson at the nearby Wendy's parking lot earlier that day. Therefore, he argues, the jury should accept his version of the events over McGowan's testimony.

         ¶5. At trial, McGowan testified that he went to Chase Neil's house on Mamie Street. McGowan testified that he went there to purchase marijuana. He stated that he went inside for no more than five minutes, leaving his vehicle running in the front of the residence because he was having battery trouble. He explained that he owned the stolen vehicle, a silver 2011 Chevy Tahoe. He testified that he was embarrassed about the reason he was at Neil's house, so he informed the police that he was visiting a friend named "John" at 1001 Mamie Street.

         ¶6. On cross-examination, McGowan testified that he was on Mamie Street when the incident occurred but that he did not remember the exact address. He testified that he initially told the police that he was at 1001 Mamie Street and later told the police he was actually on the corner of Hutchinson and Mamie when the vehicle was stolen. He admitted that when he first talked to the police that he did not tell them that he was on Mamie Street to purchase marijuana. He testified that he made up the alias "John" and the address 1001 Mamie Street to protect his friend.

         ¶7. Officer Mitcham testified that he was working as a patrol officer for the Hattiesburg Police Department on the evening of November 23 and was dispatched to 1001 Mamie Street, arriving around 8 p.m. When he arrived, he spoke with McGowan. Officer Mitcham explained that he and McGowan called OnStar, and OnStar was able to locate the vehicle. Officer Mitcham was advised that the vehicle was going northbound on Highway 42 and that OnStar had disabled the vehicle so it could not go over five miles per hour. Officer Mitcham, along with several other officers, became involved in a slow chase to recover the vehicle.

         ¶8. Officer Mitcham stated that the driver did not stop even though officers were giving loud verbal commands over their PA system, police lights were flashing, and the sirens were on. Officers followed Waldon for seven or eight miles. Officer Mitcham then testified that he and Officer Chadra Daniels drove in front of the vehicle and deployed a spike strip. Officer Mitcham explained that Lieutenant Mark Denny then ran up to the vehicle, which then had a flat tire; they broke the glass, grabbed the steering wheel, and guided the vehicle into a ditch on the side of the road. Officer Mitcham identified Waldon as the driver, pointing to him in open court. Officer Mitcham confirmed there was no other person in the vehicle.

         ¶9. Officer Mitcham continued to testify about the initial statement McGowan reported-he was at his friend John's house and that he was only there for about five minutes. Officer Mitcham explained at trial that he went back to speak with McGowan approximately an hour after their first meeting and that McGowan informed him that there was in fact no friend named "John" and that his friend did not really live at 1001 Mamie Street, but instead he lived a few houses down the street near the corner of Mamie and Hutchinson. Officer Mitcham stated that he never received the name of the friend but that McGowan admitted he was there to purchase marijuana.

         ¶10. During his testimony, Officer Mitcham explained that his dash camera captured footage from the chase. Officer Mitcham also noted that in his investigation, no one, to his knowledge, with or without a camera, witnessed the vehicle being stolen.

         ¶11. Detective Tamara Moore was the on-call detective that night and testified at trial. She arrived where the pursuit ended on Highway 49 at approximately 9 p.m. Detective Moore spoke to Waldon, who was then in custody. Waldon waived his Miranda[2] rights and told Detective Moore that he rented the vehicle from his friend, David Wilson, in the Wendy's parking lot ...


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