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Young v. State

Court of Appeals of Mississippi

March 12, 2019

DERRICK YOUNG APPELLANT
v.
STATE OF MISSISSIPPI APPELLEE

          DATE OF JUDGMENT: 09/20/2017

          COURT FROM WHICH APPEALED: ATTALA COUNTY CIRCUIT COURT TRIAL JUDGE: HON. GEORGE M. MITCHELL JR.

          ATTORNEY FOR APPELLANT: OFFICE OF STATE PUBLIC DEFENDER BY: GEORGE T. HOLMES

          ATTORNEY FOR APPELLEE: OFFICE OF ATTORNEY GENERAL BY: KAYLYN HAVRILLA MCCLINTON

          DISTRICT ATTORNEY: DOUG EVANS

          BEFORE CARLTON, P.J., TINDELL AND McDONALD, JJ.

          CARLTON, P.J.

         ¶1. Young was indicted on one count of armed robbery, in violation of Mississippi Code Annotated section 97-3-79 (Rev. 2014), and one count of possession of a firearm by a felon, in violation of Mississippi Code Annotated section 97-37-5(1) (Rev. 2014). He was tried on September 14, 2017, in Attala County Circuit Court. During voir dire, Young was removed from the courtroom due to his outbursts and belligerent behavior that took place both before trial started and during voir dire in front of the jury panel.

         ¶2. Young's counsel moved for a mistrial on the grounds that the jury panel had seen some of Young's outbursts and had heard an altercation between Young and law enforcement officers when he was removed from the courtroom. The trial court denied the motion. Later, Young was brought back into the courtroom to testify on his own behalf and was allowed to stay in the courtroom for the remainder of trial.

         ¶3. The jury found Young guilty of both counts against him, and the trial court sentenced Young as a habitual offender to serve twenty-five years in the custody of the Mississippi Department of Corrections (MDOC) for the armed-robbery conviction and ten years for the felon-in-possession conviction, to run consecutively. Young appealed, asserting that (1) the trial court erred in removing him from the courtroom; and (2) the trial court erred by denying his motion for a mistrial. Finding no error, we affirm.

         STATEMENT OF FACTS AND PROCEDURAL HISTORY

         ¶4. As detailed below, [1] Young was removed from the courtroom after voir dire had begun due to a number of his outbursts before trial and during the beginning of voir dire. Before voir dire resumed, Young's counsel moved for a mistrial on the grounds that the jury panel had seen some of the defendant's outbursts and had overheard a scuffle between Young and law enforcement officers outside the courtroom when Young was removed from the courtroom. The trial court held its ruling in abeyance until voir dire was completed. After voir dire, the motion for mistrial was revisited and denied by the trial court. The jury was selected, and the State presented its case. Young was brought back into the courtroom to testify on his behalf and was allowed to stay for the remainder of the trial upon his assurance to the trial court that he would behave.

         ¶5. The State's first witness was the cashier on duty at the Blue Sky Exxon in Kosciusko on January 29, 2016, around 1:00 a.m. She testified that, at that time, two masked men with guns entered the store, ordered her to open the cash register, and then took the entire cash drawer, which amounted to around $300. The cashier testified that the men then left the store, got in a vehicle, and left the scene.

         ¶6. Officer Danny Groves, of the Kosciusko Police Department, was the State's next witness. He testified that the driver of the vehicle, Beatrice Davis, was eventually found with the car a few miles down the road, and she was taken into custody. Officer Bradley Fancher, who was working for the Kosciusko Police Department at the time, testified that he arrived at the scene, and then recovered a handgun, two masks, and a white glove from the getaway vehicle.

         ¶7. Beatrice Davis then testified, stating that she was with Derrick Young (the defendant) and Antonio Gant the evening of January 28th, and they talked about "hit[ting] a lick," meaning "get[ting] some money." She testified that Young and Gant robbed the Blue Sky Exxon in Kosciusko.

         ¶8. Investigator Greg Collins with the Kosciusko Police Department testified that Young and Gant were arrested based upon the information provided by Davis, and their DNA was collected to compare to the DNA found in the two masks. The State's forensic scientist, Brandi Goodman, testified that the two masks recovered from the vehicle contained DNA from Young and Gant.

         ¶9. As noted above, Young was then brought into the courtroom to testify on his own behalf. He testified that he was not involved with the robbery of the Blue Sky Exxon in Kosciusko on January 29, 2016.

         ¶10. The jury found Young guilty on both counts against him, Count I, armed robbery, and Count II, felon in possession of a firearm. The trial court sentenced Young as a habitual offender under Mississippi Code Annotated section 99-19-81 (Rev. 2015) to twenty-five years in the custody in MDOC for the armed robbery conviction and ten years for the felon-in-possession conviction, to run consecutively. Young filed a motion for a judgment notwithstanding the verdict, or in the alternative, for a new trial. The trial court denied it. Young appealed.

         DISCUSSION

         I. Young's Removal from the Courtroom

         ¶11. Young asserts that his Sixth Amendment right to be present at his trial was violated because (1) his conduct in the courtroom was not so disruptive that it was necessary to remove him, and (2) even if his removal was justified, the trial court erred because it did not tell him that he could return to the courtroom if he assured the court of future ...


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