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Grant v. State

Court of Appeals of Mississippi

April 30, 2019

MILTON GRANT A/K/A MILTON D. GRANT APPELLANT
v.
STATE OF MISSISSIPPI APPELLEE

          DATE OF JUDGMENT: 08/23/2017

          HINDS COUNTY CIRCUIT COURT, FIRST JUDICIAL DISTRICT, HON. JEFF WEILL SR. Judge.

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

          ATTORNEY FOR APPELLEE: OFFICE OF THE ATTORNEY GENERAL BY: ALICIA MARIE AINSWORTH.

          DISTRICT ATTORNEY: ROBERT SHULER SMITH

          BEFORE BARNES, C.J., WESTBROOKS AND LAWRENCE, JJ.

          LAWRENCE, J.

         ¶1. Milton Grant was convicted of receiving stolen property exceeding $1, 000 but less than $5, 000. The court sentenced Grant as a habitual offender to life imprisonment without eligibility for parole in the custody of the Mississippi Department of Corrections. Grant appealed, raising three issues: (1) whether the State presented sufficient evidence as to the value of the stolen property; (2) whether the State proved Grant's habitual offender status by competent evidence; and (3) whether Grant's sentence is unconstitutionally cruel and unusual. Because the State failed to present sufficient evidence as to the value of the stolen property, we reverse Grant's conviction and remand for re-sentencing for misdemeanor receipt of stolen property. Accordingly, we find his remaining issues moot.

         FACTS

         ¶2. On April 24, 2016, Christopher White was at the C&N convenience store in Jackson, Mississippi. White used his vehicle, a 2005 black Acura, to take patients to their appointments, and he was waiting on his manager to bring him the next day's routes. As White walked into the store to buy some cigarettes, Grant approached him and asked if he would like to buy some jewelry. White said "no." Grant then asked White if he would buy him some cigarettes. White said he would and walked into the store.

         ¶3. White walked out of the store and saw that his vehicle was gone. His phone and gun were in the vehicle. He ran around the corner to look for the vehicle but did not see it. White went back into the store to call his brother and then the police.

         ¶4. When White's manager showed up, White explained to him what happened. They rode together to White's house so that he could get another gun. When they got back to the store, the police still had not arrived. White called the police again, and an officer said someone would be there in ten minutes.

         ¶5. White tracked his cell phone through an app on his sister's phone and discovered that his phone was somewhere near Cherry Street in Jackson. White's manager agreed to take him to the phone's location. On his way there, White saw two police officers and asked if they could help him. The officers told White he would have to "call it in." White called the police, again, and his manager dropped him off at an Exxon gas station. White saw his brother coming, so he stopped him and got into his vehicle. They pulled into a Shell gas station and saw White's vehicle. White and his brother waited for the police for about fifteen minutes, but they never came. White saw his vehicle leave the gas station. White and his brother followed the vehicle through a neighborhood, then back to the gas station. As Grant was exiting White's vehicle, White ran up to the vehicle with his gun.[1] White saw his driver's side door open, so he planned to get in the vehicle and drive away. Grant "started reaching" toward the vehicle. White remembered that his gun was in the vehicle, so he shot Grant to avoid being shot with his own gun.[2]

         ¶6. Grant got back into White's vehicle to drive away but ran into an air-hose assembly. He tried to fight White through the driver's side window, but White hit him with the barrel of his gun. Grant eventually escaped and ran into the gas station. As White was leaving the gas station, Grant shot at his vehicle and busted the back windshield. White testified that the gun from his vehicle was gone.

         STANDARD OF REVIEW

         ¶7. "When th[e] Court reviews the sufficiency of evidence supporting a guilty verdict, we view the evidence in the light most favorable to the State and decide if rational jurors could have found the State proved each element of the crime." Lenoir v. State, 222 So.3d 273, 279 (¶25) (Miss. 2017). The relevant inquiry is "whether any rational trier of fact could have found the essential elements of the crime beyond a reasonable doubt." Jones v. State, 991 So.2d 629, 634 (¶11) (Miss. Ct. App. 2008) (internal quotation mark omitted).

         ANALYSIS

         ¶8. Grant argues that the State failed to present sufficient evidence as to the value of White's 2005 Acura. It is axiomatic that the State has the evidentiary burden in a criminal prosecution to prove every essential element of the crime charged beyond a reasonable doubt. Williams v. State, 111 So.3d 620, 624 (¶10) (Miss. 2013). This burden of proof "never shifts from the State to the defendant." Id. (quoting Sloan v. State, 368 So.2d 228, 229 (Miss. 1979)).

         ¶9. Mississippi Code Annotated section 97-17-70(4) (Rev. 2014) provides:

Any person who shall be convicted of receiving stolen property which exceeds One Thousand Dollars ($1, 000.00) or more, but less than Five Thousand Dollars ($5, 000.00) in value shall be punished by imprisonment in the custody of the State Department of Corrections for a term not exceeding five (5) years or by a fine of not more than Ten Thousand Dollars ($10, 000.00), or both.

         ¶10. "The supreme court has held that when there is no proof as to the value of an item, and value is an element of the crime, then the State has failed to carry its burden." Williamsv. State, 763 So.2d 186, 188 (Miss. Ct. App. 2000) (citing Henley v. State, 729 So.2d 232, 238 (Miss. 1998) (holding that value is an essential element of grand larceny and that the failure to prove value warrants reversal and remand for sentencing on petit larceny)). "The proper measure of value in a ...


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