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Grace v. State

Court of Appeals of Mississippi

April 30, 2019

CHRISTOPHER GRACE A/K/A CHRISTOPHER LASHAWN GRACE A/K/A CHRISTOPHER LASHAUN GRACE A/K/A CHRIS GRACE A/K/A CHRIS LASHAWN GRACE APPELLANT
v.
STATE OF MISSISSIPPI APPELLEE

          DATE OF JUDGMENT: 10/18/2017

          KEMPER COUNTY CIRCUIT COURT HON. LARRY E. ROBERTS

          ATTORNEY FOR APPELLANT: GEORGE H. SPINKS.

          ATTORNEY FOR APPELLEE: OFFICE OF THE ATTORNEY GENERAL BY: SCOTT STUART.

          DISTRICT ATTORNEY: BILBO MITCHELL

          BEFORE CARLTON, P.J., LAWRENCE AND C. WILSON, JJ.

          C. WILSON, J.

         ¶1. A Kemper County Circuit Court jury convicted Christopher Grace (Christopher) of two counts of armed robbery and one count of felony fleeing or eluding a law enforcement officer in a motor vehicle. As a result of his conviction, Christopher filed a motion for a judgment notwithstanding the verdict (JNOV) and a motion for a new trial. The circuit court denied the motions. Christopher appeals, asserting that there is insufficient evidence to sustain his convictions and that the jury's verdict is contrary to the overwhelming weight of the evidence. We find no error and affirm.

         FACTS AND PROCEDURAL HISTORY

         ¶2. On August 14, 2015, around 11:30 a.m., Christopher and his uncle, LaBrandon Grace (LaBrandon), drove in LaBrandon's green Lincoln Town Car to the Citizens Bank of Philadelphia in Scooba, Mississippi. They drove around the bank several times waiting for bank customers to leave. The Graces eventually parked toward the back of the bank's parking lot. LaBrandon subsequently left the vehicle and entered the bank wearing a mask over his face and carrying a .40 caliber pistol. Once inside the bank, LaBrandon brandished the pistol and demanded money from the bank tellers. The first teller, Tracy Jones, handed LaBrandon $2, 931. The second teller, Peggy Fairchild, handed LaBrandon $3, 258. LaBrandon pointed the pistol at a third teller, Ken Aust, but did not ask him for money. LaBrandon ran out of the bank and jumped into the passenger side of the green Lincoln Town Car. Christopher, who was driving, sped off.

         ¶3. Debra Jenkins, a bank customer, entered and exited the bank prior to the robbery. As she entered the bank, Jenkins saw a green-colored Lincoln Town Car parked in the parking lot with two male passengers in the vehicle. When she exited the bank, Jenkins saw the same vehicle still parked in the parking lot. When Jenkins heard about the robbery, she went back to the bank and provided a description of the vehicle to a law enforcement officer on the scene. Jenkins also provided the officer information about the whereabouts of the vehicle.

         ¶4. The vehicle was subsequently located on Highway 16. Kemper County law enforcement officers were dispatched and proceeded to the location. Deputy Allen Griffin identified the vehicle and initiated a traffic stop by turning on his emergency blue lights and siren. Despite the officer's signal, Christopher did not stop the vehicle but sped up instead. Christopher attempted to pass an 18-wheeler truck via the right shoulder but lost control and wrecked the vehicle. The vehicle slid down an embankment and into some bushes.

         ¶5. Christopher and LaBrandon exited the vehicle and began to run. Deputy Griffin yelled, "Police. Halt. Stop." Both men continued to run. Deputy Griffin then fired one shot into the air. At that point, Christopher and LaBrandon "hit the ground." They were both apprehended and taken into custody. Law enforcement officers later returned to the scene where they located both the pistol and the stolen money.

         ¶6. That night, after being Mirandized, [1] Christopher gave the ...


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