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Courtney v. State

Supreme Court of Mississippi, En Banc

May 2, 2019

MATTHEW BLAKE COURTNEY a/k/a MATTHEW COURTNEY
v.
STATE OF MISSISSIPPI

          DATE OF JUDGMENT: 08/17/2017

          GREENE COUNTY CIRCUIT COURT HON. KATHY KING JACKSON, TRIAL JUDGE

          TRIAL COURT ATTORNEYS: MICHAEL G. DYKES ROBERT J. KNOCHEL DAVID C. FUTCH

          ATTORNEYS FOR APPELLANT: OFFICE OF STATE PUBLIC DEFENDER BY: MOLLIE M. McMILLIN GEORGE T. HOLMES

          ATTORNEY FOR APPELLEE: OFFICE OF THE ATTORNEY GENERAL BY: KAYLYN HAVRILLA McCLINTON

          DISTRICT ATTORNEY: ANTHONY LAWRENCE, III

          COLEMAN, JUSTICE

         ¶1. Matthew Blake Courtney appeals his conviction of one count of sexual battery in violation of Mississippi Code Section 97-3-95(1)(a) (Rev. 2014). The trial court sentenced Courtney to serve a period of twenty-five years. Courtney argues that the statute of limitations barred his sexual battery conviction. Alternatively, Courtney argues that the delay in bringing him to trial violated his Sixth Amendment constitutional right to a speedy trial. The record is devoid of Courtney having raised the statute of limitations argument before now. Accordingly, Courtney has waived the defense. As to the alternative argument of speedy trial, the Court looks at the traditional speedy-trial analysis and holds that the State did not deny Courtney a speedy trial. Therefore, we affirm Courtney's conviction and sentence.

         FACTS AND PROCEDURAL HISTORY

         ¶2. On or about November 2, 2012, the victim and her boyfriend went to a party at twenty-one-year-old Dustin McLeod's house in Greene County. The victim and her boyfriend were both fifteen years old. They and their friends shared a half-gallon of liquor and became highly intoxicated at the party. The victim passed out under a tree. Her very drunk boyfriend enlisted the help of Harley Prentiss, McLeod, and Courtney to move the victim from the ground to a small camper behind the trailer home on the property. After the victim was placed on the bed in the camper, her boyfriend laid down beside her; he did not think anyone else was inside the camper with them. He then became sick and exited the camper to vomit. He later testified that Courtney was outside the camper and told him not to go back inside since he was sick. When the victim's boyfriend attempted to get back in the camper, someone on the inside pulled the door shut, and the boyfriend heard a male laughing inside the camper.

         ¶3. When the boyfriend awoke before dawn, he entered the camper and saw the victim lying on the bed and Prentiss asleep on the couch. When Prentiss woke up around seven o'clock in the morning, he and the boyfriend realized that the victim was unresponsive. Prentiss told the victim's boyfriend that he and the victim needed to leave. Allen, Prentiss, and another partygoer dropped the two fifteen-year-olds off at a cemetery. The boyfriend contacted the victim's sister, who immediately came to pick them up. According to the victim's sister, when she arrived, she thought that the victim was dead and noticed that while the victim's clothes were on, they were not fastened as they should have been. The victim's sister rushed her across the street to the hospital; caregivers transferred her to the University of South Alabama Hospital in Mobile, Alabama.

         ¶4. While the victim was in a medically induced coma in Mobile, doctors noticed injuries consistent with sexual contact; the hospital contacted law enforcement. A rape kit was performed, and stains on the victim's jeans were tested against DNA samples from several partygoers, including Courtney. One sample was consistent with Prentiss's DNA; Courtney's and McLeod's DNA could not be excluded from a different sample.

         ¶5. McLeod testified at Courtney's trial. Prentiss told McLeod and Courtney that Prentiss had sex with the victim after carrying her to the camper. McLeod said that Courtney walked to the camper and said that he "was going in next." McLeod further testified that he saw the camper rock back and forth like it did earlier when Prentiss was inside. McLeod said that, when Courtney was finished, Courtney exited the camper and told him that it was his turn to "go get you some now." McLeod stated that Allen went in next and that McLeod went in after that.

         ¶6. The victim denied consenting to engage in sex with anyone at the party and testified that she had no memory of the assaults. The last memory she had from the party was sitting under the tree with her friends.

         1. The Youth Court Proceedings

         ¶7. On the day of the crime, Courtney had been seventeen years old for two weeks. DNA testing results implicating Courtney were returned on February 20, 2013. More than a year later, on May 2, 2014, a petition was filed in the youth court stating that, "on or about 11/02/2012, in Greene County, Mississippi, Matthew Blake Courtney did purposefully, knowingly, and unlawfully commit the act of sexual battery of another person without his or her consent in violation of § 97-3-95(1)(a) . . . Youth did willfully unlawfully, and feloniously engage in sexual penetration of [L.C.] without her consent." Three days later, a motion to transfer the petition to the circuit court was filed in youth court. Thirteen months after the motion was filed, on June 30, 2015, the youth court ordered the transfer, and Courtney's case was transferred to circuit court.

         2. Circuit Court Proceedings

         ¶8. After Courtney's case was certified to circuit court, an arrest warrant was issued on July 8, 2015. On September 18, 2015, a Greene County grand jury indicted Courtney for sexual battery. Courtney was scheduled for arraignment in November, but the circuit court ordered an agreed continuance until December so that Courtney could retain counsel. The record shows confusion about who was representing Courtney, and the scheduled arraignment in December was further continued to February 2016. In February, Courtney still lacked counsel. The circuit court then appointed David Futch. The circuit court set a status hearing for April 7, 2016, and trial for May 23, 2016. Courtney then waived arraignment on April 7, 2016, and pleaded not guilty.

         ¶9. Courtney attempted to invoke his right to a speedy trial on May 11, 2016, by including it in the body of his discovery request. Twelve days later, Courtney and the State agreed to a continuance, scheduling trial for August 15, 2016. On the scheduled day of trial, the circuit court granted a joint ore tenus motion for additional time to prepare for trial, and a status hearing was set for September 15, 2016, with trial scheduled for November 14, 2016. On September 14, 2016, Futch filed a motion to withdraw as counsel. A day later, the circuit court granted the parties' second joint continuance motion, citing ongoing plea negotiations. A day later, Courtney filed the following three motions: (1) a motion requesting funds for an independent DNA test and DNA expert; (2) a motion to sever his trial from that of his codefendants; and (3) a motion for dismissal for speedy-trial violations.

         ¶10. While Courtney's motions were pending, the trial date remained in November 2016. Then, the State and Courtney agreed to another order of continuance, citing the need for additional time to prepare for trial. Motion hearings were set for December 2016 and trial for February 27, 2017. Motion hearings were rescheduled to the next term. On February 27, 2017, Courtney made an ore tenus motion for a continuance for additional time, and trial was again rescheduled for May 15, 2017. On April 21, 2017, the circuit court denied Courtney's speedy-trial motion. On May 15, 2017, Courtney again moved for a continuance. Trial took place on August 15, 2017, and the jury convicted Courtney.

         STANDARD OF REVIEW

         ¶11. The Court "applies a de novo standard of review to the statute of limitations." Fletcher v. Lyles, 999 So.2d 1271, 1276 (¶ 20) (Miss. 2009) (citing Ellis v. Anderson Tully Co., 727 So.2d 716, 718 (¶ 14) (Rev. 1998)). The standard of review of a speedy-trial claim encompasses a review of the facts and questions whether the trial delay arose from good cause. DeLoach v. State, 722 So.2d 512, 516 (¶ 12) (Miss. 1998). The Court will uphold a decision based on substantial, credible evidence. Folk v. State, 576 So.2d 1243, 1247 (Miss. 1991). The State further "bears the burden of proving good cause for a speedy trial delay, and thus bears the risk of nonpersuasion." DeLoach, 722 So.2d at 516 (¶ 12) (citing Flores v. State, 574 So.2d 1314, 1318 (Miss. 1990)).

         DISCUSSION

         I. The Statute of Limitations

         ¶12. Both parties on appeal agree that a two-year statute of limitations applies to the crime at issue. See Miss. Code Ann. § 99-1-5 (Rev. 2015). The parties disagree as to how or if the statute of limitations was affected by the youth court proceedings. Courtney argues that, because he was not arrested for sexual battery until July 8, 2015, a date two years and eight months after the crime on November 2, 2012, the State was barred from prosecuting him. Courtney contends that the statute of limitations had expired on November 3, 2014, before he was arrested or indicted. The State counters that the intake petition for the youth court proceedings served as an indictment against Courtney on May 2, 2014, or fewer than two years from the date of the crime. However, statutes of limitation are affirmative defenses that can be waived if not raised. Conerly v. State, 607 So.2d 1153, 1158 (ΒΆ 17) (Miss. 1992) (holding that statutes of ...


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