ROMAN HARVELL A/K/A ROMAN OBRYON HARVELL A/K/A ROMAN HARVILLE APPELLANT
STATE OF MISSISSIPPI APPELLEE
OF JUDGMENT: 06/01/2017
PRENTISS COUNTY CIRCUIT COURT HON. THOMAS J. GARDNER III
ATTORNEY FOR APPELLANT: THOMAS ORVILLE COOLEY
ATTORNEY FOR APPELLEE: OFFICE OF THE ATTORNEY GENERAL BY:
BARBARA WAKELAND BYRD
DISTRICT ATTORNEY: J. TRENT KELLY
Roman Harvell had two different drug charges pending against
him. Both were on the circuit court's docket for trial on
May 30, 2017. At some point during jury selection on May 30,
Harvell's lawyer realized that he had misunderstood which
case was about to go to trial. Counsel moved for a
continuance, but the judge denied the last-minute request.
The jury found Harvell guilty of drug trafficking, and the
court sentenced him to serve forty years in the custody of
the Department of Corrections with ten years suspended.
On appeal, Harvell argues that the trial judge abused his
discretion by denying a continuance. He also argues that he
is entitled to a new trial because one of the two assistant
district attorneys who tried the case previously represented
a defense witness. Finally, Harvell argues that there is
insufficient evidence to support the jury's verdict and
his conviction. We find no error and affirm.
AND PROCEDURAL HISTORY
On September 28, 2016, a confidential informant (CI) went to
Roman Harvell's apartment to buy drugs. Investigator Jason
Chism of the Baldwyn Police Department (BPD) testified that
he knew that the apartment was Harvell's because he had
been there on prior search warrants and because the utilities
had been in Harvell's name since 2011. The CI had offered
to make a drug buy in order to avoid being charged with child
Before the CI went to the apartment, Chism made certain that
she did not have any drugs on her person. Chism, Officer Adam
Cook, and Officer Chris Gilland monitored the CI's
interactions in the apartment via a three-way phone call.
Chism testified that the BPD did not have equipment for audio
or video recording, so they hid a cell phone on the CI and
kept an open phone line during her time in the apartment.
Chism stated that he was familiar with Harvell's voice
because he had spoken to Harvell numerous times in the past.
Chism testified that he recognized Harvell's voice during
the interaction with the CI. When the CI left Harvell's
apartment and returned to meet Chism, she had a substance
that appeared to be meth. According to Chism, the CI
"didn't buy [the meth], but was given some." A
field test confirmed that it was, in fact, meth.
Chism then obtained a search warrant for Harvell's
apartment. The underlying facts and circumstances that Chism
submitted in support of his application for a warrant
included evidence against Harvell that went back several
years. However, the primary basis for the warrant was that
the CI had obtained meth from Harvell at his apartment that
By the time Chism obtained a search warrant, Harvell had left
his apartment. Officer Anthony Buse was on the lookout for
Harvell. Buse knew that Harvell had a suspended driver's
license, and when he saw Harvell driving, he pulled Harvell
over. Buse detained Harvell and took him back to his
apartment. Chism and Cook were already in the process of
searching the apartment.
After sweeping the apartment for weapons and other occupants,
Chism and Cook began to search the apartment's
"master bedroom." Chism testified, without
objection, that he had been to the apartment twice before on
prior search warrants. Chism testified that the master
bedroom was Harvell's bedroom and that Harvell had
various "belongings" in it, including "power
tools" and clothes. Officers also recovered bank cards
and "identification" that belonged to Harvell from
the bedroom and the kitchen.
When officers brought a drug-detection dog into the master
bedroom, the dog "hit" on the closet door. The
door's handle had been removed and replaced with a
deadbolt. Chism asked Harvell if he had the key, but Harvell
did not answer, so the police pried the door open with a tire
iron. Inside the closet, they found a small safe that was
bolted to the concrete slab of the house. The safe was
equipped with a fingerprint lock, so the police used the tire
iron to pry it open too. The safe contained a clear plastic
bag containing what appeared to be meth. An analyst from the
Tupelo Police Crime Lab testified and confirmed that the
substance was 91.57 grams of meth. Gilland testified that
this was an uncommonly large quantity of meth-more than they
Chism testified that a man named Tony Agnew sometimes stayed
at Harvell's apartment and that "different people
would always be in and out over there." Chism did not
know whether anyone else was staying there at the time of
Harvell's arrest, but he conceded that there "was a
very good possibility" of it. When officers initially
entered the apartment, they found a woman they believed to be
Harvell's aunt. Chism also acknowledged that another CI
had been to the apartment on a different occasion and had
bought drugs from someone other than Harvell.
Chism testified that Harvell's apartment was
"constantly" under surveillance. As noted above, he
testified, without objection, that he had been there on prior
search warrants. During one search, the police found meth,
which resulted in a separate indictment against Harvell.
During another search, they found drug paraphernalia.
After the State rested, Harvell called one witness, Daniel
Duvall. Duvall testified that he had known Harvell since high
school. Duvall also testified that he and Chism "had
run-ins on the road before." Specifically, Duvall
testified that Chism arrested him in March 2014 for driving
under the influence. A few days after his arrest, Duvall met
with Chism and signed a written statement, prepared by Chism,
in which he stated that he had bought meth from Harvell.
Duvall acknowledged signing the statement, but he claimed
that he "didn't read over it" and "was
under pressure not to" read over it. Duvall denied
telling Chism that he bought meth from Harvell. Duvall's
testimony did not have anything to do with Harvell's 2016
arrest or indictment. It appears that Duvall's testimony
was intended to suggest to the jury that Chism was out to get
The jury found Harvell guilty of trafficking in a controlled
substance. The court sentenced Harvell to serve forty years
in the custody of the Department of Corrections, with ten
years suspended and five years of post-release supervision.
The court also imposed a fine of ...