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Moore v. State

Supreme Court of Mississippi, En Banc

May 30, 2019

GEROME MOORE a/k/a GEROME MONTREAL MOORE
v.
STATE OF MISSISSIPPI

          DATE OF JUDGMENT: 03/02/2017

          HINDS COUNTY CIRCUIT COURT, HON. JEFF WEILL, SR TRIAL JUDGE

          TRIAL COURT ATTORNEYS: RANDY HARRIS AAFRAM Y. SELLERS

          ATTORNEYS FOR APPELLANT: JACOB W. HOWARD PHILLIP W. BROADHEAD OFFICE OF STATE PUBLIC DEFENDER BY: GEORGE T. HOLMES

          ATTORNEYS FOR APPELLEE: OFFICE OF THE ATTORNEY GENERAL BY: JOE HEMLEBEN KATY TAYLOR GERBER

          DISTRICT ATTORNEY: ROBERT SHULER SMITH

          CHAMBERLIN, JUSTICE

         ¶1. A Hinds County grand jury indicted Gerome Moore for the capital murder of Carolyn Temple during the commission of a robbery. After a trial in the Circuit Court of the First Judicial District of Hinds County, a jury convicted Moore of capital murder. The trial court conducted a sentencing hearing as provided in Miller v. Alabama[1] and sentenced Moore to life imprisonment without parole. Moore now appeals both his conviction and his sentence.

         ¶2. We affirm Moore's conviction of capital murder. Moore, though, had a statutory right to be sentenced by a jury. Thus, we vacate his sentence and remand the case for Moore to be resentenced by a jury.

         FACTS AND PROCEDURAL HISTORY

         ¶3. On January 7, 2015, Moore, Antreal Jones and Antwain Dukes traveled in a maroon Impala to North Jackson in order to commit a robbery. Moore drove the group into Jackson, near downtown. They spotted Carolyn Temple exit a store, get in her white Mercedes and pull out onto the road. Moore decided to tail the Mercedes so that they could rob Temple. Moore followed Temple into the Belhaven neighborhood to the corner of Euclid Street and Pine Street. As Temple pulled into a driveway on Pine Street, Moore slowed the Impala for Dukes and Jones to get out.

         ¶4. As Dukes got out of the car, Moore handed him his loaded .380 handgun. Dukes and Jones then robbed Temple at gunpoint and shot her in the stomach.

         ¶5. After letting Dukes and Jones out, Moore turned the Impala around and idled on the street during the shooting. After the robbery, Dukes and Jones ran back to the car with Temple's purse. Once Dukes got back in the car, he handed the gun back to Moore and exclaimed, "She would not give up the purse, so I blasted the bitch." Moore drove the group away from the crime scene. As they drove away, someone threw Temple's purse out of the window.

         ¶6. Lance Tennyson, Temple's neighbor, had heard the gunshot and saw the "dark burgundy-maroonish" car drive away, down Euclid Street. Tennyson heard the gunshot while he was watching television in his living room; he went to his front porch and looked toward the sound. He saw a car idling on Euclid Street. Just then, two black males ran up Pine Street. One got in the front passenger seat of the car, and the other entered the rear passenger seat of the car. The car then drove away. According to Tennyson, someone had already been sitting in the driver's seat of the car.

         ¶7. As Moore drove away, Temple lay in the driveway clutching her stomach. She also had a wound to her head that was consistent with being struck with a blunt object. Soon after the shooting, neighbors-including Tennyson-ran to the scene and notified law enforcement. Once law enforcement arrived, Temple described her attackers as two black males in a maroon Impala. Temple was transported to the hospital and later died as a result of the gunshot wound.

         ¶8. Police recovered a single shell casing in the driveway. During the autopsy, a bullet was recovered from Temple's spinal canal. The bullet was determined to have been fired from a .380 handgun.

         ¶9. Detective Daryl Owens led the investigation into Temple's murder. Moore developed as a person of interest in the crime. Detectives Jermaine Magee and Rozerrio Camel interviewed Moore on January 13, 2015. Before questioning, Detective Magee informed Moore of his Miranda[2] rights. Moore indicated that he understood his rights and initialed beside a list of each one of them on a waiver form. Moore also signed and dated the form under the list of rights.

         ¶10. Detective Magee then recited the waiver paragraph from the form and encouraged Moore to read along with him. He asked Moore if he understood the waiver. Moore lifted his head in acknowledgment, mouthed an unintelligible response (that was affirmative in nature) and began to reach for his pen. Before he picked up the pen, Detective Magee asked him, "Okay. You wanna tell us, give us a statement?" Moore answered, "No, sir. I ain't, I ain't do nothin'." Magee followed up, "Do you want to give us a statement and tell us?" Moore did not verbally answer Detective Magee's second question. After a pause, he shook his head twice, negatively. Detective Camel then asked him, "Honest, do you want to talk to us?" Moore responded, "No, sir. I'll talk to y'all, but . . . ."[3] Detective Magee then stated, "Okay. Sign it. Sign it right here." Next, Moore picked up the pen and signed the waiver form.

         ¶11. After Moore signed the waiver, Detectives Magee and Camel questioned him, and Moore did not indicate any desire to stop answering questions. He also did not invoke his right to counsel. In the end, Moore confessed to participating in the planning and execution of the robbery that resulted in Temple's death.

         ¶12. On February 19, 2015, a grand jury indicted Moore for the capital murder of Temple. Moore filed a pretrial motion to suppress his interview with law enforcement. In his motion, he argued that the statement was given under duress and that he did not waive his constitutional rights voluntarily and knowingly. At the suppression hearing, both detectives testified that nothing about Moore's demeanor indicated that he did not understand his rights. They also claimed that Moore was not coerced, threatened or offered anything in return for his statement. Further, both detectives did not notice anything in the interview that would have indicated that Moore was under the influence of any narcotics or illegal drugs. Detective Magee also maintained that nothing about Moore's demeanor or interactions gave him any reason to believe that Moore-in light of his youth-did not understand his rights.

         ¶13. The circuit court denied Moore's motion to suppress. It found that the State had proved its prima facie case that the statement was given voluntarily, intelligently and knowingly. The circuit court noted that Moore did not offer any evidence to counter the State's witnesses.

         ¶14. A jury trial was held on September 12, 2016. Once the state rested, Moore moved for a directed verdict, and the trial court denied the motion. At the close of the three-day trial, the jury convicted Moore of capital murder. Moore filed a motion for judgment notwithstanding the verdict or, in the alternative, a new trial.

         ¶15. Before sentencing, Moore filed a motion for funds for expert assistance in the field of mitigation and a motion to bar a sentence of life without parole or, in the alternative, for sentencing before a jury. The trial court denied Moore's sentencing motions and held a Miller sentencing hearing on March 2, 2017. The trial court sentenced Moore to life imprisonment without the possibility of parole. The trial court also denied Moore's motion for judgment not withstanding the verdict or, in the alternative, a new trial. Moore timely appealed.

         ¶16. On appeal, Moore contends (1) that the trial court erred in denying his motion to suppress, (2) that his counsel provided ineffective assistance of counsel, (3) that he had a statutory right to be sentenced by a jury and (4) that the trial court erred in denying his motion for funds. We will address each in turn. While Moore raises other issues, these four issues are dispositive.

         STANDARD OF REVIEW

         ¶17. Given the distinct standards of review applicable on appeal, we will address each standard as it arises. Of course, "[w]here an appeal raises a question of law, the applicable standard of review is de novo." Jones v. State, 122 So.3d 698, 700 (Miss. 2013) (citing Lambert v. State, 941 So.2d 804, 807 (Miss. 2006)).

         ANALYSIS

         I. Denial of the Motion to Suppress

         ¶18. Moore argues that the recording of his interview with law enforcement is inadmissable because Moore failed to voluntarily, knowingly and intelligently waive his Miranda rights. Also, on appeal Moore alleges-for the first time-that law enforcement violated his right to remain silent.

         A. Waiver

         ¶19. Moore argues that Detectives Magee and Camel's questions about whether he wanted to give a statement or talk to them overrode his will, rendering his waiver ineffective. Moore also argues that his age, mental capabilities and drug use rendered his waiver ineffective.

         ¶20. We will only reverse a trial court's denial of a motion to suppress "if the ruling is manifest error or contrary to the overwhelming weight of the evidence." Barnes v. State, 30 So.3d 313, 316 (Miss. 2010) (citing Ruffin v. State, 992 So.2d 1165, 1169 (Miss. 2008)). "[T]he Fifth and Fourteenth Amendments' prohibition against compelled self-incrimination requires that the accused be advised of his right to remain silent and his right to counsel before any custodial interrogation. Once advised of his Miranda rights, an accused may waive these rights and respond to interrogation." Jordan v. State, 995 So.2d 94, 106 (Miss. 2008) (citations omitted).

         ¶21. Waiver of the constitutional rights to remain silent and to counsel must be voluntary, knowing and intelligent. Miranda, 384 U.S. at 444. Whether a defendant voluntarily, knowingly and intelligently waives his rights is a factual question to be determined by the trial court under the totality of the circumstances. McGowan v. State, 706 So.2d 231, 235 (Miss. 1997). "Waiver is considered voluntary if it is the result of a 'free and deliberate choice rather than intimidation, coercion or deception.'" Roberts v. State, 234 So.3d 1251, 1260 (Miss. 2017) (quoting Jordan, 995 So.2d at 106). "[T]he prosecution shoulders the burden of proving beyond a reasonable doubt that the confession was voluntary." Dancer v. State, 721 So.2d 583, 587 (Miss. 1998) (internal quotation marks omitted) (quoting Morgan v. State, 681 So.2d 82, 86 (Miss. 1996)). Further, "the mental abilities of an accused are but one factor to be considered in determining whether the confession was knowingly, intelligently and voluntarily made." Id. (internal quotation marks omitted) (quoting McGowan, 706 So.2d at 235).

         ¶22. Moore voluntarily, knowingly and intelligently waived his constitutional rights. Moore was clearly informed of his right to remain silent. As a subset of this right, Detective Magee informed Moore that anything he said could and would be used against him in a court of law. Moore was also informed of his right to have a lawyer, appointed or otherwise, present during his questioning. Further, Moore was told that he could decide to exercise his rights at any point during the interview. With this last statement to Moore, Detective Magee actually went above and beyond Miranda's requirements. See Brown v. State, 130 So.3d 1074, 1078-79 (Miss. 2013) (affirming "the four-fold warning required by Miranda" that did not include an explicit notice of the suspect's right to cease interrogation at any time).

         ¶23. Throughout the waiver exchange, Moore repeatedly indicated that he understood his rights and waiver of them. There was no indication that the detectives were rushing Moore at any point during the explanation of Moore's rights and his waiving them. Further, there was no indication by either detective that Moore ...


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