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Greene v. State

Court of Appeals of Mississippi

July 23, 2019

MICHAEL GREENE A/K/A MICHAEL JAVONNE GREENE APPELLANT
v.
STATE OF MISSISSIPPI APPELLEE

          DATE OF JUDGMENT: 12/21/2017

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

          ATTORNEY FOR APPELLANT: OFFICE OF STATE PUBLIC DEFENDER BY: W. DANIEL HINCHCLIFF.

          ATTORNEY FOR APPELLEE: OFFICE OF THE ATTORNEY GENERAL BY: LAURA HOGAN TEDDER.

          DISTRICT ATTORNEY: ROBERT SHULER SMITH.

          BEFORE BARNES, C.J., TINDELL AND McCARTY, JJ.

          McCARTY, J.

         ¶1. Michael Greene was convicted of possession of a firearm by a felon after a traffic checkpoint that led to the discovery of a gun on the floorboard of the car he was driving. At trial, the State firmly tied the weapon to Greene through the testimony of the officer on the scene, who saw it pinned beneath the defendant's left foot. The State also attempted to connect the weapon to the defendant through the use of a photograph and a video found on Facebook.

         ¶2. On appeal, Greene argues that the trial court should have suppressed the internet- based evidence presented against him, as it was not properly authenticated. While the evidence should have been excluded under our rules of evidence, its admission was harmless error in light of the properly admitted eyewitness testimony presented at trial. As a result, we affirm.

         FACTS

         ¶3. Greene was driving a Pontiac when he was stopped at an administrative checkpoint. Officer Brandon Caston, a patrolman for the Jackson Police Department, was in charge of the checkpoint. According to the officer, "[t]he purpose of the check point was to check driver's licenses and proof of insurance."

         ¶4. When Greene drove up, Officer Caston asked for his driver's license and proof of insurance. Greene did not have either and could not produce any form of photo identification. Officer Caston noticed Greene's left foot perched on top of a gun featuring an extended clip.

         ¶5. Officer Caston asked Greene to turn the Pontiac off and step out of the vehicle. Officer Caston retrieved the handgun, a 9 mm, and cleared a round from the chamber before securing the weapon in the back of the patrol car. He told Greene that he was going to run the gun through the system. Greene asked, "[O]nce you run my gun and it comes back clear, are you gone let me go?"

         ¶6. No record of the gun was found, but the Pontiac's tag connected the car and its contents to Greene. Office Caston asked Greene for his MDOC[1] number-and Greene immediately answered. Armed with knowledge that the driver, who had no identification and no insurance, was likely a felon in possession of a weapon, Officer Caston reached for his handcuffs.

         ¶7. Greene made a break for it and hopped out of the Pontiac on the passenger's side. Officer Caston tried in vain to snag the suspect, but Greene eluded capture.

         ¶8. Greene was later arrested and brought to trial in the Hinds County Circuit Court. At trial, Officer Caston positively identified Greene in the courtroom. He also gave a specific description of Greene as he appeared on the day of the traffic stop-"brown skin, slim male, [with] reddish color twist hair . . . and tattoos."

         ¶9. At trial, the State attempted to link the gun found in the Pontiac to Greene through a photograph taken from a Facebook account. The State also wanted to introduce into evidence a video allegedly taken of Greene shortly after the checkpoint stop. Neither piece of evidence was from Michael Greene's account; instead, the account belonged to "Mike King."

         ¶10. The murky photograph, uploaded almost a month prior to the traffic checkpoint, was a close-up of a face; the photograph was dark, and the face was obscured by a box of 9 mm ammunition. The video was clearer, and it included a rambling discourse by the speaker-alleged to be Greene-about how he felt having his car and gun taken from him.

         ¶11. The photo and video were not produced in discovery. Instead, the State informed the trial court the morning of trial that it wished to offer both into evidence. Greene's trial counsel argued that the untimely submission should automatically result in the exclusion of evidence and that it should be suppressed for lack of authenticity. Defense counsel emphasized that the Facebook page from ...


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