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Kidd v. State

Court of Appeals of Mississippi

July 23, 2019

KUNTA KIDD A/K/A KUNTA KENTA KIDD A/K/A JACOB KIDD APPELLANT
v.
STATE OF MISSISSIPPI APPELLEE

          DATE OF JUDGMENT: 11/20/2017

          FORREST COUNTY CIRCUIT COURT HON. ROBERT B. HELFRICH TRIAL JUDGE:

          ATTORNEY FOR APPELLANT: OFFICE OF STATE PUBLIC DEFENDER BY: ERIN ELIZABETH BRIGGS

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

          DISTRICT ATTORNEY: PATRICIA A. THOMAS BURCHELL

          BEFORE CARLTON, P.J., GREENLEE AND McCARTY, JJ.

          GREENLEE, J.

         ¶1. In 2017, a Forrest County grand jury indicted Kunta Kidd for kidnapping, armed robbery, and aggravated assault. The State proceeded to trial on the kidnapping and aggravated-assault charges, and Kidd was found guilty of both. On appeal, Kidd claims (1) the evidence was insufficient to support his convictions, (2) the jury's verdicts are against the overwhelming weight of the evidence, (3) he was denied his right to confrontation and his right to compulsory process, (4) the prosecutor engaged in prosecutorial misconduct, and (5) he received ineffective assistance of counsel. Finding no reversible error, we affirm.

         FACTS AND PROCEDURAL HISTORY

         ¶2. At trial, sixty-three-year-old Eugene Buckley testified that when he arrived at his house in Hattiesburg, Mississippi, on September 17, 2016, he noticed Kunta Kidd drinking beer in his yard. Although it was getting dark outside, Buckley told Kidd that it was too early for any nonsense. As Buckley opened his door, another man knocked him down and started beating him and searching his clothing, including his socks and shoes. Then Kidd joined in. According to Buckley, the men took his money and then left.

         ¶3. When questioned further about the incident, Buckley testified that as the men were beating him, he lied and told them that his friend, Robert Boles, had his money. Buckley hoped that the men would take him to Boles's house and that Boles would call the police. But when they arrived, Kidd stayed in the vehicle with Buckley while the other man knocked on Boles's door. When Boles did not answer, the man returned to the vehicle, and Kidd went and knocked on the door. Buckley testified that he overheard Kidd ask Boles for his (Buckley's) money, but Boles said he did not have it. According to Buckley, someone was in the vehicle with him at all times, and he was not able to leave. He also testified that Kidd had a gun, and the other man acted like he had a gun.

         ¶4. Buckley testified that the men took him back to his house and continued to beat him. According to Buckley, he eventually took off his shoe and sock and gave them $1, 000. And at that point, the men left. Defense counsel asked why the men did not find the money when they were searching him earlier, and Buckley testified that they did not pull his shoes off. ¶5. When asked about the burns on his body, Buckley testified that he forgot about that part. According to Buckley, before the men left, they threw gasoline on him, and Kidd used a cigarette lighter to set him on fire.

         ¶6. Buckley testified that his nephew, David Alexander (a.k.a. "Man"), [1] checked on him every day. And Alexander showed up at some point during the incident. According to Buckley, Kidd told Alexander that Buckley owed him some money, so Alexander left.[2] But Buckley testified that Alexander returned while he was on fire and threw a sheet over him to extinguish the flames. Then Alexander took Buckley to Forrest General Hospital, but Alexander did not stay with him.

         ¶7. Buckley was at the hospital briefly before he was airlifted to the burn center in Jackson. According to Buckley, he initially told the police that he did not want to talk about the incident because he feared for his life. But once he was assigned a room, he identified Kidd as one of the suspects. At trial, the prosecutor asked Buckley if he saw Kidd in the courtroom, and Buckley said, "No. . . ." Buckley was then instructed to stand up and look around the courtroom. Buckley said, "Really, I don't believe the person was from Hattiesburg." The prosecutor clarified that he was asking about Kidd and not the unidentified suspect. Then Buckley identified Kidd as the person who set him on fire.

         ¶8. Boles testified that he heard Buckley's truck outside his house around midnight. Boles and Buckley had talked earlier, and Buckley indicated that he might stop by. But when Boles answered the door, he was surprised to see Kidd and not Buckley.[3] Although Boles sometimes held money for Buckley, he was not on that date. Boles testified that he told Kidd that he did not have Buckley's money, and then Kidd drove away. According to Boles, there were two other people inside the vehicle, but it was too dark to identify them. Boles testified Buckley's cousin-Fonda Williams-called him a few hours later to tell him that Buckley was in the hospital.

         ¶9. Fonda Williams testified that around 1 a.m., her son-David Alexander-called her and told her to go to the hospital. According to Williams, when she arrived at the hospital, Buckley identified Kidd as a suspect. But on cross-examination, Williams testified that she was not sure if Buckley identified Kidd as a suspect at the hospital or at the burn center.

         ¶10. Another one of Buckley's cousins, Janet Creekmoore, testified that Williams told her to go to the hospital. According to Creekmoore, Buckley told her that Kidd burned him because he would not give him his money.

         ¶11. Officer Thomas Robinson Sr., with the Hattiesburg Police Department, responded to the hospital. He testified that Buckley's hospital room smelled of gasoline, and he noticed that Buckley had been burned. According to Officer Robinson, Buckley stated that two African-American males robbed him, and then his nephew drove him to the hospital. But Buckley refused to tell Officer Robinson who the suspects were because he was scared that they would "come back and finish him off."

         ¶12. When Officer Robinson stepped outside the hospital room, he spoke with Williams, who stated that Alexander called her and told her that Buckley had been burned. She stated that she then called Boles, who identified Kidd as a suspect. But at the time, Buckley would not identify the suspects. Officer Robinson testified that he tried to get in touch with Alexander, but he did not have Alexander's contact information.[4] According to Officer Robinson, Buckley did not identify Kidd as a suspect until after he turned the case over to the detectives.

         ¶13. Jeff Byrd, the crime scene investigator, testified that he found a burned shirt inside of Buckley's house. He also found a small reddish stain, which he believed was blood and another unknown substance that was possibly flesh. When asked why nothing was submitted to the Mississippi Forensics Laboratory for testing, Byrd explained that he was not responsible for making that decision.

         ¶14. Lieutenant Dale Bounds testified that he obtained written statements from Williams and Creekmore on September 19. They stated that Buckley told them at the burn center that Kidd robbed him and set him on fire. Lieutenant Bounds then called Buckley at the burn center, and Buckley confirmed that Kidd had stolen $1, 000 from him and set him on fire.

         ¶15. Once Buckley was released from the burn center, Lieutenant Bounds spoke with him in more detail. Buckley stated that on September 17, 2016, Kidd had been hanging out at his house all day, drinking and asking for drugs. And eventually, Kidd started demanding money. Buckley told him that two people were involved in the incident-Kidd and a tall, slender African-American male with plats in his hair. Lieutenant Bounds spoke with Boles, who stated that Kidd came to his house asking for Buckley's ...


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