OF JUDGMENT: 11/20/2017
FORREST COUNTY CIRCUIT COURT HON. ROBERT B. HELFRICH TRIAL
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
CARLTON, P.J., GREENLEE AND McCARTY, JJ.
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.
AND PROCEDURAL HISTORY
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.
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
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.
Buckley testified that his nephew, David Alexander (a.k.a.
"Man"),  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. 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.
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.
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. 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.
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.
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.
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."
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. According to Officer Robinson, Buckley did
not identify Kidd as a suspect until after he turned the case
over to the detectives.
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.
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.
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 ...