OF JUDGMENT: 06/08/2018
COUNTY CIRCUIT COURT, HON. JAMES McCLURE III TRIAL JUDGE:
ATTORNEY FOR APPELLANT: OFFICE OF STATE PUBLIC DEFENDER
MOLLIE MARIE McMILLIN
ATTORNEY FOR APPELLEE: OFFICE OF THE ATTORNEY GENERAL ALICIA
Christopher Word was convicted in the First Judicial District
of Panola County for possession of 40 grams but less than 200
grams of MMB-FUBINACA and possession of 200 grams or more of
5-fluoro-ADB with intent Word was sentenced, as a non-violent
habitual offender, to serve sixteen years for the charge in
Count I and forty years for the charge in Count II, concur
rently, in the custody of the Mississippi Department of
Corrections (MDOC). We affirm Word's conviction and
AND PROCEDURAL HISTORY
In February 2018, a grand jury indicted Christopher Word for
Count I, possession of 40 grams but less than 200 grams of
MMB-FUBINACA with intent; Count II, possession of 200 grams
or more of 5-fluoro-ADB with intent; and Count III,
possession of 100 dosage units but less than 500 dosage units
of Buprenorphine and Naloxone without a valid prescription.
The indictment also charged Word as being a violent habitual
offender pursuant to Mississippi Code Annotated section
99-19-83 (Rev. 2015).
On March 19, 2018, Word pled not guilty to the charges
against him, and the court entered an order setting trial for
May 14, 2018. The State proceeded to trial on Counts I and
II, as scheduled. However, Word was not present at trial.
Defense counsel stated, "Your Honor, personally I am
ready [for trial]; however, for whatever reason, my client
has, which he has the right to do so, has chosen not to
exercise his right to be present for the trial today."
Defense counsel then requested a continuance.
The trial judge noted that Word had rejected a plea offer
less than a month earlier. The judge then asked defense
counsel if he had attempted to contact Word that day, and
counsel replied, "No sir. Your Honor, I have not. I did
not have any contact with him last week when I attempted to
contact him." The judge then denied the request for a
continuance. Afterward, defense counsel stated, "Your
Honor, I just would state for the record that Mr. Word was
told both verbally and in writing on numerous occasions when
to be present for trial, if he so desired to be
During the State's case-in-chief, Frank Caswell, a
probation officer with MDOC, testified that in May 2017, Word
was on probation and was being monitored by a Global
Positioning System device (GPS). On May 9, 2017, Caswell and
Gary Welch, another MDOC employee, went to Word's last
known location-near an apartment complex in Sardis,
Mississippi-to find Word because he had failed to charge the
battery on his GPS.
When they arrived at Sardis Garden Apartments, Word was
sitting outside on an air conditioning unit. Both Casewell
and Welch testified that Word was "out of it" and
appeared to be under the influence of a substance. They also
testified that they noticed a plastic bag with a green leafy
substance hanging out of Word's pocket. As a result,
Caswell and Welch placed Word in custody and transported him
to the DeSoto County Jail.
Wiley Lowder III resided at Sardis Garden Apartments, and he
testified that Word spent a few nights at his apartment.
According to Lowder, his friend Ashley and her friend Cody
lived with him, and Word was Cody's friend. Lowder
testified that while Word was staying at the apartment, Word
put two boxes in a closet that was used for storage. Lowder
knew that one of the boxes contained a drone because he saw
Word flying it in the backyard, but he did not know what was
in the other box. Lowder explained, "I figured it was
parts for the drone. It wasn't my business, so I
didn't open . . . it."
Sergeant James Hawkins with the Sardis Police Department
testified that he went to the apartment complex around 7:30
p.m. to follow up on an unrelated issue. During that time,
Lowder approached him and told him that Word had left two
boxes in his apartment-a black plastic box and a cardboard
box. According to Sergeant Hawkins, the plastic box contained
a drone and a receipt. The receipt indicated that Christopher
Word was the recipient and listed a Hernando, Mississippi
address. It also indicated that the drone was purchased for
$3, 438. According to Sergeant Hawkins, the cardboard box
contained a vacuum sealer, shrink wrap, approximately
nineteen cell phones, cell phone chargers, a distributor cap,
cigarettes, and what appeared to be marijuana in ...