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Willis v. State

Court of Appeals of Mississippi

October 29, 2019

KEDARIOUS DEZWUAN WILLIS A/K/A KEDARIOUS D. WILLIS A/K/A KENDARIOUS WILLIS APPELLANT
v.
STATE OF MISSISSIPPI APPELLEE

          DATE OF JUDGMENT: 08/13/2018

          COPIAH COUNTY CIRCUIT COURT TRIAL JUDGE: HON. LAMAR PICKARD

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

          ATTORNEY FOR APPELLEE: OFFICE OF THE ATTORNEY GENERAL BILLY L. GORE

          DISTRICT ATTORNEY: ALEXANDER C. MARTIN

          BEFORE J. WILSON, P.J., WESTBROOKS AND LAWRENCE, JJ.

          WESTBROOKS, J.

         ¶1. Kedarious Dezwuan Willis (Willis)[1] and his uncle Michael Shantez Willis (Michael)[2] were jointly indicted on one count of aggravated assault in violation of Mississippi Code Annotated section 97-3-7(2)(a) (Rev. 2014) and one count of conspiracy to commit aggravated assault in violation of Mississippi Code Annotated section 97-1-1 (Rev. 2014) by the grand jury of Copiah County. During trial, the circuit court granted the defendants' motion for a directed verdict on the charge of conspiracy to commit aggravated assault. However, the jury later found Willis and Michael guilty of aggravated assault. Willis was sentenced to fourteen years in the custody of the Mississippi Department of Corrections, with eight years to serve, followed by six years of post-release supervision with three years reporting. Willis filed a motion for judgment notwithstanding the verdict (JNOV) or, in the alternative, a new trial, which the circuit court denied. Willis appeals. After review of the record, we affirm.

         FACTS AND PROCEDURAL HISTORY

         ¶2. On December 2, 2017, Travell Moore[3] was shot following a confrontation he had with Willis and Michael. Patricia Ford was the first of two eyewitnesses to testify. At trial, Patricia testified that she saw Moore and Michael arguing and walking down the street toward her house. Patricia testified that as they approached her house, she saw Willis, who was standing in the next yard, pull a gun and shoot Moore as he turned away and tried to run. Moore fell in her driveway after being shot, and Patricia testified that she applied a towel to the bleeding and waited for the ambulance. Patricia also stated that she was certain that Moore did not have a gun. Paul Ford, Patricia's husband, also testified that Moore did not have a gun, although Moore was known as a "little brawler."

         ¶3. Moore testified that he was involved in a physical confrontation with Willis at the barbershop earlier in the day. Moore stated that he went to his brother's house following the confrontation. Willis testified that after the confrontation, he went to his brother's house to clean up the blood. Willis also stated that he picked up Michael to take Michael to Willis's grandmother's house. Moore stated that Michael and Willis were outside of his brother-in-law's house; however, Willis maintained that he and Michael were outside on the same street trying to turn around and find a parking spot before entering Willis's grandmother's house.

         ¶4. Testimony reflects that at some point, Michael got out of the car and exchanged words with Moore. The confrontation continued as Moore and Michael walked down the street. Moore stated that he heard Michael say "shoot, shoot," and that he saw Willis pull a gun. As he turned to run, Willis shot him twice from behind. Tushima Young testified that she saw Moore's uncle Jeffrey remove a gun from Moore's left pocket after he was shot; however, Jeffrey testified that he did not retrieve a gun from Moore's pocket.

         ¶5. Chief Palmer arrested Willis within minutes of the shooting. Willis first denied shooting Moore; however, his story changed shortly thereafter. Willis claimed that Moore approached him with a gun but that he was able to disarm Moore and that he shot Moore with Moore's gun. Finally, Willis admitted that he thought that Moore had a gun, so Willis shot Moore with a gun that he already had in his possession.

         ¶6. Following a jury trial, both Michael and Willis were convicted on one count of aggravated assault. The circuit court granted the motion for a directed verdict on the charge of conspiracy. Willis filed a motion for JNOV or to alter or amend the judgment, to vacate the judgment, or ...


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