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Harris v. State

Court of Appeals of Mississippi

November 12, 2019

JUSTIN HARRIS A/K/A JUSTIN CHANCE HARRIS A/K/A JUSTIN C. HARRIS APPELLANT
v.
STATE OF MISSISSIPPI APPELLEE

          DATE OF JUDGMENT: 09/13/2018

          WARREN COUNTY CIRCUIT COURT HON. M. JAMES CHANEY JR.

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

          ATTORNEY FOR APPELLEE: OFFICE OF THE ATTORNEY GENERAL BY: ABBIE EASON KOONCE

          DISTRICT ATTORNEY: RICHARD EARL SMITH JR.

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

          LAWRENCE, J.

         ¶1. A Warren County Grand Jury indicted Justin Harris on three counts of sexual battery of a child under the age of fourteen and one count of statutory rape of a child under the age of fourteen. On September 13, 2018, Harris was found guilty of all three counts of sexual battery. Harris now appeals his conviction and claims that the indictment was inadequate and failed to protect him from double jeopardy in a future prosecution. We find no error and affirm.

         FACTS

         ¶2. On November 16, 2017, seven year old H.B.[1] was on the playground at South Park Elementary School in Vicksburg, Mississippi. Jerenisha Thomas, a student-teacher in H.B.'s first grade class, asked if she was alright. H.B. disclosed that her "stepdad puts his private part in [her] private part," and that she "[did not] like it when he [did] that." Thomas testified that when she asked H.B. what she meant, H.B. "described [her step-father] spitting on his fingers and putting it on his private part and then putting it inside her, saying that that was going to make it feel better, and he told her 'I do the same thing with your mom, and she likes it.'" Thomas immediately escorted H.B. to the front office to report her statements.

         ¶3. Harris was indicted by the Grand Jury on January 25, 2018. Count I, entitled "Sexual Battery, Victim Under Age 14," of his indictment read as follows:

[Justin Chance Harris] on or about October 2017 through November 2017, in the County aforesaid, and within the jurisdiction of this Court, did willfully, unlawfully[, ] and feloniously engage in sexual penetration with a child H.B. who was under the age of 14 years, whose date of birth was October 7, 2010 and who was twenty-four (24) or more months younger than said defendant whose date of birth was February 4, 1991 at the time, in violation of Mississippi Code [Annotated section] 97-3-95 (1)(d) [(Rev. 2014)], contrary to the statute in such cases made and provided, and against the peace and dignity of the State of Mississippi.

         Count II and Count III of Harris's indictment were identical to Count I in title and content.[2]

         Harris filed a demurrer to the indictment, claiming "the language of the indictment fail[ed] to properly define the manner in which the Defendant allegedly sexually penetrated the victim thereby giving him sufficient notice as to the basis of the charges against him." The trial court ...


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