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Alston v. State

Supreme Court of Mississippi

December 5, 2019

JERMAINE ALSTON a/k/a JERMAINE D. ALSTON
v.
STATE OF MISSISSIPPI

          DATE OF JUDGMENT: 03/21/2018

          ATTALA COUNTY CIRCUIT COURT HON. JOSEPH H. LOPER, JR. TRIAL JUDGE.

          TRIAL COURT ATTORNEYS: MIKE HOWIE, JAY HOWARD

          ATTORNEYS FOR APPELLANT: OFFICE OF STATE PUBLIC DEFENDER BY: W. DANIEL HINCHCLIFF GEORGE T. HOLMES

          ATTORNEY FOR APPELLEE: OFFICE OF THE ATTORNEY GENERAL BY: KAYLYN HAVRILLA McCLINTON

          DISTRICT ATTORNEY: DOUG EVANS

          BEFORE KITCHENS, P.J., COLEMAN AND GRIFFIS, JJ.

          COLEMAN, JUSTICE.

         ¶1. On March 21, 2018, an Attala County jury convicted Jermaine Alston of burglary of a dwelling. The trial court sentenced Alston as a habitual offender under Mississippi Code Section 99-19-81 (Rev. 2015) to twenty-five years without the possibility or parole or early release. Alston filed a motion for a judgment notwithstanding the verdict or, alternatively, a new trial. The trial court denied Alston's motion, and he filed a notice of appeal.

         ¶2. On appeal, the Court granted Alston's trial counsel's motion to withdraw and allowed counsel for the Mississippi Office of Indigent Appeals to be substituted as counsel of record. Alston's appellate counsel found no arguable issue to raise on appeal and filed a brief in accordance with Lindsey v. State, 939 So.2d 743 (Miss. 2005). After reviewing the record, we discern no reversible error or issue warranting supplemental briefing. We affirm Alston's conviction and sentence.

         FACTUAL AND PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND

         ¶3. On August 6, 2016, Daniel Aughtman left his home around 10:00 p.m. for about two hours. When Aughtman returned home, he noticed that his door was open even though he had locked it earlier before he left. Aughtman also noticed that a window had been broken and another window with a window air conditioner unit had been raised. The windows were not broken or raised when Aughtman left his home earlier. Aughtman went inside, noticed that his belongings were scattered around, and discovered that several of his possessions were missing. A large gun cabinet safe, guns, a television, an air conditioner, and a small safe had been taken. Aughtman called the police and reported that his home had been burglarized. Officer Dwain Steed of the Attala County Sheriff's Office responded to the scene. Officer Steed observed the damaged window and the raised window. Officer Steed determined that the suspect forcibly had entered the home through the raised window. Officer Steed was unable to develop any suspects.

         ¶4. Months later, Aughtman informed an Atalla County Sheriff's Office deputy that he suspected that his friend Brittani Stephens had been involved in the burglary. Aughtman explained that Stephens had visited his home occasionally and had called him on the day of the burglary. Although Aughtman had regular contact with Stephens and spent time with her at his home, he had not heard from her since the day of the burglary. Aughtman thought the complete lack of contact since the day of the burglary was unusual. Aughtman testified that Stephens did not have permission to enter his house on August 6, 2016.

         ¶5. Chief Investigator Zelie Shaw of the Attala County Sheriff's Office interviewed Stephens. After Investigator Shaw interviewed Stephens, he developed Alston, Charlie Thrasher, and John Corr as additional suspects involved in the burglary. On August 10, 2017, Alston, Stephens, Thrasher, and Corr were indicted for burglary of a dwelling in violation of Mississippi Code Section 97-17-23 (Rev. 2014). Alston was charged as a habitual offender under Section 99-19-81. Alston's case was severed, and he was brought to trial. At trial, Alston did not dispute that Aughtman's home was ...


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