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Tullos v. State

Court of Appeals of Mississippi

December 17, 2019

CHRIS SHAWN TULLOS A/K/A CHRIS TULLOS APPELLANT
v.
STATE OF MISSISSIPPI APPELLEE

          DATE OF JUDGMENT: 08/23/2018

          NEWTON COUNTY CIRCUIT COURT HON. MARK SHELDON DUNCAN TRIAL JUDGE.

          ATTORNEY FOR APPELLANT: OFFICE OF STATE PUBLIC DEFENDER JUSTIN TAYLOR COOK.

          ATTORNEY FOR APPELLEE: OFFICE OF THE ATTORNEY GENERAL BY: LISA L. BLOUNT.

          DISTRICT ATTORNEY: STEVEN SIMEON KILGORE

          BEFORE J. WILSON, P.J., McDONALD AND McCARTY, JJ.

          McDONALD, J.

         ¶1. On June 1, 2018, a Newton County, Mississippi grand jury indicted Chris Shawn Tullos for one count of possession of methamphetamine. Key to this case was a small amount of methamphetamine found in a bag that Tullos identified when confronted by two conservation officers on his grandmother's 90-acre property. Following a jury trial, Tullos was convicted for one count of possession of methamphetamine and sentenced to serve three years in the custody of the Mississippi Department of Corrections. Tullos filed a motion for a new trial, which the trial court denied. On appeal, Tullos argues that the conservation officers violated his Fourth Amendment right when they impermissibly entered onto private property without probable cause or statutory authority. Finding no error, we affirm.

         FACTS AND PROCEDURAL HISTORY

         ¶2. On September 2, 2017, the opening day of dove-hunting season, Officers Tyler Robinson and Tyler Norman, of the Mississippi Department of Wildlife, Fisheries and Parks, were patrolling the fields and listening for dove hunters. The officers heard shooting from a distance and pulled over to check the circumstances. When they stopped, they heard voices across the highway in a field near the south side of Highway 489. After entering the land, the officers encountered Tullos and Jackie Allen.[1] The officers asked Tullos and Allen to come talk to them. As Tullos and Allen were approaching, Tullos threw a black bag behind a utility pole. When Tullos was asked what was in the bag, he responded "meth." Thereafter, Tullos and Allen were arrested for possession of methamphetamine. On June 1, 2018, a Newton County grand jury indicted Tullos for one count of possession of methamphetamine.

         ¶3. On August 21, 2018, a trial was held. Officer Robinson testified on behalf of the State. During his direct examination, the defense objected to the admissibility of Tullos's statement on the basis that Tullos was detained and not informed of his Miranda[2] rights. Therefore, the defense moved to suppress any statements or evidence that the officers obtained thereafter.

         ¶4. Outside of the presence of the jury, a suppression hearing was held. During the suppression hearing, Officer Robinson testified that he heard voices and that he did not know whether Tullos and Allen were hunters or not, but he and Officer Tyler Norman were just going to talk to them. On cross-examination, Officer Robinson testified that he knew it was private property that he entered. On re-direct examination, Officer Robinson stated that he was simply going to ask Tullos and Allen questions, and they were only detained because Tullos dropped the bag and stated that it contained "meth."

         ¶5. Tullos also testified during the suppression hearing. According to Tullos, he and Allen were on his grandmother's private property looking for an area to set up deer-food plots. He stated that his grandmother owned the subject property where the officers approached him, which was across the road from his home. Tullos's counsel offered into evidence a deed of conveyance from Tullos's grandmother to him for his home; Tullos's home was not located where he was found with the meth. He stated that he was unaware of anyone giving the game wardens permission to be on his grandmother's private property. Further, he stated that "there was no way that anyone could dove hunt on the property because it is solid rocks."

         ¶6. At the close of both counsels' arguments, the court found that Officer Robinson was in a place that he was entitled to be, "he was acting within the course and scope of his law enforcement job," and that no search had occurred. Therefore, the court overruled Tullos's objection as to the admissibility of the seized methamphetamine.

         ¶7. Continuing with the trial, and in the presence of the jury, Officer Robinson resumed his testimony. Officer Robinson testified that Tullos threw a black bag behind the utility pole. He asked Tullos what was in the bag, and Tullos responded "meth." At that point he arrested Tullos and Allen and called the Newton County Sheriff's Department. Deputy Sheriff Sammy Stevens came and took the physical evidence. Deputy Stevens testified that he took the crystal-like substance to the crime lab in Meridian, Mississippi.

         ¶8. Last, Jamie Johnson, a forensic scientist with the Mississippi Forensics Laboratory, testified on the State's behalf. Johnson stated that the bag Tullos had thrown down contained two smaller plastic bags. Johnson testified that after testing the substances in each bag, one bag did not contain a controlled substance, but the smaller plastic bag contained 0.178 gram of methamphetamine.

         ¶9. The State rested its case. Then, the defense moved for a directed verdict and renewed the previous objection as to the admissibility of the evidence seized by the officers. The court denied the motion for a directed verdict and again overruled Tullos's objection to the admissibility of the evidence. The defense, calling no witnesses, rested its case.

         ¶10. On August 23, 2018, Tullos was convicted by a jury of his peers, and the court sentenced him to serve three years in the custody of the Mississippi Department of Corrections. On the same day, Tullos filed a motion for a new trial, arguing, among other things, [3] that the court erred in allowing the illegal search and seizure of the alleged methamphetamine into evidence because it was the fruit of a ...


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