Brown v. State


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Docket Number: 2006-KA-00979-COA
Linked Case(s): 2006-KA-00979-COA
Oral Argument: 10-23-2007
 

 

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Court of Appeals: Opinion Link
Opinion Date: 01-15-2008
Opinion Author: GRIFFIS, J.
Holding: Affirmed

Additional Case Information: Topic: Fondling a child - Sufficiency of indictment - Motion to suppress - Weight of evidence - Closing argument
Judge(s) Concurring: LEE AND MYERS, P.JJ., IRVING, CHANDLER, BARNES, ISHEE, ROBERTS AND CARLTON, JJ.
Concurs in Result Only: KING, C.J.
Procedural History: Jury Trial
Nature of the Case: CRIMINAL - FELONY

Trial Court: Date of Trial Judgment: 06-01-2006
Appealed from: DeSoto County Circuit Court
Judge: Robert P. Chamberlin
Disposition: CONVICTION OF FONDLING AND SENTENCED TO SERVE A TERM OF FIFTEEN YEARS IN THE CARE OF THE MISSISSIPPI DEPARTMENT OF CORRECTIONS WITHOUT ELIGIBILITY FOR PAROLE AND FINE OF $1,000.
District Attorney: John W. Champion
Case Number: CR-2005-463-CD

  Party Name: Attorney Name:   Brief(s) Available:
Appellant: THOMAS LEE BROWN
PHILLIP BROADHEAD, DAVID CLAY VANDERBURG
 
  • Brief

  • Appellee: STATE OF MISSISSIPPI OFFICE OF THE ATTORNEY GENERAL BY: JOHN R. HENRY  
  • Brief

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    Topic: Fondling a child - Sufficiency of indictment - Motion to suppress - Weight of evidence - Closing argument

    Summary of the Facts: Thomas Brown was convicted of one count of fondling a child under the age of eighteen. The trial court sentenced Thomas to fifteen years. He appeals.

    Summary of Opinion Analysis: Issue 1: Sufficiency of indictment Thomas argues that the court erred when it did not dismiss his indictment, because the indictment, as amended, lacked specificity since it alleged numerous incidents of fondling occurred on or between January 1, 1999 and January 31, 2004. Thomas believes that he was unable to prepare a proper defense because the indictment did not sufficiently inform him of the dates on which the crimes were supposed to have occurred. A specific date in a child sexual abuse case is not required so long as the defendant is fully and fairly advised of the charge against him. Thomas’ indictment sufficiently apprised Thomas of the all the charges against him. There is nothing in the record that indicates that time was an essential element of the offense, and there is nothing in the record that indicates Thomas planned to assert a time sensitive defense, such as an alibi. Issue 2: Motion to suppress Thomas argues that his confession is in violation of his rights under the Fourteenth Amendment’s involuntariness test and his rights under Miranda. He argues that the court erred when it denied his motion to suppress his confession because he was intoxicated during the interrogation, he cannot read or write, and the detectives lied to him about the evidence against him. Intoxication or sickness does not automatically render a confession involuntary. The admissibility of a confession depends upon the degree of intoxication. Thomas waited approximately two hours before he was interrogated. The officers testified that Thomas did not smell of alcohol and appeared sober when he confessed. Thus, the court’s determination that Thomas was sober is not against the overwhelming weight of the evidence. Thomas also argues his confession was involuntary because he has limited mental faculties. Mental weakness in and of itself will not invalidate a confession unless it has shown that the weak minded person has been over reached. Thomas did not submit any expert testimony that he was mentally retarded. He merely testified that he had trouble reading and writing and that he had only attended school until the sixth grade. The trial court determined that Thomas possessed enough mental ability to fully waive his rights and that he had not been exploited by the police. This determination was not against the overwhelming weight of the evidence in this case. Thomas also argues that his confession was involuntary because the detective lied to him in order to obtain the confession. During the interrogation, the detective lied by telling Thomas that the police had conducted a black light test of the house where Thomas was living and that this test uncovered traces of Thomas’ semen throughout the house. Looking at the totality of the circumstances, the trial court’s ruling that Thomas’ confession was voluntary, despite the detective’s misrepresentation, is not against the overwhelming weight of the evidence. Thomas also argues that the Court should require law enforcement to record confessions using video cameras or audio recorders. This is an issue better left to the Mississippi Legislature or the Mississippi Supreme Court. Thomas also argues that the court should have suppressed his confession because he was unable to read or understand his Miranda waiver form or his written confession because he was intoxicated and is illiterate. The State must prove beyond a reasonable doubt that a defendant voluntarily, knowingly, and intelligently waived his or her Miranda rights. Thomas’ testimony reveals that, despite being a thirty-four-year-old who is illiterate, Thomas is able to function in society. No one testified that Thomas suffered from any mental defects, diseases, or retardation. Also, Thomas’ testimony showed that he can understand and answer complex questions. Thomas signed and initialed a Miranda waiver form after the detective read him his rights. Thus, the trial court did not err in determining that Thomas knowingly, voluntarily, and intelligently waived his Miranda rights. Issue 3: Weight of evidence Thomas argues that the testimony in this case contained several inconsistencies, which show that the verdict was against the overwhelming weight of the evidence. The jury had before it more than sufficient evidence to find for the State. Thomas’ confession was admitted into evidence. Furthermore, the victim testified regarding the events and the fondling. Issue 4: Closing argument Thomas argues that the prosecutor made an improper “send a message”argument. Given the latitude afforded an attorney during closing argument, any allegedly improper prosecutorial comment must be considered in context, considering the circumstances of the case, when deciding on their propriety. Here, the prosecutor’s statement is not a “send a message argument,” because it does not implore the jury to take any action. The prosecutor was merely attempting to rebut what he believed Thomas would argue during his closing argument.


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