In 2008, Elliot Jones was driving in Jackson County, Mississippi, when he noticed a Toyota Sequoia SUV by the side of the road with three black males standing behind it. Jones then saw one of the men in a white t-shirt shoot one of the other men. Jones also saw a silver Scion at the scene.
Police were called and discovered a dead person, Kelsey McCoy, in the back of the SUV with his hands bound. McCoy had been shot and burned. While on the scene, police were called to a bridge approximately one quarter of a mile away where two men were hiding.
Both Eddie Pugh, who had a white t-shirt around his arm and smelled of gasoline, and Barron Borden, who had been shot, were arrested. A passerby then alerted police to a ditch where they found Rahman Mogilles, who also had been shot.
Mogilles told police that he and McCoy went to Pugh’s house in New Orleans to buy marijuana. Pugh thought McCoy was a cop. Both McCoy and Mogilles were then beaten and tied up and driven to Mississippi. Mogilles saw Pugh make a hand gesture in the shape of a gun, then Borden shot McCoy in the head.
Mogilles was able to get free from his restraints and attempted to wrestle the gun from Borden. Pugh then opened the back of the SUV, and Mogilles and Borden fell out. Mogilles began to run and was shot twice in the back.
Three days after he was arrested, Pugh made statements to police that were deemed to be inadmissible and involuntary (they did not describe the issue). However, the physical evidence to which Pugh had directed the officers was deemed admissible under the inevitable discovery doctrine.
Pugh had shown the officers after this illegal statement where the gun, cell phone, and SUV keys were located. The gun was found approximately two hundred feet from the SUV, and the cell phone and keys were found approximately fifty feet from the SUV.
Pugh was convicted of murder and sentenced to life. On appeal, he argued the gun, cell phone, and keys should have been suppressed under the fruit of the poisonous tree. MCOA affirms.
The U.S. Supreme Court in Nix v. Williams, 467 U.S. 431, 444 (1984), held that under the inevitable discovery doctrine, the results of an unreasonable search will be admissible if it can be shown that this evidence would have ultimately been discovered by constitutionally permissible means.
In order for the evidence to be admitted, the State must prove the following: (1) a reasonable probability that the evidence in question would have been discovered by lawful means but for the police misconduct, (2) that the leads making the discovery inevitable were possessed by the police at the time of the misconduct, and (3) that the police also prior to the misconduct were actively pursuing the alternate line of investigation.
The police had already commenced a search of the crime scene area prior to Pugh’s statement on October 11. Personnel from four different agencies, search dogs, and a dive team had been dispatched to the area to find the gun. Two members of the search team testified finding the gun was a priority, and the search would continue until the gun was found.
There was testimony that the searchers were able to narrow the search area due to where the SUV was found and where Pugh was arrested. Pugh did not take the searchers directly to the gun. Rather, Pugh could not remember exactly where he threw the gun and pointed in a general direction. There was testimony that finding the gun was a public safety issue.
We cannot find the trial court erred in deciding to admit the physical evidence under the inevitable discovery doctrine. This issue is without merit.