In 2013, Wayne Barrett heard a knock on his door and let Keagan Latham use the phone. Latham was a friend or relative of his former neighbors and left after using the phone. A few minutes later, Barrett heard another knock on his door and this time he did not recognize any of the three individuals when he opened the door. The three were armed and forced their way into his residence.
They assaulted him and went room by room taking computers, guns, wallet, and an I-phone. Barrett told police about Latham who identified the others as Trevontae Johnson, Meeko Johnson, and Isaac Johnson. Latham described their appearances and said most of the stolen items were taken to a house on Ada Drive. Police put a group text message out including the photos of the suspects.
While awaiting a search warrant for the Ada Drive home, Greenville P.D. conducted surveillance and noticed two individuals, matching the description and photos of the suspects, leave the house in a blue Chevrolet Impala. Other Greenville P.D. officers stopped the Impala after being advised by officers at the house as to what was transpiring.
Officer Andy Osbun later testified that he did not observe the men in the Impala breaking any laws prior to the stop; rather, the reason for the stop was to just identify the people in the Impala. Osbun also testified that he did not see photographs of the suspects until after the traffic stop was conducted.
Isaac and Meeko provided ID and gave consent to search the vehicle which contained two computers stolen from the house. The search warrant from the house was executed and guns were found that matched those stolen from Barrett. Isaac’s palm print was found on one of the guns.
Isaac, Meeko, and Trevontae were convicted of burglary, armed robbery, and kidnaping. Isaac and Trevontae were sentenced to 93 years while Meeko was sentenced to 103 years. On appeal, they argued there was no reasonable suspicion to stop the car. MCOA affirmed.
The United States Supreme Court held in Brendlin that when a vehicle is stopped pursuant to a police traffic stop, the vehicle is seized within the meaning of the Fourth Amendment, and both the driver and the passenger of the vehicle may challenge the constitutionality of the stop.
In determining whether reasonable suspicion exists such that an investigatory stop may be conducted, the court must consider whether, taking into account the totality of the circumstances, the detaining officers had a particularized and objective basis for suspecting the particular person stopped of criminal activity. Grounds for reasonable suspicion to make an investigatory stop generally come from two sources: either the officers’ personal observation or an informant’s tip. The officer’s personal observation includes information from other law-enforcement personnel.
The MSC said in Singletary v. State, 318 So. 2d 873 (Miss. 1975), that given reasonable circumstances an officer may stop and detain a person to resolve an ambiguous situation without having sufficient knowledge to justify an arrest. Osbun stopped Isaac and Meekco based on information that he received from Sergeant Kenneth Redfield.
Redfield, while conducting surveillance of the Ada Drive residence, saw two men exit the house and get into the blue Impala. The two men’s appearances fit the description of two of the suspects that Latham had previously provided to police. As personal observation may be transmitted from officer to officer, we fail to see how this does not constitute reasonable suspicion for an investigatory stop. Further, Redfield testified that images of the suspects had been circulated through a group text message among those involved in the investigation of this particular matter. Thus, the stop was not illegal.
Consent for the car search was also discussed briefly but it was determined that any issues would have been harmless based on the overwhelming evidence against the three men in this case. However, you should be mindful that the Mississippi constitution has broader protections for consent than the U.S. constitution. The additional protection is in bold below.
The United States Supreme Court and the Mississippi Supreme Court differ in their opinions of what constitutes a valid consent. The United States Supreme Court held in Schneckloth v. Bustamonte, 412 U.S. 218 (1973), that the pivotal determination of whether or not there was a valid consent rests on whether or not the consent was voluntary and not whether the party knew or was informed of a constitutional right which he then intentionally relinquished or abandoned.
In contrast, the Mississippi Supreme Court held in Penick v. State, 440 So. 2d 547 (Miss. 1983), that, for a consent to be valid, it is necessary that the person searched be aware of his right to refuse. This knowledgeable waiver must be proved by the State beyond a reasonable doubt or by clear evidence. The State is not required to demonstrate knowledge; rather, the burden is on the defendant to show impaired consent or some diminished capacity.
Despite the additional protection above, the MSC said in Goff that Penick is simply advisory. As you can see, there is some confusion as to the practical effects of broader protection for consent in Mississippi.