In 2009, Jermaine Kelly was at his father’s house with his cousin Donta Davenport. Davenport later told police that two men kicked the back door open and demanded money. One had a handgun and one had an assault rifle.
Davenport gave them money and fled the house. He then heard several gunshots before he saw that he was being chased by a dark colored sports utility vehicle (SUV). He escaped and called the police. He later learned that Kelly had been killed.
Police discovered a cell phone in the yard of the home and traced it to Jermaine Sims. They learned that Sims also owned a dark colored SUV. Spencer Lawrence became a suspect when an inmate in jail contacted the FBI regarding a conversation he recently had with Lawrence. Lawrence told him details of the crime and said that he shot Kelly.
Officers stopped Lawrence while driving Sims dark colored Jeep Cherokee and arrested him. At the time of his arrest, Lawrence was out on bond on charges of kidnaping and armed robbery. Lawrence was subsequently held in George County on a contempt of court warrant.
The police seized Lawrence’s cell phone and found that his phone number was one of the phone numbers listed in Sims’s cell phone records from the night of the homicide. Lawrence was convicted of capital murder and sentenced to life. On appeal, he argued the initial stop of him was illegal. MCOA affirms.
The MSC said in Eaddy that police officers may detain a person for a brief, investigatory stop consistent with the Fourth Amendment when the officers have reasonable suspicion, grounded in specific and articulable facts that allows the officers to conclude the suspect is wanted in connection with criminal behavior.
Grounds for reasonable suspicion to make an investigatory stop generally come from an officer’s observation or an informant’s tip. An informant’s tip may provide reasonable suspicion if accompanied by some indication of reliability, including an officer’s independent investigation of the informant’s information.
Lawrence first became a suspect after an inmate from the Perry County jail contacted the FBI. The inmate gave Agent Louie Miller, Pascagoula P.D., a description of the crime based on his conversation with Lawrence. The inmate was able to specify the amount of money and drugs stolen during the robbery.
Miller stated that he and his officers found the inmate’s testimony to be credible and reliable based on its consistency with the evidence. Based on this information, the officers were looking for a black vehicle that belonged to Sims.
Officer Robert Lambeth of the Moss Point Police Department testified he received a phone call from an officer in George County about a vehicle matching Sims’s dark SUV. He went to George County and saw that Lawrence was in possession of Sims’s SUV. After Lawrence was arrested, the vehicle was inventoried, and a search warrant was obtained for the vehicle and Lawrence’s cell phone records.
Whether reasonable suspicion exists is a matter judged from the totality of the circumstances. We conclude that, based on the totality of the circumstances, the officers had reasonable suspicion to stop Lawrence.