Owner of car presumed to be in possession of prohibited weapon


In 2007, Officer Otis Taylor and Corporal Jason Sims, Sr., of the Clarksdale Police Department patrolled an area of Clarksdale known for high levels of drug activity. Sims testified at trial that he observed a red Nissan turn north on Ashton Street, then pull over to the left-hand side of the road, and stop in the street.

Taylor testified that the Nissan parked illegally on the wrong side of Ashton Street. The officers drove closer to the Nissan. They observed a female exit a residence and walk to the Nissan’s driver’s side door. The female reached inside the Nissan, through the window, at which time both officers witnessed a “hand-to-hand transaction” between the driver and the female. Because the area was known for drug activity, the officers drove their car closer to the Nissan.

As the officers approached the Nissan, the female ran back inside her residence. The officers exited their car approached the Nissan on foot, and Nicky Patterson, who was driving the Nissan, immediately exited the vehicle. Sims testified that he saw Patterson drop a plastic bag containing a white substance from his right hand to the ground. Taylor also noticed that Patterson dropped something between the officers’ car and the Nissan.

After seeing Patterson drop the plastic bag between the cars, Sims looked into the Nissan and noticed a Ruger 9mm semi-automatic handgun on the passenger floorboard of the car. Sims notified Taylor of his discovery. Sims instructed Patterson to place his hands on the car to allow the officers to conduct a pat-down search of Patterson.

Rather than follow Sims’s instructions, Patterson fled on foot. A foot chase ensued. After chasing Patterson on foot, Sims secured Patterson. Sims directed Taylor to return to the automobiles to protect the crime scene and evidence. Upon returning to the crime scene, Taylor recovered a small plastic bag containing what appeared to be powder cocaine (6.2 grams). Taylor found the incriminating bag in the area where he had observed Patterson drop an object. Taylor then retrieved the handgun from the passenger side of the Nissan.

Patterson testified that he never possessed drugs on October 30, 2007, and he possessed no knowledge of the handgun found on the floorboard of the car. Patterson’s girlfriend, Larsharonda Jordan, testified that she used Patterson’s Nissan for approximately one week before Patterson’s October 30, 2007, arrest. Jordan admitted that she purchased the handgun from a pawnshop in Clarksdale and registered it in her name. Jordan testified that she normally kept the handgun under the passenger seat and inadvertently left it in the car when she returned the car to Patterson.

Patterson was convicted of possession of cocaine and possession of a firearm by a convicted felon and sentenced to 26 years. On appeal, he argued he was not in possession of either the drugs or the gun. MCOA affirmed.


Regarding the possession-of-cocaine charge, the evidence admitted at trial showed that both police officers observed Patterson drop an object to the ground upon exiting his vehicle. Patterson then ran from the police officers, forcing them both to chase him on foot.

Upon returning to the parked cars, Taylor recovered the item he and Corporal Sims had observed Patterson drop. Expert testimony introduced at trial showed that the plastic bag the officers recovered from the scene indeed contained an illegal drug, cocaine. More than sufficient evidence exists in the record to support the jury’s finding that Patterson possessed cocaine on October 30, 2007.

In Griffin, we found sufficient evidence to sustain a possession-of-cocaine conviction where the police officer testified that he never lost sight of the defendant; he witnessed him throw an object; and the recovered object contained the contraband.

Furthermore, evidence presented at trial showed that Patterson possessed the handgun that the officers found inside his car. Patterson presented evidence that his girlfriend, Jordan, owned the weapon and inadvertently left the gun in his car. However, despite Jordan’s ownership of the weapon, the officers found the weapon in Patterson’s car while Patterson maintained control of the car.

The police officers noticed the weapon when they looked through the window of Patterson’s car. At that time, the weapon was lying on the front passenger floorboard of the car, in plain view. Because the testimony showed that the weapon was in plain view of the officers and within Patterson’s span of control and eyesight, the jury could surmise that Patterson knew of the handgun’s presence in his vehicle.

Patterson owned and occupied the car where police officers found the weapon. In Mississippi, the law presumes that the owner of a vehicle constructively possesses any contraband found therein.

Patterson attempted to rebut the presumption that he possessed the weapon through Jordan’s testimony that the gun belonged to her, and she inadvertently left the weapon in Patterson’s car. However, the jury bore the responsibility of resolving any conflicts in the evidence in determining whether Patterson possessed a weapon on the night of his arrest.