Law School Case Brief
Carter v. State - 227 So. 3d 416 (Miss. App. 2017)
Miss. Code Ann. § 97-9-72(1)-(2) (Rev. 2015) provides that the driver of a motor vehicle who is given a visible or audible signal by a law enforcement officer by hand, voice, emergency light or siren directing the driver to bring his motor vehicle to a stop when such signal is given by a law enforcement officer acting in the lawful performance of duty who has a reasonable suspicion to believe that the driver in question has committed a crime, and who willfully fails to obey such direction shall be guilty of a misdemeanor. Any person who is guilty of violating subsection (1) of this section by operating a motor vehicle in such a manner as to indicate a reckless or willful disregard for the safety of persons or property, or who so operates a motor vehicle in a manner manifesting extreme indifference to the value of human life, shall be guilty of a felony.
Sheriff's Deputy Sam Howard observed a car that did not have a light illuminating its license plate. The car and the deputy's vehicle were both traveling west on Highway 463 in Madison but were in different lanes when they came to a stop at a red light. Once the light turned green, Deputy Howard accelerated slowly in order to get a better look at the car's license plate, but the driver, Rodney Carter, slowed the car to a near stop, obstructing traffic behind him. Because of this suspicious behavior, Deputy Howard followed Carter as he entered the exit ramp and activated his blue lights and siren. Carter initially applied his brakes, as if to stop, but then he accelerated, speeding away from the deputy's car. During the pursuit, Carter maintained speeds between 88-124 miles per hour (mph), well over the posted speed limit. Before Carter stopped due to spike strips placed on the highway, Deputy Howard observed an object being thrown from the passenger side of the car, causing a spark.
Carter told law enforcement he had just picked up his wife from work and was on his way to the hospital because he was having a severe asthma attack. Carter was examined at the scene by emergency medical personnel, and then was arrested and taken into custody. A gun was recovered near the scene the following day.
Carter was indicted for felony evasion and possession of a firearm by a felon. At trial, Carter insisted on self-representation because he was Upset with his appointed counsel's legal advice. The judge ordered appointed counsel to remain and assist Carter if needed. Carter was convicted of felony evasion, but acquitted of possession of a firearm by a felon.
Carter filed a motion for a new trial or, in the alternative, a judgment notwithstanding the verdict, claiming the verdict was against the overwhelming weight of the evidence. The trial court denied the motion, and defendant appealed.
Did the trial court err in denying Carter’s motion for a new trial?
The Court held that the trial court properly denied Carter’s motion for a new trial on felony evasion under Miss. Code Ann. § 97-9-72(1)-(2) (Rev. 2015) because a deputy observed that defendant's license plate was not illuminated, he obstructed traffic, failed to stop when the deputy activated his lights, drove at reckless speeds moving in and out of traffic, passed motorists on the shoulder of the roadway, could not use the affirmative defense of necessity where he had reasonable alternatives to driving himself to a hospital—his wife and the deputy—the potential harm of defendant's reckless driving was disproportionate to the harm avoided—his alleged asthma episode—and his failure to contemporaneously object to the admission of his prior conviction at trial under Miss. R. Evid. 103 effectively waived the issue on appeal.
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