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Date: 12-06-2018

Case Style:

Justin Booker v. State of Mississippi

Case Number: 2017-KA-01303-COA

Judge: Virginia Carlton

Court: COURT OF APPEALS OF THE STATE OF MISSISSIPPI

Plaintiff's Attorney: OFFICE OF THE ATTORNEY GENERAL BY: LISA L. BLOUNT

Defendant's Attorney: OFFICE OF STATE PUBLIC DEFENDER BY: HUNTER NOLAN AIKENS

Description:






On the night of December 26, 2013, Davis was shot and killed during a robbery in the
grocery store he owned, Goon’s Grocery.1 The grand jury jointly charged Booker, Cedric
Collins, and DeSean Shields with one count of conspiracy to commit the crime of robbery
and one count of capital murder in relation to Davis’s death. Booker filed a pretrial motion
for severance of his trial from that of his codefendants, and the trial court granted the motion.
¶4. At Booker’s trial, which was held in September 2017,2 the jury heard testimony from
Luther Lampkin, who testified that at about 6:45 p.m. on December 26, 2013, he was grilling
food outside of his restaurant when he heard a door slam at Goon’s Grocery. Luther
explained that the grocery store was located nearby and within eyesight. Luther saw an
individual wearing a hat come out of the grocery store and run east toward the railroad tracks.
Luther heard a second slam and saw two more individuals exit the grocery store, followed
1 Davis and his father, Charles Goon, owned and operated three businesses in Clarksdale, Mississippi: Goon’s Grocery, Goon’s Package Store, and Goon’s Furniture. 2 Prior to his trial, Booker filed a motion for a psychiatric examination to determine his competency to stand trial and his mental condition at the time of the offense, which the trial court granted. The trial court conducted a competency hearing and heard testimony from Dr. Criss Lott, who performed Booker’s examination. Dr. Lott concluded that Booker was competent to stand trial and that he was not suffering from a severe mental disorder at the time of the offense. The trial court ruled that Booker was competent to stand trial. 2
by Davis. Luther testified that he could not tell what kind of clothing any of the men were
wearing. Luther stated that right after the two individuals exited the store, he heard gunshots
and he saw Davis fall. Luther testified that when he heard the gun shots, he observed that
the second of the two individuals had his arm “extended back toward [Davis].” Luther stated
that like the first person who ran out of the store, the other two individuals also ran east
toward the railroad tracks and around the corner.
¶5. Luther told the jury that he ran over to Davis, who was lying on his back,
unresponsive. Davis’s sister and father came outside from the package store next door, and
Luther told them to call 911. Luther testified that he saw a gun laying on the ground beside
Davis.
¶6. Davis’s sister, Debbie Goon, testified that on the evening of December 26, 2013, she
and her father were in Goon’s Package Store, which was located next to the grocery store.
Debbie testified that she and her father heard gunshots, and they went outside to check on
Davis. Debbie testified that as she prepared to walk out of the package store, she saw
someone wearing a “grayish white hood[ie]” walk past the store. Once outside, Debbie saw
Luther kneeling down by Davis, who was lying unresponsive on the sidewalk outside of the
front door of the grocery store. Debbie saw a gun on the ground next to Davis, and she
testified that her father picked up the gun and placed it on the counter of the grocery store.
Debbie identified the gun found on the ground next to Davis as Davis’s gun. According to
Debbie, Luther instructed her to call 911. Debbie entered the grocery store and called 911,
and she noticed at that time that the cash register was missing from the counter. Debbie
3
testified that she later saw the cash register outside on the ground by the railroad, around the
intersection of West Tallahatchie Street and Martin Luther King Boulevard.
¶7. Investigator Charles Sledge of the Clarksdale Police Department responded to the 911
call on December 26, 2013. When Investigator Sledge arrived at the grocery store, he saw
Officer Rip Woodard performing CPR on Davis outside of the grocery store. Investigator
Sledge walked east down the sidewalk and found a black hat with a Mountain Dew logo,
which he collected as evidence and later submitted to the crime lab for DNA testing. On the
east corner of the grocery store near the railroad tracks, Investigator Sledge also discovered
a cash register that was “busted up” but still containing money, as well as a broken piece of
the register. Investigator Sledge testified that the cash register and the broken piece from the
register were dusted for fingerprints. Investigator Sledge also photographed and searched
Davis’s truck, which was parked in front of the grocery. He testified that there were bullet
holes in the windshield and front passenger window of the truck.
¶8. Sergeant Norman Starks arrived on the scene after Investigator Sledge. Sergeant
Starks testified that he and Officer Kendrick Walker photographed the crime scene and
collected evidence. Sergeant Starks testified that he discovered and collected two projectile
fragments from inside the truck, one on the dashboard area and another in the middle of the
front seat, which were sent to the crime lab for testing. After processing the scene, Sergeant
Starks returned to the police department. Sergeant Starks stated that Booker was already at
the police station, and he learned that Booker was a person of interest in the shooting.
Sergeant Starks testified that he performed a gunshot-residue test on Booker’s hands at 11:05
4
p.m. Sergeant Starks stated that he did not personally perform a gunshot-residue test on any
other suspects.
¶9. The officers testified that on the counter inside the grocery store, they discovered and
collected a five-shot .38 caliber revolver that contained three spent shell casings and two live
rounds. Investigator Sledge testified that the revolver belonged to Davis. Sergeant Starks
also found one spent projectile on the floor inside the store near a potato chip rack in front
of the counter. Sergeant Starks testified that he and another officer dusted the entire counter
and the inner and outer parts of the front door in an attempt to lift fingerprints, but no prints
were recovered.
¶10. Sheriff Charles Jones testified that at the time of the shooting, he was off duty
working on a car in a garage he owned, which was located about a block from Goon’s
Grocery. Sheriff Jones testified that on the night in question, he heard a few gunshots.
Sheriff Jones stepped outside of the garage and saw a couple of individuals running behind
the grocery store. Sheriff Jones then got in his personal vehicle and tried to follow the
individuals, and he saw two men run inside a house on Sixth Street and Ashton Avenue.
Sheriff Jones called the sheriff’s office and the police department to tell them what he
observed. He then drove his car down Baird Street and saw another man walking between
some houses. Sheriff Jones testified that the man ended up on the corner of Baird Street and
Seventh Street. Sheriff Jones testified that he was only fifteen or twenty feet away from this
man, and he later identified the man as Collins in a photo lineup presented to him by Officer
Walker.
5
¶11. Officer Walker testified that once he was at the police station, he took DNA swab
samples from Booker, Collins, and Shields after obtaining signed consent forms. He
packaged and secured the samples for testing at the crime lab.
¶12. Officer Walker testified that he took two recorded statements from Booker.3 He took
Booker’s first statement the day after the shooting. In his first statement, Booker denied
going to Goon’s Grocery on the evening in question. Booker stated that he was at his home
from 4:00 p.m. through the time of the incident. Booker denied any knowledge of the
robbery and murder, but he admitted that he heard gunshots. Booker told Officer Walker that
he saw Collins walking down the street on the day in question, and he said that Collins was
wearing a black and green hat.
¶13. Officer Walker took Booker’s second statement on December 30, 2013.4 Officer
Walker testified that in Booker’s second recorded statement, Booker stated that until around
1:00 or 2:00 p.m. on December 26, 2013, he was with Sammy Sharrod. Booker stated that
after Sammy went home, Booker went to Beverly Scott’s house, where he met up with
several people, including Collins and Shields. According to Booker, at about 4:00 p.m.,
Collins told Booker that he “had a lick that he wanted to hit.” Officer Walker explained that
a lick is “something monetary.” Collins asked Booker if he wanted to participate, and
Booker responded, “Nah, I’m good.” Booker again denied being present in the grocery store.
¶14. Officer Walker advised Booker to tell him the truth, and Booker eventually admitted
3 Officer Walker testified that he obtained Miranda-waiver forms signed by Booker and his father prior to taking each statement. Miranda v. Arizona, 384 U.S. 436 (1966). 4 The State played both of Booker’s recorded statements for the jury. 6
that he, Shields, and Collins went to the grocery store. Booker told Officer Walker that he
did not enter the grocery store; instead, he stood on the corner while Collins, who was
carrying a gun, went in. Booker stated to Officer Walker that Collins exited the store with
the cash register and then Davis followed him with a gun. Booker said that he heard two
gunshots, followed by another round of shots, and everybody started running. Booker told
Officer Walker that he and Shields ran to a church around the corner behind the store, and
they walked to their respective houses. Booker told Officer Walker that Collins was the one
who shot Davis.
¶15. The jury also heard testimony from the State’s expert witnesses. Mark LeVaughn, the
State’s expert witness in forensic/anatomic pathology testified that Davis’s cause of death
was a gunshot wound to the chest, and the manner of death was homicide. Chad Suggs, the
State’s expert witness in trace evidence testified that he examined Booker’s gunshot residue
kit and found one particle indicative of gunshot residue on the sample taken from the back
of Booker’s left hand. Felicia McIntire, the State’s expert witness in tool marking and
firearms examination testified that the projectile recovered from the floor in Goon’s Grocery
was not fired from Davis’s revolver. McIntire also testified that she was unable to determine
whether the two bullet fragments recovered from the truck were part of projectiles fired from
Davis’s revolver.
¶16. Steven Little of the Mississippi Crime Laboratory testified as an expert in the field of
forensic serology. Little preserved the known DNA samples of Booker, Shields and Collins;
he also obtained and preserved a DNA sample from the black Mountain Dew hat that police
7
recovered outside of the grocery store. The State then called Joseph Heflin of the Mississippi
Crime Laboratory, who testified as an expert in the field of forensic biology, specializing in
DNA analysis. Heflin testified that he compared the DNA sample from the Mountain Dew
hat with the known DNA samples from Booker, Collins, and Shields. Heflin testified that
“DNA from a couple of individuals” was present on the hat, and the dominant DNA profile
he obtained from the hat was a partial DNA profile that “was consistent with the reference
sample of Justin Booker.” Heflin explained that he could not exclude Booker as the
contributor of the dominant DNA profile on the hat, but he could exclude Shields and Collins
as the contributor.
¶17. After the trial, the jury was unable to reach a unanimous verdict on the capital murder
charge, and the trial court declared a mistrial as to that count. However, the jury returned a
verdict finding Booker guilty of conspiracy to commit robbery. The trial court sentenced him
to serve five years in the custody of the MDOC. Booker now appeals.
DISCUSSION
¶18. Booker’s appointed appellate counsel filed a Lindsey brief, certifying that he has
scoured the record and that the case presents no “arguable issues” for appeal. Lindsey, 939
So. 2d at 748 (¶18). Appellate counsel complied with Lindsey by sending Booker a copy of
the brief and advising him of his right to file a pro se brief. See id. This Court also entered
an order giving Booker an opportunity to file a pro se brief, but Booker did not file one.
¶19. Pursuant to Lindsey, we have “conducted an independent and thorough review of the
record, and we conclude that there are no issues that warrant reversal.” Taylor v. State, 162
8
So. 3d 780, 787 (¶18) (Miss. 2015). The State presented sufficient evidence to sustain
Booker’s conviction. We recognize that the jury’s role is to assess the witnesses’ credibility
and resolve conflicts in the evidence. Little v. State, 233 So. 3d 288, 289 (¶1) (Miss. 2017).
Keeping the jury’s role in mind, we find that no basis exists for us to disturb the jury’s
verdict on appeal.

Outcome: AFFIRMED

Plaintiff's Experts:

Defendant's Experts:

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