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Antonio Laron Bridges v. State of Mississippi
Case Number: 2018-KA-01006-COA
Judge: Donna M. Barnes
Court: IN THE COURT OF APPEALS OF THE STATE OF MISSISSIPPI
Plaintiff's Attorney: SCOTT STUART
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The shooting of Boss and Martin resulted from a domestic squabble earlier that
evening between Bridges’s nephew, Tyreace Bridges, and Tyreace’s girlfriend, Latoya
Nunnery. Latoya’s brother, Brandon Stewart, and Bridges’s sister, Shawn McCray, both
lived at the apartment complex where the shooting later occurred. After the argument with
Latoya, Tyreace went to McCray’s apartment. Either Tyreace or McCray called Bridges and
Tyreace’s brother and father to come to McCray’s apartment. Bridges showed up with his
girlfriend, Tyneisha Carter. Bridges and Tyreace then returned to Latoya’s house, where they
fought with Stewart and other members of his family. Martin observed the fight but did not
participate. Tyreace and Bridges left Latoya’s house when police arrived.
¶3. Boss, who was at a nearby bar, heard of the fight and drove to Latoya’s house. Boss
and Martin then drove to Stewart’s apartment, where Boss backed his Crown Victoria into
a parking space. Bridges, Tyreace, and Tyreace’s brother, Clarence, arrived at the apartment
complex at approximately the same time in Clarence’s vehicle. According to Boss and
Martin, Bridges walked over to Boss’s car and began shooting at them. Ducking down,
Martin pulled out a revolver and shot twice at Bridges, who suffered a gunshot wound.
Clarence and Tyreace took Bridges to a nearby hospital. Boss and Martin were taken by
1Bridges had been previouslyconvicted of manslaughter and felonydrug possession.
ambulance to the hospital with gunshot wounds.
¶4. On January 31, 2017, a grand jury indicted Bridges for two counts of attempted
murder, one count of possession of a firearm by a felon, and one count of shooting into a
motor vehicle. The indictment was later amended to reflect Bridges’s habitual-offender
status under section 99-19-83, noting his prior convictions of manslaughter and possession
of marijuana with intent to distribute. Prior to trial, defense counsel moved to sever Count
III (possession of a firearm by a felon) from the other counts, arguing that the “eliciting of
testimony in support of the State’s case in the prosecution of Count III would violate and
prejudice [Bridges], as to Counts I, II, and IV of the indictment as the Jury could not be
expected to disregard this evidence in determining the guilt or innocence of [Bridges] in
those Counts.” The court denied the motion.
¶5. A trial was held in the Pike County Circuit Court on March 27-29, 2018. John
Glapion, a deputy with the Pike County Sheriff’s Department, testified that he arrived at the
scene of the shooting minutes after the 911 call. When he arrived, there were four people
standing around Boss’s Crown Victoria. Boss and Martin were inside the car, and Deputy
Glapion stated that the two men were “hysterical” and “going into shock.” One of the
victims told him that Bridges had “come running towards the driver’s side of the door and
¶6. Dr. Shunte Jones, a former emergency-roomphysician at Southwest Regional Hospital
in McComb, treated Boss, Martin, and Bridges on the night of the shooting. She testified that
both Boss and Martin suffered life-threatening injuries. With regard to Bridges, she noted
that he had a broken nose, a superficial head injury, as well as “an obvious gunshot wound
to his right chest.”
¶7. The investigator, Robby Roberts, testified that there were several spent .45-caliber
shell casings both inside and outside the Crown Victoria. At the hospital, Investigator
Roberts interviewed Clarence, who had transported Bridges in his Suburban. No gun was
found in that vehicle. Investigator Roberts interviewed Boss and Martin a few days later
(due to the severity of their injuries). Although Martin could not identify the shooter at that
time, Investigator Roberts said that Boss, when shown a picture, indicated that Bridges was
the shooter. Investigator Roberts was unable to secure the clothing Bridges wore that
evening because “[i]t had been destroyed.”
¶8. Stewart testified that Tyreace, Bridges, and other members of Stewart’s family had
engaged in a “brawl” that evening, but the fight broke up after someone called the police.
Stewart said he called Boss, who came over to Latoya’s house; Boss and Martin then left to
go to the apartment complex. Boss called Stewart, saying that no one was there and that he
was coming back to Latoya’s house. However, Boss called back seconds later, telling
Stewart that he had been shot; so Stewart went to the apartment complex. Stewart testified
that he was standing by the Crown Victoria, talking to Boss, and that Boss “gave me his
phone, and he asked for a picture because he didn’t see his face.” Stewart sent Boss a picture
of Bridges about an hour later.
¶9. Boss testified that he had just arrived in town that day. Stewart, whom Boss called
“Little B,” had been taking care of his car for a few months while he was away for work.
Boss went to a local bar that night, but when he learned of the fight, he went to Latoya’s
house. From there, Boss drove himself and Martin to Stewart’s apartment. Boss noticed a
truck following his car; so he backed into the parking space at the apartments. His head was
down, and he was “playing with [his] radio” when he heard someone say, “Little B, I’m
fixin’ to kill you.” Boss testified, “So by that time, Mr. Ron [was] right there. He was at the
driver’s side. He was shooting off in my car.” Boss also testified that McCray, Bridges’s
sister, ran over crying and said, “Eww. Ron shot them boys.” Boss acknowledged he did not
know Bridges and “[t]hat was his first time seeing [Bridges and McCray],” but Boss said that
he looked the shooter “dead in his eyes.”
¶10. Martin testified that he had observed the fight between the Bridgeses and the Stewarts,
and he rode with Boss back to Stewart’s apartment afterward. They backed into a parking
space, and Martin said he saw a truck and a car pull in after them and “the defendant walking
across the parking lot toward the car.” Martin did not notice a gun “until [Bridges] was
bringing it up, and he shot at [Boss] first.” Martin testified that Bridges continued to shoot,
sticking the gun into an open window on the driver’s side. Martin was shot five times, and
he returned fire with a .22-caliber revolver. He later threw his gun out of the car, which law
¶11. Clarence testified that he, Tyreace, and Bridges returned to the apartment. When he
parked his Suburban, Clarence noticed a Crown Victoria on the other side of the parking lot
with its headlights on. Clarence said that he, Tyreace, and Bridges got out of the Suburban
and that he walked toward McCray’s apartment; he did not look back to see where Tyreace
and Bridges were. When he heard gunshots, Clarence ducked behind a nearby car. After the
gunshots stopped, Clarence testified that Bridges was next to him (within arm’s reach)
holding his side, saying that he had been shot; Tyreace was a few steps behind Bridges.
Clarence stated that he never saw Bridges walk in the direction of the Crown Victoria.
Clarence and Tyreace put Bridges in the Suburban and took him to the hospital. Clarence
did not see a gun.
¶12. McCray testified that she awoke and heard gunshots, went on the front porch, and
heard Boss screaming that he had been shot; so she walked over to Boss’s car. McCray
denied telling Boss that Bridges had shot them, and she said that Boss was on the phone with
Stewart when she got to the car. She also testified that Martin was “hollering” about a “fat,
baldheaded man with a white beard.” McCray stayed downstairs around the parking lot until
law enforcement arrived.
¶13. The jury convicted Bridges of all four counts. The circuit court sentenced him as a
habitual offender to serve four sentences of life imprisonment in the custody of the MDOC,
with the sentences set to run concurrently. Bridges filed a motion for a JNOV, which the trial
court denied. On appeal, Bridges argues that he was subject to ineffective assistance of
counsel due to defense counsel’s failure to raise an objection to the admission of his
statement to law enforcement. He claims that the admission of a portion of his statement to
law enforcement, in which the interviewer noted Bridges’s prior felonies, was prejudicial and
constitutes plain error.
¶14. The assignments of error raised by Bridges both pertain to the investigator’s
mentioning Bridges’s prior convictions in a videotaped statement, which was admitted into
evidence at trial. During the interview, Investigator Roberts said to Bridges, “I mean, you
understand this is gonna go to court, and it’s gonna go under [a] big judge. You got some
priors. That ain’t [going to] look good . . . you got a manslaughter and you got a felony
controlled substance. So you know what number three is? This charge. It’s serious.”
Responding to the investigator, Bridges acknowledged that he was a felon.
A. Ineffective Assistance of Counsel
¶15. At trial, the parties agreed to stipulate to Bridges’s prior convictions. Jury Instruction
3 also instructed the jury that Bridges was “a convicted felon,” and this instruction was given
as stipulated by the parties. Because of this stipulation, Bridges now asserts that defense
counsel’s failure to object to the admission of his statement, to move for a mistrial, or to
move to redactInvestigatorRoberts’s comments constitutes ineffective assistance of counsel.
Bridges cites Herrington v. State, 102 So. 3d 1241, 1245-46 (¶¶15-17) (Miss. Ct. App. 2012),
in which this Court found that “trial counsel was deficient in failing to object to the
introduction of three prior convictions” into evidence after the parties had already stipulated
that the defendant was “a convicted felon.” Concluding that “this deficiency prejudiced [the
defendant],” we reversed and remanded. Id. at 1246 (¶17). The Mississippi Supreme Court
has held that “the strategic goal of such stipulation is to curtail the prejudice that might arise
if a more detailed and expansive record of prior bad acts is allowed in.” Taylor v. State, 167
So. 3d 1143, 1147 (¶8) (Miss. 2015).
¶16. Ineffective-assistance-of-counsel claims should ordinarily “be raised in a motion for
post-conviction relief, not on direct appeal.” Pinter v. State, 221 So. 3d 378, 386 (¶18)
(Miss. Ct. App. 2017). The Court “will address such claims on direct appeal when ‘[(1)] the
record affirmatively shows ineffectiveness of constitutional dimensions, or [(2)] the parties
stipulate that the record is adequate[,] and the [appellate court] determines that the findings
of fact by a trial judge able to consider the demeanor of witnesses, etc., are not needed.’”
Ross v. State, 288 So. 3d 317, 324 (¶29) (Miss. 2020) (quoting Bell v. State, 202 So. 3d 1239,
1242 (¶12) (Miss. 2016)). In this case, neither party has expressly stipulated that the record
is adequate for this Court to make such a finding.
¶17. Furthermore, “[w]ith respect to the overall performance of the attorney, counsel’s
choice of whether or not to file certain motions, call witnesses, ask certain questions, or make
certain objections falls within the ambit of trial strategy and cannot give rise to an ineffective
assistance of counsel claim.” Graham v. State, 264 So. 3d 819, 822 (¶11) (Miss. Ct. App.
2018) (internal quotation marks omitted) (quoting Carr v. State, 873 So. 2d 991, 1003 (¶27)
(Miss. 2004)). When the State requested that Bridges’s statement be admitted into evidence,
defense counsel consulted with Bridges prior to deciding whether or not to make an
THE COURT: Before we do anything, [defense counsel], if there’s
going to be a motion -- if there’s going to be an objection
to this, why was it . . . not handled pretrial in a motion to
[DEFENSE]: I’m not sure there’s going to be. That’s why I want to
review it with my client.
THE COURT: Okay. Well, I mean, regardless, whether there’s going to
be or not, it should have been a matter that should have
been handled in a pretrial hearing.
(THE PROCEEDINGS ARE RECESSED FOR A SHORT BREAK.)
. . . .
THE COURT: [Defense], you’re not objecting I presume.
[DEFENSE]: No, sir, Your Honor.
(Emphasis added). Thus, it appears from the record that defense counsel’s decision not to
object to the admission of Bridges’s statement was trial strategy. During the videotaped
interview, Bridges maintained that he did not have a gun, that he did not shoot anyone, and
that he had never seen Boss or Martin before. Bridges told the investigator that he was just
walking in the parking lot when “all hell broke loose” and he “got hit.” Allowing in the
statement provided Bridges the opportunity to relate his version of events to the jury without
his testifying and being subject to cross-examination. Had the statement been redacted, the
State could have decided not to admit the statement at all, depriving Bridges of that
opportunity. However, because Bridges’s claim is based on facts not fully apparent from the
record, we deny relief without prejudice to Bridges’s right to seek leave from the Mississippi
Supreme Court to raise his claimof ineffective assistance of counsel through post-conviction
relief proceedings under Mississippi Code Annotated section 99-39-7 (Rev. 2015). SeeGunn
v. State, 174 So. 3d 848, 869 (¶83) (Miss. Ct. App. 2014) (finding the issue of ineffective
assistance of counsel not “appropriate for resolution on direct appeal” because defense
counsel’s decisions appear to be trial strategy and counsel “has not been afforded an
opportunity to explain his actions”).
B. Plain Error
¶18. Bridges argues that Investigator Roberts’s mentioning of Bridges’s prior convictions
in the statement violated his fundamental right to a fair trial. Because Bridges did not raise
the issue of the admissibility of his statement to law enforcement in his post-trial motion for
a JNOV, this issue is procedurally barred from review on appeal. See Carey v. State, 80 So.
3d 131, 135 (¶12) (Miss. Ct. App. 2012) (finding a defendant’s failure to assert an issue in
a post-trial motion procedurally barred him from raising the issue on appeal). Bridges
contends that the circuit court’s admission of his prior convictions, after the parties had
agreed to stipulate, violated Mississippi Rules of Evidence 403 and 404(b) and, thus,
constitutes plain error. The plain-error doctrine allows our appellate courts to “recognize
obvious error which was not properly raised by the defendant on appeal, and which affects
a defendant’s ‘fundamental, substantive right.’” Smith v. State, 986 So. 2d 290, 294 (¶10)
(Miss. 2008) (quoting Debrow v. State, 972 So. 2d 550, 553 (¶10) (Miss. 2007)). “For the
plain-error doctrine to apply, there must have been an error that resulted in a manifest
miscarriage of justice or seriously affect[ed] the fairness, integrity or public reputation of
judicial proceedings.” Hall v. State, 201 So. 3d 424, 428 (¶12) (Miss. 2016) (internal
quotation marks omitted). “[I]n order to determine if plain error has occurred, we must
determine if the trial court has deviated from a legal rule, whether that error is plain, clear,
or obvious, and whether the error has prejudiced the outcome of the trial.” Pinter v. State,
221 So. 3d 378, 384 (¶12) (Miss. Ct. App. 2017) (emphasis omitted) (quoting Green v. State,
183 So. 3d 28, 31 (¶6) (Miss. 2016)). In this instance, we can find no plain or obvious error
or deviation from a legal rule in the trial court’s admission of the investigator’s statement.
See Demorst v. State, 228 So. 3d 323, 328 (¶9) (Miss. Ct. App. 2017) (“[W]e are aware of
no legal rule requiring a trial court to sua sponte suppress evidence.”).