Session: August 2, 2016
from the Criminal Court for Shelby County No. 1300525 Chris
Keith Perry, Jr., Southaven, Mississippi, for the appellant,
Maurice Brown, Sr.
Herbert H. Slatery III, Attorney General and Reporter; David
H. Findley, Senior Counsel; Amy P. Weirich, District Attorney
General; and Jennifer Nichols and Reginald Henderson,
Assistant District Attorneys General, for the appellee, State
Everett Williams, J., delivered the opinion of the court, in
which Camille R. McMullen and Robert L. Holloway, Jr., JJ.,
EVERETT WILLIAMS, JUDGE
AND PROCEDURAL HISTORY
evidence presented at trial established that the Defendant
severely beat his three-year-old son, causing injuries that
resulted in his death. The Defendant then disposed of the
victim's body in a dumpster.
Latoya Kanneh, the victim's mother and the
Defendant's former girlfriend, testified that she and the
Defendant had a volatile relationship and that they
communicated primarily through her sister. During the rare
occasions in which they spoke over the telephone, the
conversations were not pleasant, and Mrs. Kanneh stated that
the Defendant was always angry. She denied preventing the
Defendant from seeing the victim and their daughter.
2012, Mrs. Kanneh, who was living in Arkansas, decided to
allow the victim to live with the Defendant for a few months.
She explained that the victim was misbehaving in daycare and
that she believed that the Defendant would be able to calm
the victim. She planned to return to Memphis to retrieve the
victim before his birthday in late July.
Kanneh testified that on Saturday, June 30, 2012, she and the
Defendant argued over the telephone because the Defendant
wanted her to drive to Memphis and retrieve the victim. Mrs.
Kanneh told the Defendant that she could not drive to Memphis
but offered to meet him halfway. The Defendant became angry
and began cursing her and calling her names. Mrs. Kanneh told
the Defendant that she would return for the victim before the
victim's birthday and that the Defendant was to
communicate with her through her mother or her sister. Mrs.
Kanneh also spoke to the victim, who stated that he was ready
to come home. She heard the Defendant in the background
telling the victim what to say.
Sunday, July 1, at approximately 11:00 p.m., police officers
contacted Mrs. Kanneh and informed her that the victim was
missing. She and her husband traveled to Memphis where she
and her relatives began searching for the victim. Mrs. Kanneh
later learned that the Defendant had been arrested and went
to the jail to speak to him. Mrs. Kanneh stated that when she
asked the Defendant what had happened to the victim, he told
her that he had awaken to find the victim gone. The Defendant
was crying and told her that he loved his children and that
he would never harm them.
3, after the victim's body had been found, Mrs. Kanneh
went to the police department to make a statement and
identify a photograph of the deceased victim. She said that
the Defendant called her from jail while she was making
funeral arrangements for the victim. When she informed him
that she was making the funeral arrangements, the Defendant
told her that she and his girlfriend needed to try to find an
attorney to represent him. Mrs. Kanneh said she hung up on
him because he failed to show any concern about the fact that
she had to make funeral arrangements for the victim.
Teaira Duncan, the Defendant's former girlfriend,
testified that in July 2012, she was living with the
Defendant, their one-year-old son, and the victim and that
both she and the Defendant were working at Wendy's. On
July 1, 2012, the Defendant, along with the victim and their
son, dropped her off at work for her 3:00 p.m. to midnight
shift. At that time, Ms. Duncan did not notice any marks or
bruising on the victim.
Duncan said that during a telephone conversation with the
Defendant at 8:30 p.m., the Defendant told her that the
victim had urinated on himself. Ms. Duncan did not recall the
Defendant stating his plan for disciplining the victim. She
said that around 10:00 p.m., the Defendant called her and
said that the victim had run away. Ms. Duncan instructed the
Defendant to call the police. When Ms. Duncan later returned
to their apartment, police officers were present, and the
Defendant was holding their son.
Duncan told the police that the victim was not spanked often
but that when he was spanked, the Defendant did it. After the
Defendant spanked the victim one and one-half weeks prior to
the victim's disappearance, Ms. Duncan noticed a bruise
on the victim's right cheekbone. The Defendant told her
that the bruise occurred when the victim ran away as the
Defendant was spanking him.
Duncan said that while she did not have an opportunity to
look around their apartment on July 1, she did so on July 3,
the day before the victim's body was discovered. She
observed a hole in the closet door in the bedroom with blood,
a hole in the wall of the front bedroom, and blood on a pipe
that ran to the bathroom wall. She stated that she had not
previously noticed the holes and blood.
cross-examination, Ms. Duncan testified that she never saw
the Defendant display any anger or aggression toward their
son or the victim and that the Defendant seemed like a loving
father. Ms. Duncan did not notice that the Defendant's
attitude toward the victim changed following the
Defendant's conversation with Mrs. Kanneh. Ms. Duncan did
not recall the Defendant's being angry when he told her
that the victim had urinated on himself.
Duncan said the victim typically ran away when he was going
to be spanked. She never saw the Defendant become angry or
abusive when the victim fled. She did not believe that the
victim needed medical care where he sustained the injury to
his cheekbone while fleeing from a spanking by the Defendant
one and one-half weeks prior to his disappearance. Ms. Duncan
recalled that on a day prior to the victim's death, he
hit his head, resulting in a small knot.
Duncan clarified that her testimony was not that the hole in
the wall in the front room occurred while she was at work on
July 1 but that she had not noticed it before that date. She
said that the hole was in an area where the playpen had been.
She told the police officers that the hole in the bedroom
closet door could have been made with a fist and that she was
fairly certain that the hole was not there before she left
for work on July 1. On redirect examination, Ms. Duncan
stated that she informed the officers that the hole in the
closet door could have been caused by a fist or a head but
that she believed it was made with a fist.
Terrance Pope, a friend of the Defendant, testified that on
July 1, 2012, he went to the Defendant's apartment where
he and the Defendant composed rap music while the children
were playing in the living room. Mr. Pope said that the
victim did not appear to have anything wrong with him. The
Defendant was talking on the telephone while the children
were playing. Mr. Pope did not notice any damage to the
apartment. He left the Defendant's apartment at
approximately 4:40 p.m. and learned that the victim was
missing the following day when he saw the news report. The
Defendant did not respond to Mr. Pope's calls or text
messages. Mr. Pope acknowledged that in June 2011, he pled
guilty to facilitation of aggravated robbery.
cross-examination, Mr. Pope testified that while he was at
the Defendant's apartment, the Defendant did not appear
to be angry and did not display any abusive behavior toward
the victim. Mr. Pope did not see any markings or bruises on
Sharon Toole lived in the apartment next to the
Defendant's apartment, and they shared an interior wall.
Ms. Toole testified that on Sunday, July 1, 2012, at
approximately 6:00 or 7:00 p.m., she awoke from a nap when
she heard a loud noise coming from the Defendant's
apartment. She went into her living room where she heard the
noise again. She described the noise as a
"thumping" sound that continued for a few minutes
and said it sounded as if someone was fighting. She then
heard loud music coming from the Defendant's apartment
and did not hear the "thumping" sound again. Ms.
Toole returned to her nap.
Toole stated that when she later awoke, she looked out of a
window and saw the Defendant placing something into his car.
She said the Defendant's face was sweaty and that he
appeared to be nervous and in a hurry.
Toole later exited her apartment when she saw police officers
outside. The Defendant's apartment door was open, and Ms.
Toole saw the Defendant sitting on a couch with his younger
son. The Defendant appeared to be crying, and Ms. Toole asked
him what was wrong. She said the Defendant told her that the
victim was missing after he had left the apartment while the
Defendant was sleeping. Ms. Toole had never seen the victim
alone outside of the apartment but had always seen him with
an adult. While Ms. Toole assisted in searching for the
victim, she did not see the Defendant assist in the search.
She stated that the Defendant "appeared like he was
concerned but not concerned. He wasn't looking for the
little boy…. [H]e was just standing around watching
the police officers and watching everybody else look for
Toole testified that later that night, the Defendant told a
neighbor and her that while he was sleeping on the couch, the
victim opened the door and left. When Ms. Toole asked him
about the victim's ability to open a door by himself, the
Defendant told her that the victim knew how to open doors.
cross-examination, Ms. Toole testified that she did not see
anyone enter the Defendant's apartment that day and play
music. She acknowledged that she did not know who was inside
the Defendant's apartment when she heard the
"thumping" noises. She also acknowledged that she
told police officers that she last saw the Defendant at
approximately 3:00 p.m. that day. On redirect examination,
Ms. Toole stated that on prior occasions, she had heard the
Defendant yelling at his children and his girlfriend.
Christopher Sammons, who lived in the apartment above the
Defendant's apartment, testified that on July 1, 2012, at
approximately 7:00 or 8:00 p.m., he was on a balcony in front
of his apartment smoking a cigarette when he saw the
Defendant walk out of his apartment with one of his sons on
his shoulder. Mr. Sammons said the Defendant appeared to have
been holding the older of the two boys. The boy's head
was lying on the Defendant's shoulder as the Defendant
walked toward the parking lot. Mr. Sammons was unsure whether
the Defendant saw him. Mr. Sammons stated that earlier that
day, he heard a "bang" coming from his closet where
the air conditioning unit was located, but the noise did not
concern him at the time.
Sammons said he assisted in searching for the victim later
that night. He overheard the Defendant talking on his
telephone and stating that the victim had walked out of the
apartment while the Defendant was sleeping. Mr. Sammons
recalled that the Defendant appeared distraught.
the Defendant called 911 at 10:22 p.m., he spoke to Cassandra
Berry, and the recording of the call was played to the jury.
The Defendant reported that he had fallen asleep around 8:30
or 9:00 p.m. while the victim was watching television. He
stated that when he awoke, the victim was gone.
Jodi Ledford of the Memphis Police Department testified that
she and her partner responded to the missing child report.
They met the Defendant at the front door of his apartment
where he was pacing. The Defendant informed the officers that
at some point after he returned home from work, he saw that
the victim had urinated on himself. The Defendant stated that
he changed the victim into a navy Batman t-shirt and jeans
and laid him down on the couch with the Defendant's other
son. The Defendant said he told the victim to take a nap and
that he would receive a spanking when he awoke. The Defendant
told the officers that he fell asleep on another couch at
approximately 8:30 or 9:00 p.m. He maintained that when he
awoke at approximately 10:00 p.m., the victim was missing,
and both the wooden interior door and the outer storm door
were open. The Defendant stated that when he was unable to
locate the victim after walking around the apartment
searching for him, he called the police.
Ledford and her partner assisted in the search for the victim
by looking into vehicles. The Defendant identified his
vehicle as a maroon Toyota Camry. Officer Ledford testified
that when she and her partner approached the car, they noted
that heat was coming from the engine and realized that the
car had been driven recently. Officer Ledford stated that the
Defendant had not told them that the car had been driven.
When Officer Ledford questioned him about it, he said that he
had driven around searching for the victim before calling the
police. Officer Ledford noted that the Defendant had a scrape
on his hand that appeared to be fresh and that his pants were
torn down the inseam.
cross-examination, Officer Ledford testified that the
Defendant told her that his pants were his "work
pants." She noted that the Defendant was wearing a
uniform that included ...