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James Sims a/k/a James Arthur Sims, Jr. v. State of Mississippi
Case Number: 2019-KM-01581-COA
Judge: Anthony N. Lawrence, III
Court: IN THE COURT OF APPEALS OF THE STATE OF MISSISSIPPI
Plaintiff's Attorney: OFFICE OF THE ATTORNEY GENERAL
BY: ASHLEY LAUREN SULSER
Jackson, MS - Criminal defense attorney represented James Sims with disorderly conduct and resisting arrest charges.
¶3. On January 7, 2016, at approximately 8:45 p.m., Officer Tara Crum with the
Southaven Police Department was dispatched to the SuperLo Food Store (SuperLo) in
response to a shoplifting call. When she arrived, a security guard informed her that he had
a female suspect detained in the store and that there was possibly a male suspect in the area.
At that point, Officer Crum radioed for other officers in the area to come and assist. Shortly
after, three or four officers arrived to help her look for the second suspect.
¶4. The security guard helped two of the responding officers locate the vehicle that
possibly belonged to the shoplifters. The vehicle was empty, which led them to believe that
the male suspect was still in the area. Officer Chase Joiner, one of the responding officers,
testified that the other officers broadcasted over the radio that they saw a rifle in the back of
the car. At that point, Officer Joiner parked his vehicle in the parking lot facing SuperLo to
3 Brady v. Maryland, 373 U.S. 83, 87 (1963).
2watch for the male suspect.
¶5. Shortly after, Sims walked out of the restaurant Tiger Hot Wings. Officer Joiner
watched Sims leave the restaurant, turn left toward SuperLo, and take four or five steps.
Sims then stopped “abruptly” when he saw the officers at the SuperLo and walked in the
opposite direction. Officer Joiner found this behavior to be “unnatural” and “suspicious” and
continued to watch Sims.
¶6. As Sims continued to walk away, he looked back at Officer Joiner “five or six times.”
Based on his behavior, Officer Joiner drove his car toward Sims and pulled into the parking
lot that Sims had just entered on foot. He rolled his window down and said he wanted to
talk. Sims kept walking and said, “For what man? What do you want?” At that point, Officer
Joiner turned on his blue lights and got out of his patrol vehicle. After being asked several
times, Sims finally walked back toward Officer Joiner in an aggressive manner with his
hands in his pocket and said, “What the f*** do you want?” Around this time, Officer
Joiner’s partner, Officer Phillip Croy, arrived to assist. Officer Joiner asked Sims several
times to take his hands out of his pockets, and “he refused every single time.” Officer Joiner
testified that there were other people in the parking lot and the surrounding area during this
¶7. Officer Joiner testified that he could not remember whether he had to physically
remove Sims’s hands from his pockets or whether Sims removed them voluntarily. Either
way, Sims eventually placed his hands on the hood of Officer Joiner’s patrol vehicle, and
3Officer Joiner conducted a pat-down search to look for weapons. Officer Joiner testified that
at this point, based on the totality of the circumstances, he believed that Sims was likely
involved with the shoplifting incident. Officer Joiner asked Sims to place his hands behind
his back, and, at that point, Sims said, “No. F*** you.” Officer Joiner ultimately detained
Sims to “identify [Sims] and . . . to confirm or dispel the suspicions [he] had regarding the
shoplifting.” At that time, Officer Joiner had not decided whether to arrest Sims. Sims
refused to take his hands off the hood of the vehicle and place them behind his back, so
Officers Joiner and Croy physically moved his hands and placed the handcuffs. Officer
Joiner testified that Sims was cursing them loudly and acting “irate.” After Sims was
handcuffed, he was still not compliant and continued to physically pull away. Officer Joiner
stated there was a “brief struggle” and that Sims was eventually placed in the patrol vehicle
and driven to the police station.
¶8. Once Sims was identified, it was discovered that there was a warrant for his arrest for
contempt, which Officer Joiner suspected was the reason for his behavior. Officer Joiner
also testified that it was later discovered that Sims had nothing to do with the shoplifting
incident. Once they arrived at the station, Sims “jerked away” from Officer Joiner and
refused to cooperate. Officer Croy’s testimony at trial corroborated Officer Joiner’s recount
of the events leading up to Sims’s arrest. Sims was ultimately charged with disorderly
conduct, resisting arrest, and public profanity.
4 The public profanity charge was later dismissed. Additionally, Sims pled guilty to
the outstanding contempt-of-court charge.
4¶9. Sims testified that he did not head toward SuperLo when he left Tiger Hot Wings as
stated by Officer Joiner. He instead claimed he was walking to a nearby gas station. Sims
also claimed that Officer Joiner was lying during most of his testimony. Sims admitted to
seeing Officer Joiner’s patrol vehicle but claimed he only glanced at it initially. Sims also
testified that he immediately complied and stopped walking as soon as he heard Officer
Joiner speak to him. He stated that he never had a chance to put his hands behind his back
and that the officers threw him against the car and handcuffed him. Finally, Sims denied
knowing that he had a warrant out for his arrest for contempt of court until Officer Joiner told
¶10. On May 11, 2016, Sims was convicted of disorderly conduct and resisting arrest in
municipal court. He appealed the judgment to county court. The county court held a bench
trial, which occurred on December 4, 2017, and February 13, 2018. At the close of trial, the
county court found Sims guilty of disorderly conduct and resisting arrest. Sims subsequently
filed an untimely motion for judgment notwithstanding the verdict (JNOV) or alternatively,
a new trial. The county court ultimately found Sims’s delay in filing was a result of
“inadvertence” and denied Sims’s post-trial motion pursuant to Mississippi Rule of Criminal
Procedure 25.1(c). Sims then appealed the county court’s judgment to circuit court on March
12, 2018. Sims and the City submitted briefs for the court’s review. After reviewing the
briefs and the county court record, the circuit court affirmed the county court’s judgment on
5July 9, 2019, under Mississippi Rule of Criminal Procedure 30.1(c).5
STANDARD OF REVIEW
¶11. “In a bench trial, the trial judge is ‘the jury’ for all purposes of resolving issues of
fact.” Sendelweck v. State, 101 So. 3d 734, 738-39 (¶19) (Miss. Ct. App. 2012) (citing Evans
v. State, 547 So. 2d 38, 40 (Miss. 1989)). “As such, a ‘judge sitting without a jury is
accorded the same deference with regard to his findings as a chancellor, and his findings are
safe on appeal where they are supported by substantial, credible, and reasonable evidence.’”
Carlson v. City of Ridgeland, 131 So. 3d 1220, 1223 (¶13) (Miss. Ct. App. 2013) (citing
Doolie v. State, 856 So. 2d 669, 671 (¶7) (Miss. Ct. App. 2003)).
1. The City did not commit a Brady violation.
¶12. Sims argues that the City committed a Brady violation by suppressing audio
recordings between the officers who responded to the shoplifting incident at the SuperLo.
5 Rule 30.1(c) requires a circuit court to affirm a county court’s judgment when there
is no prejudicial error:
On appeal, legal arguments may be heard in any countywithin the jurisdiction
of the circuit court and shall be considered solely on the record made in
county court. If no prejudicial error be found, the circuit court shall affirm
and enter judgment in like manner as affirmances in the Supreme Court. If
prejudicial error be found, the circuit court shall reverse as is provided for
reversals in the Supreme Court. If a new trial is granted, the cause shall be
placed on the docket of the circuit court and a new trial held therein de novo.
6More specifically, Sims claims that “the [exculpatory] information passed between the
officers on the radio would have shown that at the time Officer [Joiner] stopped [Sims] that
he knew that Sims was not involved in the shoplifting incident at the grocery store.”
¶13. The week before trial, Sims filed a motion requesting additional evidence, which
included the alleged audio recording and subpoenas for several employees at the police
department. On the first day of trial, the City maintained that it had provided everything
requested through discovery, including “an audio recording in the sallyport as well as
dispatch recordings.” The next day, defense counsel sent the City prosecutor a letter, again
requesting additional evidence and subpoenas. The City filed a motion to quash the request
for the subpoenas, and the court heard the matter on what was supposed to be the second day
of trial. The City reiterated that it had provided all the available requested evidence it had
to Sims. Although the court had “a real problem with [defense counsel’s] sloppiness” in
waiting until “the last minute,” it entered an order the same day of the hearing requiring the
City to provide “a complete record of the dispatch recordings for the time and date relevant
to the facts in this case.” When trial resumed February 13, 2018, there was no further
discussion of any missing evidence. The City contended that it fully complied with the
county court’s order.
¶14. In Brady v. Maryland, the United States Supreme Court held that a prosecution’s
suppression “of evidence favorable to an accused upon request violates due process where
the evidence is material either to guilt or to punishment, irrespective of the good faith or bad
7faith of the prosecution.” Brady, 373 U.S. at 87. To succeed on his Brady claim, Sims must
prove that (1) the State possessed evidence favorable to the defendant; (2) Sims did not
possess the evidence nor could he obtain it himself with any reasonable diligence; (3) the
State suppressed the favorable evidence; and (4) had the evidence been disclosed to Sims,
there is a reasonable probability that the outcome of his proceedings would have been
different. Claiborne v. State, 176 So. 3d 769, 773-74 (¶13) (Miss. 2015). First and foremost,
Sims cannot prove that the City possessed any additional audio recordings between the
officers. Second, Sims cannot prove that had the City possessed this alleged “exculpatory”
information, the outcome of his trial would have been different. Officer Joiner testified as
to why he detained (and eventually arrested) Sims, and Officer Croy corroborated Officer
Joiner’s testimony to the extent he was present. Regardless of any audio recordings prior to
Sims’s arrest, the fact remains that none of those recordings would change the circumstances
surrounding Sims’s arrest forthe charges of disorderlyconduct and resisting arrest. For these
reasons, Sims’s Brady claim fails.
2. The City did not present perjured testimony.
¶15. Sims claims that Officer Joiner committed perjury when he testified that he heard
another officer state on the radio that a rifle was in the suspect’s vehicle. Sims further claims
Officer Joiner “fabricated” that information to justify stopping Sims in the parking lot.
¶16. “The prosecution violates the defendant’s rights under the Fourteenth Amendment to
the United States Constitution when it knowingly presents false evidence or allows it to go
8uncorrected when it appears.” Robinson v. State, 247 So. 3d 1212, 1235 (¶59) (Miss. 2018),
cert. denied 139 S. Ct. 829 (2019). To prove the defendant’s rights have been violated, a
defendant “must first demonstrate that a prosecution witness knowingly provided false
testimony.” Id. at (¶59) (citing Havard v. State, 86 So. 3d 896, 901 (¶18) (Miss. 2012)). A
new trial is appropriate when the false testimony has “any reasonable likelihood” that may
“affect the judgment of the [fact finder].” Id. (quoting Napue v. Illinois, 360 U.S. 264, 271
¶17. At trial, Officer Joiner was the only witness to testify that he heard an officer state
there was a rifle in the suspect vehicle. The dispatcher testified that she could not recall if
any officer made that exact statement. Additionally, one of the responding officers testified
that he did not recall seeing a rifle in the vehicle but also admitted he could not “recall a
whole lot” since the incident occurred nearly two years prior.
¶18. After review, we find that Sims is unable to meet his burden to prove that Officer
Joiner “knowinglyprovided false testimony.” No other witness contradicted Officer Joiner’s
testimony. The State’s witnesses could not recall all the details, presumably because of the
time lapse between the incident and trial. Further, Sims fails to show how this alleged false
testimony would have had “any reasonable likelihood” to affect the trial court’s judgment.
Id. Accordingly, this issue is without merit.
3. There is sufficient evidence to support Sims’s convictions.
¶19. Sims next argues there was insufficient evidence to support his convictions. We apply
9a de novo standard of review to challenges to the sufficiency of the evidence. Sanford v.
State, 247 So. 3d 1242, 1244 (¶10) (Miss. 2018). In doing so, “we view the evidence in the
light most favorable to the State and decide if [a] rational [finder of fact] could have found
the State proved each element of the crime.” Lenoir v. State, 222 So. 3d 273, 279 (¶25)
(Miss. 2017). The issue is not “whether we think the State proved the elements. Rather, we
must decide whether a reasonable [finder of fact] could rationally say that the State did.”
Poole v. State, 46 So. 3d 290, 293-94 (¶20) (Miss. 2010).
¶20. Sims is guiltyof disorderlyconduct under section 97-35-7(1)(i) iftheCityproved that,
with intent to breach the peace, he “fail[ed] or refuse[d] to promptly comply with or obey a
request, command, or order of a law enforcement officer, having the authority to then and
there arrest any person for a violation of the law. . . .” Miss. Code Ann. § 97-35-7(1)(i).
Both Officer Joiner and Officer Croy testified they repeatedly asked Sims to remove his
hands from his pockets, and he refused each time. They also testified that Sims was “irate”
and cursing at them with people in the surrounding area. Both this Court and the Mississippi
Supreme Court have held these types of actions sufficient to prove disorderly conduct. See
Sendelweck, 101 So. 3d at 741 (¶27) (holding that there was sufficient evidence of disorderly
conduct based on the “actions, behavior, and offensive language” of the defendant); S.M.K.S.
v. Youth Court of Union Cnty., 155 So. 3d 747, 750 (¶12) (Miss. 2015) (holding the officer
lawfully arrested defendant for disorderly conduct when he failed to “obey [the officer’s]
commands to show his hands or to place his hands on the car under circumstances that could
10lead to a breach of the peace.”).
¶21. Sims is guilty of resisting arrest under section 97-9-73 if the City proved that Sims
resisted or obstructed by force, threats, violence, or any other means, an officer’s attempt at
a lawful arrest. Miss. Code Ann. § 97-9-73. The evidence discussed above shows that
Sims’s arrest was lawful. The evidence also shows that Sims refused to place his hands
behind his back and that the officers had to physically move his hands in order to handcuff
him. Additionally, Officer Joiner testified that there was a “brief struggle” before Sims was
placed in the patrol vehicle.
¶22. Chief Judge Barnes’s dissent claims that Officer Joiner did not have “reasonable
suspicion to stop Sims, much less probable cause to arrest him.” The United States Supreme
Court provides a framework for determining whether reasonable suspicion exists at the time
of a stop:
When discussing how reviewing courts should make reasonable-suspicion
determinations, we have said repeatedly that they must look at the “totality of
the circumstances” of each case to see whether the detaining officer has a
“particularized and objective basis” forsuspecting legalwrongdoing. This
process allows officers to draw on their own experience and specialized
training to make inferences from and deductions about the cumulative
information available to them that “might well elude an untrained person.”
United States v. Arvizu, 534 U.S. 266, 273 (2002) (emphasis added) (quoting United States
v. Cortez, 449 U.S. 411, 418 (1981)). Essentially, the Supreme Court held that a review of
reasonable suspicion should be based on the totality of the circumstances. Further, an
officer’s “‘particularized and objective basis’ for suspecting legal wrongdoing [and his] own
11experience allows [him] to make inferences from and deductions about the cumulative
information available to [him].” Id.
¶23. The Mississippi Supreme Court has held that “[t]o stop and temporarily detain is not
an arrest, and the cases hold that given reasonable circumstances an officer may stop and
detain a person to resolve an ambiguous situation without having sufficient knowledge to
justify an arrest.” Gonzales v. State, 963 So. 2d 1138, 1141 (¶13) (Miss. 2007) (quoting
Singletary v. State, 318 So. 2d 873, 876 (Miss. 1975)). In his bench ruling, the county court
judge stated that the events surrounding the incident “would most appropriately be described
as an ambiguous situation.” We agree. Officer Joiner was called to the crime scene where
one person was under arrest for shoplifting, and the security guard indicated there “may” be
a possible male suspect in the area. The dissent admits that the officer observed Sims exit
another business, walk toward SuperLo (the location of the crime), then change direction.
The officer testified that Sims appeared “highly suspicious” and that he kept “glancing” back
at the patrol car. At this point in time, the officer, who is at the scene of a crime where one
person is under arrest and is advised that there may be other individuals involved in the
crime, observes Sims change directions from the patrol car and continue to glance back at
the patrol car in a suggestive manner. Based on the totality of the circumstances, the officer
had reasonable suspicion to stop Sims and question himconcerning his potential involvement
in the crime being investigated.
¶24. The dissents claim that it was not an “ambiguous” situation despite two officers on
12scene being told that another male “may” be involved. However, upon arrival, Officer Joiner
was engaging in an investigation in looking for a possible “male” suspect. Sims was a male.
Sims had an outstanding warrant for his arrest for contempt of court. Sims certainly had a
reason to avoid the officers, which corroborates the officer’s testimony that Sims was acting
suspiciously. The dissents have the luxury of now knowing that Sims was not involved in
the crime being investigated. The officers did not have that luxury. They were conducting
an investigation as to whether one or two people were involved in a crime for which they
were called to a scene to investigate.
¶25. Further, Judge Westbrooks’s dissent maintains that Officer Joiner had no reasonable
suspicion to stop Sims, adding that Officer Joiner “exhibited implicit bias that led him to
target Sims because he was Black.” This conclusion makes factual determinations not made
by the three previewing courts that found Sims guilty of disorderly conduct and resisting
arrest. Pursuant to United States Supreme Court precedent, this Court must view what
Officer Joiner knew at the time and not from 20/20 hindsight. See Arvizu, 534 U.S. at 273.
As previously stated, both Officer Joiner and Officer Croy testified that upon arrival, they
were told there was a possible male suspect in the area who may have been involved in the
crime for which one suspect was already in custody. Officer Joiner testified that he “might”
have asked if the suspect was black or white in an attempt to obtain a description of the
suspect. Officer Croy similarly testified that he “believe[d] [Officer Joiner] did ask on the
radio to one of the other officers on scene if it was a black male or white male.” No racial
13description was provided at that time. Officer Joiner continued to patrol the area and
eventually stopped in front of the SuperLo parking lot to observe the storefront. At that
point, he saw Sims exiting Tiger Hot Wings, which is located approximately fifty to one
hundred yards to the left of SuperLo. According to Officer Joiner, Sims was acting
“unnatural” and “suspicious” when he “abruptly” changed direction after seeing the officers
and continued to “look back” while walking away. Again, he was told upon arrival that a
male suspect may be involved. Under the totality of the circumstances, Officer Joiner had
reasonable suspicion to stop and question Sims.
¶26. Even though Officer Joiner had reasonable suspicion to stop and question Sims, Sims
had every right to refuse to answer the officer’s questions under the Fifth Amendment of the
United States Constitution. Sims did not avail himself of that right. What Sims did not have
a right to do is to conduct himself in a disorderlymanner in violation ofsection 97-35-7(1)(i).
As discussed above, both officers testified that Sims repeatedly refused to remove his hands
from his pockets, was “irate,” and continued to curse at the officers in a public place with
people nearby. Both Sendelweck and S.M.K.S. have held that kind of behavior qualifies as
disorderly conduct within the meaning of the statute. Thus, Sims’s arrest was lawful.
Reviewing the evidence in the light most favorable to the City, a reasonable finder of fact
could have found that the City proved each element to convict Sims of disorderly conduct
and resisting arrest. Accordingly, we find that the evidence was sufficient to support Sims’s
144. The verdicts were not against the overwhelming weight of the
¶27. Sims finally asserts that the trial judge’s judgment was against the overwhelming
weight of the evidence. Our role as an appellate court is to “view the evidence in the light
most favorable to the verdict and disturb the verdict only when it is so contrary to the
overwhelming weight of the evidence that to allow it to stand would sanction an
unconscionable injustice.” Little v. State, 233 So. 3d 288, 289 (¶1) (Miss. 2017). “It is
enough to say that the [trial judge sitting without a jury], and not the reviewing court, judges
the credibility of the witnesses as well as the weight and worth of their conflicting
testimony.” Walker v. State, 791 So. 2d 885, 887 (¶2) (Miss. Ct. App. 2001) (quoting Burrell
v. State, 613 So. 2d 1186, 1192 (Miss. 1993)).
¶28. As previously discussed, the City presented ample evidence to show that Sims was
guilty of both disorderly conduct and resisting arrest. Further, the trial judge, sitting as the
finder of fact, judged the credibility of the witnesses and weighed the conflicting testimony.
In viewing the evidence in the light most favorable to the verdicts, it cannot be said that
allowing the guilty verdicts to stand would sanction an unconscionable injustice.
Outcome: We find that Sims failed to show that the City committed a Brady violation. We also
find that Sims failed to prove the City presented perjured testimony. Further, we find that the City presented sufficient evidence to support Sims’s convictions and that the verdicts were not against the overwhelming weight of the evidence. Accordingly, we affirm Sims’sconvictions and sentences.