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State Supreme Court upholds Lincoln County Circuit Court verdict

The state Supreme Court Thursday upheld a guilty verdict by a Lincoln County Circuit Court jury against a Lincoln County man who was sentenced as a habitual offender.

John Norman Cole, also known as Bo Cole, was found guilty for unlawful possession of less than 30 grams of marijuana with the intent to distribute and the illegal possession of a firearm by a convicted felon.

Because he was determined to be a habitual offender, Cole was sentenced Sept 22, 2016, by Circuit Judge Michael Taylor to three years for the marijuana-related charge, and 10 years for the possession of the firearm. The sentences were ordered to run consecutively.

Cole filed post-trial motions, all of which were denied, then appealed the conviction with the state Supreme Court.

In the appeal, Cole attacked the admission of certain evidence.

According to court documents, an anonymous tipster gave information to the Mississippi Bureau of Narcotics Aug. 6, 2015, that several unidentified individuals were gathered around a fire pit in front of a house near Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Drive and “subjects would pull up in vehicles and purchase drugs from people at that residence.”

Law enforcement officers found Cole and five other men in the spot the tipster reported as well as illegal drugs and weapons.

According to court records, one man attempted to hide a marijuana joint as well as a CD case containing additional marijuana. A second man produced a bottle from his pocket that contained marijuana.

“The agents then found marijuana and a pistol on another individual, Lattrick Williams,” court records show. “Having found narcotics on at least three of the individuals present, as well as a gun, the agents continued the investigation and chose to frisk Cole for weapons.

Cole fled along the roadway, the court records said.

Officers recovered a revolver, a hand towel and marijuana along Cole’s path as he ran and additional marijuana was found on him when he was captured.

According to officers’ testimony, Cole waived his rights and provided a statement that said he was selling the bags of marijuana for $10 each and had recently purchased the pistol found at the scene for $120.

The statement was not recorded, however, and no written report detailed the statement.

According to the court records, “During pretrial proceedings, Cole moved to suppress the evidence related to the marijuana and pistol, claiming that the search and seizure were unlawful and, therefore, those items were ‘fruit of the poisonous tree,’ which is a legal metaphor used to describe evidence that is obtained illegally.

Cole also sought to have any alleged statements by him suppressed.

In his testimony in the suppression hearing, Cole admitted he waived his Miranda rights and he had talked with agents but denied making statements regarding the sale of marijuana. However, he admitted that he had fled because he did not want to go to jail and that he was in possession of the marijuana and the pistol before he ran.

The Circuit Court denied Cole’s motion to suppress, and Cole was found guilty by a jury.

He appealed the decision, saying that the Circuit Court erred in its denial of his motion to suppress.

In their decision, the Supreme Court said agents possessed a valid, reasonable suspicion that Cole was engaged in criminal activity and was possibly armed; that he was lawfully and temporarily detained and that agents acquired the probable cause necessary to arrest Cole when he fled.

Because Cole abandoned the contraband in a public street, he had no reasonable expectation of privacy in those items. Also, once he was captured and placed into custody, the additional marijuana found on him was lawfully seized.

“Therefore, evidence of the seized contraband was admissible against Cole, and not the fruit of an illegal search or seizure,” court records show.

The Supreme Court said the circuit court did not err in denying Cole’s motion to suppress and affirmed the judgment of the circuit court.