The Mississippi Court of Appeals upheld the murder conviction of a Pike County man who was sentenced to life plus 10 years, rejecting his claim that he was denied a speedy trial.
Aundra Johnson was convicted of first-degree murder and possession of a firearm by a convicted felon in Pike County Circuit Court in August 2018. He was sentenced to life for the murder charge and ten years for the possession charge, which was to be served consecutively.
Johnson maintains that his constitutional right to a speedy trail was violated, but the court found no error in Johnson’s conviction or sentencing.
According to the Appeals Court, the right to a speedy trial encompasses when a trail was delayed and if it was delayed for good cause.
There were 633 days between his arrest and his trial. Johnson laid out two points when his trial was delayed. The first Johnson mentioned was the gap between his arrest on Nov. 19, 2016, and his indictment, which was handed down Dec. 15, 2017.
The court said the reason for this delay was that prosecutors did not have the autopsy report for the victim, Johnson’s then-girlfriend Tyshekia Hughes, in its case file during that delay. The autopsy report was not completed until June 24, 2017, and prosecutors did not receive the report until Nov. 13, 2017.
The Pike County Circuit Court said that while the lag in the issuance of the indictment delayed Johnson’s trial, there was no malicious intent behind the oversight.
“We cannot punish the defendant for the state’s oversight here,” Appeals Court judges wrote. “We agree with the circuit court that the state’s reason for delay does not meet the threshold for good cause, but there is no evidence of intentional or deliberate delay.”
The autopsy report wasn’t the only issue that delayed Johnson’s trial. Between March 19, 2018, and Aug. 14, 2018, his lawyers sought a mental evaluation. Because he made the motion for the evaluation, the Court said it should not be weighed against the State.
The state and circuit court also found that Johnson failed to invoke his right to a speedy trial because he took no action after his arraignment other than to move for a mental evaluation.
“It wasn’t until Aug. 6, 2018, just one week prior to trial, that Johnson moved to dismiss his indictment for violation of a speedy trial,” The Court said. “Furthermore, the record does not indicate that Johnson ever filed a motion demanding a speedy trial.”
The last issue Johnson appealed was prejudice to the defendant. He maintained that his ability to build a defense was inherently prejudiced by his incarceration during the delay. The court said Johnson failed to prove how his defense was impaired by the delay, and by extension, cannot prove prejudice against him.
Hughes was at her brother’s trailer when the police were called Nov. 16, 2016, for a domestic violence report. Hughes and her brother’s girlfriend Calvanisha had gotten into an argument, but officers calmed the situation.
Hughes and her brother were neighbors, so Hughes went back to her trailer. While walking back, Hughes met up with Johnson, and they got into an argument about the fight that happened moments before.
Several witnesses testified that they saw Johnson pull out a gun and shoot Hughes in the head. Officers heard the gunshot from Hughes’ brother’s trailer and ran outside. They found Hughes’ body on the ground next to a vehicle in front of her trailer.
Police officers chased Johnson between several trailers and across a ditch until he finally stopped and faced them with his hands in his pockets. When he raised his hands, officers reportedly heard a “thump” and saw a handgun on the ground. At that point, Johnson fled again until the officers again caught up and apprehended him.