According to court documents, the April 2011 conviction of Joel Baskin was reversed by the Mississippi Supreme Court on January 30, 2014. After the Montgomery County Circuit Clerk's office received the mandate of the Supreme Court last week, Baskin, who was serving a life sentence for the crime, was picked up from the Marshall County Jail by the Montgomery County Sheriff's Department and transported to the Carroll-Montgomery Regional Correctional Facility in Vaiden until a new trial is set.
District Attorney Doug Evans, of the fifth district, would not comment on the court's ruling, but he said he could not predict how his office will proceed without further review of the case.
"It's hard to say right now," Evans said. "We'll have to look at it and make a decision."
In 2011, a Montgomery County jury took less than 30 minutes to hand down a guilty verdict of possession of cocaine for Baskin.
According to court testimony, on October 21, 2010, Winona police officers arrested Baskin after allegedly finding 18 crack rocks in his pocket.
Winona Police Captain Tommy Bibbs testified that on the afternoon of October 21, 2010, he and former Winona police Sergeant Michael Gross went to Baskin's home located on North Union Street in Winona to serve him with an arrest warrant for aggravated assault. After Baskin was taken into custody, Gross testified he performed a standard police pat-down and allegedly found the cocaine in Baskin's front right pocket.
Defense witnesses Darsheika Wallace and Michael Flowers both testified that they were present when Baskin was arrested and neither saw the police pull anything from Baskin's pocket.
Baskin was sentenced to life in prison, day for day, by Judge Clarence Morgan, III, due to a habitual offender enhancement, as mandated in Mississippi Statute 99-19-83, for two previous felony convictions in 1994 and 2006.
The state Court of Appeals upheld the conviction in 2013, but the Court of Appeals judgment was "affirmed in part and reversed in part" by Supreme Court of Mississippi.
According to the On Writ of Certiorari, the Supreme Court upheld the Court of Appeals ruling that Baskin was "procedurally barred from claiming the arrest warrant was issued without probable cause." However, the high court reversed the conviction due to the trial judge allowing the prosecution to use a misdemeanor petty-larceny conviction in an effort to “impeach” the eye-witness testimony of defense witness Wallace, which is inadmissible under Mississippi Rule of Evidence 609.
According to the Mississippi Rule of Evidence 609, in attacking the character for truthfulness of a witness, if a witness is convicted of a crime, that crime must be punishable by death or imprisonment of more than a year. Or it must be a crime in which the witness committed a crime that in the "commission of which involves some element of deceit, untruthfulness, or falsification…."
According to the writ, "Wallace testified that she was an eye witness to the events, and that the officers did not retrieve anything from Baskin's pocket. If the jury believed her testimony, it would not have convicted Baskin."