- Associated Press - Wednesday, May 18, 2016

JACKSON, Miss. (AP) - A man convicted of murdering a Greenville rapper is asking the Mississippi Supreme Court to overturn his conviction.

Wednesday before a three-judge panel, lawyer Merrida Coxwell argued that the murder conviction of Daner Ford should be thrown out because prosecutors improperly introduced evidence of an earlier shooting at a 2010 trial.

Ford is one of four men convicted of killing Marvin Stuckett, who was gunned down in 2008 after a fight at a nightclub. Ford was found guilty of murder by a Washington County jury and sentenced to life in prison, plus another 15 years on gun charges. The 42-year-old is imprisoned at the Walnut Grove Correctional Facility in Leake County.

Stuckett was one half of the rap duo Needle in a Haystack, a group that had toured regionally and recorded multiple albums.

Carlos Smith, who testified that he argued and fought with Ford at a nightclub the night of the shooting, also testified that Ford had shot him 14 years earlier. However, Smith testified that he didn’t see Ford and Stuckett interact before he left the club that night. Others testified that Ford and Stuckett later fought.

Coxwell said discussion of that shooting had nothing to do with the crime of which Ford was accused, but he said it poisoned the jury even though a judge told jurors to ignore the remarks.

“I don’t think there was any chance the jury was going to give the defense any weight whatsoever once they heard he shot a man 14 years ago,” Coxwell said.

That defense revolved around a witness who testified that during the shooting at Stuckett’s house, he heard someone yell, “Don’t do it, O.J.” O.J. is the nickname of Stevenson Ford, Daner Ford’s nephew. Stevenson Ford was also convicted of murder and remains in prison.

Assistant Attorney General Laura Tedder said the judge’s instructions to ignore the remarks are enough and Daner Ford suffered no harm.

“They were instructed to disregard, and we can presume they followed that instruction,” Tedder told the justices.

Coxwell also asked judges to overturn the conviction because jurors were instructed that Ford, found hiding in his mother’s attic, had fled police. Coxwell said there was no evidence Ford knew police were looking for him.

Tedder said Ford’s actions, after he gave a false statement to police and consulted his lawyer, proved he knew he was in trouble.

“He had figured out he couldn’t get himself out of this by talking,” she said. “He had to hide.”

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Online: Ford v. State: https://1.usa.gov/1TpfNFi

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Follow Jeff Amy at: https://twitter.com/jeffamy. His work can be found at https://bigstory.ap.org/author/jeff-amy


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