(Ellisville) After listening to just over two hours of testimony on Thursday, May 9, a group of jurors in Ellisville produced a verdict of “not guilty” in a State of Mississippi case against Talib Mujahid for the alleged sale of methamphetamine. Mujahid was accused of selling the controlled substance to a confidential informant in the parking lot in front of KFC and Family Dollar in Ellisville on July 5, 2016.
The informant, who admitted in court that he had an ongoing drug problem himself in 2016, was paid by narcotics officers to help set up a drug deal with Mujahid and act as the buyer in the exchange. He successfully arranged a deal and bought from someone what a forensics expert confirmed during testimony from the stand was methamphetamine. A video of the drug buy, which was captured by surveillance equipment worn by the informant, was of low quality and did not unequivocally establish the identity of the person in the car selling the drugs. The prosecution said that person was Mujahid.
Defense attorney Michael Mitchell asked the Ellisville jury during opening arguments to pay close attention to the complexion of the person’s skin in the video who sold the informant the drugs, saying it did not match the complexion of the his client. Mitchell also asked the seven men and five women of the jury to notice the tattoos on the arm of the alleged drug seller in the video, and he pointed out that the defendant he represented did not have any visible tattoos.
Later in the trial, Mitchell pounded away at the way narcotics officers handled the office report of the drug transaction, questioning them as to why the full report for the District Attorney’s office was entered into a computer in January 2017 for an incident that occurred nearly six months earlier. The attorney made the office report an essential element of his client’s defense, asserting that since the data from the July 2016 incident was entered into the computer months later, details about the incident could have been omitted or erroneous information recorded.
“Our memory fades with time,” he stated.
Mitchell handed the January 2017 incident report to one of the officers on the stand, James Stiglet, and pointed out that the report did not contain details to confirm his earlier oral testimony that he and another officer, Jared Lindsey, had followed the confidential informant to the scene of the alleged drug sale nor did the report state that he had witnessed the transaction.
“I failed to put it in the report this time,” Stiglet said. The officer did report that although he couldn’t identify Mujahid “without a shadow of a doubt from where I was sitting” during the transaction on July 5, 2016, he did witness the gray car the informant said Mujahid would be driving pull into the parking lot and saw a black man in the vehicle. The informant was acquainted with Mujahid before July 5, 2016, and had shared information with the officers about him, including what kind of vehicle he drove.
Lindsey’s testimony matched that of his fellow officer about the events of that July day, including meeting the informant, equipping the informant with audio and video equipment at a staging area, and then following the informant to the parking lot to set up the sale. Lindsey told Assistant District Attorney Kristen Martin and the jurors that he was able to see the suspect from where he was sitting in the parking lot on the day of the incident, and he pointed at Mujahid in the courtroom and said he was the man he saw in the vehicle on July 5, 2016.
After the defense rested at 2:26 p.m., Judge Dal Williamson asked the jurors to retire to the jury room. He then heard a motion from Mitchell to issue a direct verdict. Mitchell reiterated to the judge that “the face of the defendant is clearly not on the video” and he contended that the confidential informant used by the narcotics officers was a drug addict in 2016 and that he had credibility issues.
Judge Williamson denied the motion, declaring that the State had presented sufficient facts that a jury could use to convict.
After the jurors reentered the court room, the defense rested and closing arguments from Mitchell and Martin ensued.
“We can stand here and talk about narratives and videos and tattoos all night,” Martin told the jury. “They (officers) admitted that they didn’t put every detail into the report, but they had two eyewitnesses who saw (the informant) buy drugs from Mr. Mujahid. The bottom line is that the two detectives and (the informant) knew it was Mr. Mujahid then and they know it’s Mr. Mujahid today.”
Mujahid did not take the stand during the trial, nor did the defense call any other witnesses to the stand.
The jurors left the courtroom to deliberate the case at 3:16 p.m. and returned with their verdict 68 minutes later.