The state Court of Appeals has ruled a Biloxi drug-dealer who threw cocaine off the balcony of a hotel room should not receive a new trial or acquittal.
Kenneth Ray Ainsworth, 46, is serving a 20-year prison term, day for day, for possession with intent to distribute cocaine. Biloxi police had arrested him April 4, 2014, and said he was selling cocaine out of a room he was renting at Treasure Bay Casino.
A Harrison County jury found him guilty two years later. He was prosecuted as a habitual offender, ineligible for early release from prison.
Ainsworth filed a motion to appeal the conviction in Harrison County Circuit Court. Judge Lisa Dodson denied his motion June 28, 2016.
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A unanimous decision by the appellate court July 25 upheld Dodson’s ruling.
Police have said Ainsworth had a marijuana-filled cigarette in his mouth when he answered their knock on his door. The jury believed testimony that Ainsworth had cocaine in his pocket, which he tossed over the balcony, and cocaine in his room. Police found a bag of cocaine on a roof under the balcony of his room.
Ainsworth, on appeal, claimed the court erred by giving jurors an instruction during deliberations and told them to continue deliberating. He claimed it prejudiced the jury, and said his attorney did not represent him adequately.
The jury foreman had sent the judge a note showing the 12 jurors had found Ainsworth guilty of cocaine possession, but only 11 of the 12 agreed on the cocaine distribution charge.
The jury did not follow proper procedures in voting, appellate court Judge Virginia Carlton wrote in the ruling.
Dodson gave the jury a Sharplin instruction, a charge describing how jurors are to proceed with deliberations when it appears there may be no unanimous verdict.
The judge reiterated her previous instruction that the jury was to first decide on the primary charge before voting on the lesser charge. The judge properly encouraged the jury to accept the law, apply the law to the facts and to vote uninfluenced by other jurors, the ruling said.
Ainsworth has had three other felony drug convictions and one on a robbery. He is serving time on one of the drug charges from a conviction in Jackson County
His tentative release date from prison is Feb. 26, 2035, the state prison’s website shows.