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ROBERT GROSECLOSE v. STATE OF MISSISSIPPI

OCTOBER 12, 1983

ROBERT GROSECLOSE
v.
STATE OF MISSISSIPPI



BEFORE WALKER, DAN LEE AND ROBERTSON

DAN LEE, JUSTICE, FOR THE COURT:

I.

On April 4, 1981, Robert Groseclose shot and killed his ex-father-in-law, John Mulhearn, Sr. He was convicted of murder in the Circuit Court of Jefferson County and sentenced to life imprisonment.

 The issue of Groseclose's sanity on April 4, 1981, predominated at trial. In spite of impressive expert testimony that Groseclose was insane, the jury convicted. Under our familiar and normally laudable rules limiting our power to review jury verdicts in criminal cases, we must affirm.

 II.

 A.

 The facts of this tragic killing of an innocent citizen are not disputed.

 By way of background, Robert Groseclose and Ruth Mulhearn were married in 1966. Three children were born of their union. The family lived in Texas. By 1976 it had become evident that Groseclose was seriously mentally ill. Various attempts at treatment, including three hospitalizations, accomplished little - in substantial part because Groseclose refused to cooperate.

 All of this led to the divorce of Ruth and Robert Groseclose in November of 1980. Ruth resumed her maiden name,

 Mulhearn, obtained custody of the three children, and moved to her father's home outside of Natchez, Mississippi.

 Some six months later, on April 4, 1981, Groseclose came to visit. Ruth, her father, John Mulhearn, Sr., and two of the children were at home. Ruth and Robert met outside. After several moments of seemingly normal conversation, Ruth noticed Robert walking toward her pointing a gun directly at her.

 Groseclose said," You're not going to poison my children's minds any more. I'm going to blow your head off. "Ruth began pleading for her life and screamed for help. She dropped to the ground as Groseclose began firing. She crawled around the car. Groseclose pursued. When directly in front of the car, he held the gun on the hood and pointed it directly at Ruth's head saying," I'm going to kill you. I'm going to blow your head off. "Ruth kept ducking and crawling around the car until she bumped into something, looked down, and saw her father lying there on the ground, his hand nearly blown off and blood everywhere." Bob, you shot daddy! "she screamed.

 Law enforcement authorities were ultimately summoned to the Mulhearn residence. When they arrived, they found Groseclose standing in the driveway holding a gun. He pointed out John Mulhearn, Sr. who was lying on the ground, dead.

 A deputy sheriff placed Groseclose under arrest, read him his rights, and searched him, finding a knife in the back of his belt. Asked why he had the knife, Groseclose replied," Sometimes a gun won't shoot. "Groseclose added," I've done what I come to do. "

 B.

 The bulk of the trial concerned Groseclose's mental illness. Ms. Mulhearn described her ex-husband as" a mean man ". She stated that three or four years earlier he had been diagnosed as having a chemical imbalance. He had a serious drinking problem, which, in turn, was compounded by drug use. Groseclose was admitted to hospitals for mental treatment in Abilene, Texas, Chicago, Illinois, and Kerrville, Texas. He was prescribed medication but often refused to take it.

 The defense offered three expert witnesses, Dr. Donald C. Guild and Dr. Robert L. McKinley, Jr., both psychiatrists, and Dr. Charleton S. Stanley, a psychologist. Each had examined and treated Groseclose extensively at the

 Mississippi State Hospital at Whitfield following his arrest but prior to trial.

 The psychiatric and psychological history fills hundreds of pages in the record. No useful purpose would be served in reciting it here. Suffice it to say that Drs. Guild, McKinley and Stanley were unanimous in their opinion that Groseclose was severely mentally ill. The diagnosis assigned was schizophrenia, paranoid type, chronic, severe. Each testified at trial, relying upon a substantial foundation in the record, that at the time of the shooting Groseclose did not know the difference between right and wrong and that he lacked substantial capacity to appreciate the nature and quality of his actions.

 Summarizing the cross-examination, the State concentrated on the seemingly normal things that Groseclose did on April 4, 1981. At various times one or more of the experts conceded that Groseclose's actions on that day could indicate that he knew the nature and quality of his actions.

 In rebuttal, the State called eight lay witnesses, each of whom had observed Groseclose at various times just prior to or just subsequent to the shooting. Mrs. Frank Walden testified she picked Groseclose up hitchhiking. She said there was nothing unusual about him. Justice Court Judge John Bailey had observed Groseclose for some 30 to 45 minutes on the morning in question and in his opinion Groseclose knew right from wrong. Deputy Sheriff Don Ward was the first law enforcement officer to arrive on the scene. He remained for approximately one hour. He testified that in his opinion Groseclose knew right from wrong and could appreciate the quality of his actions.

 Sharon Powell, who lived some 35 miles from Natchez, was called as a witness by the State. She testified that on April 4, 1981, Groseclose came to her door and asked if she would buy his shotgun. He said he needed gas but had no money. He said he was going to his ex-wife's home in Natchez. She did not buy his shotgun, but did take him to the store and help him get some gas. She testified that Groseclose appeared normal, that she was not afraid of him.

 Tina Thorpe testified that Groseclose came into her store with Mrs. Powell to get gas on the day of the shooting. She said he appeared perfectly rational and normal. Tom Coleman, a highway patrolman, found Groseclose stopped on the side of the road on April 4, 1981, and took him to get gas. Coleman was with Groseclose for approximately ten minutes. He said Groseclose appeared rational and normal. Coleman

 testified that he later responded to a call for help in transporting a murder suspect back to town. He arrived at the Mulhearn residence and saw Groseclose. Coleman said Groseclose recognized him and thanked him for the help he had given him on the highway earlier that day.

 Deputy Sheriff Jimmy Wallace also saw Groseclose for approximately ten minutes on April 4, 1981. He said that Groseclose had the ability to appreciate the nature and quality of his actions.

 Ruth Mulhearn and her brother, John Mulhearn, Sr., were hardly disinterested witnesses. Still each testified to having known Groseclose for approximately 15 years. Each saw him for approximately 30 minutes on April 4, 1981. Each offered an opinion that Groseclose was sane at the time of the killing.

 C.

 At the conclusion of all of the evidence, the jury was fully and adequately instructed regarding the principal issue in the case, that of the Defendant Groseclose's sanity at the time of the killing. In due course the jury returned a verdict of guilty of the crime of murder. On October 28, 1981, Groseclose filed a motion for judgment of acquittal notwithstanding the verdict of the jury or, in the alternative, for a new ...


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