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ARLETHA WINTERS v. STATE OF MISSISSIPPI

FEBRUARY 15, 1984

ARLETHA WINTERS
v.
STATE OF MISSISSIPPI



BEFORE PATTERSON, PRATHER AND ROBERTSON

ROBERTSON, JUSTICE, FOR THE COURT:

I.

On December 9, 1981, Thomas John McGee, then aged sixteen, made a bungling attempt to rob at gunpoint the Tinnin Road Grocery in rural Hinds County. In due course, Arletha Winters, defendant below and appellant here, and McGee were formally charged with armed robbery in indictments returned by the Hinds County grand jury. After McGee entered a plea of guilty, Winters was put to trial on the morning of February 23, 1982. After hearing all of the evidence and receiving the instructions of the court and the arguments of counsel, the jury found Winters guilty of the charge of armed robbery. The circuit court thereupon imposed a sentence of twenty-five years within the custody of the Mississippi Department of Corrections.

 Displeased with the outcome of the proceedings below, Winters has appealed. We affirm.

 II.

 Arletha Winters, Thomas John McGee and one Betty Brown went to the Tinnin Road Grocery on December 8, 1981. The trio remained in the store for about half an hour on that day, playing pool and pinball in a back room. Mrs. Winnie Kelly, one of the proprietors of the store, remembered both Winters and McGee and was able to identify them at trial. Mrs. Kelly also remembered that the trio was traveling in a maroon Grand Prix automobile.

 On the following day, December 9, 1981, Winters, McGee and Brown returned to the store at approximately 12:30 p.m. At that time, McGee walked into the store and pulled a gun on Mrs. Kelly, the sole store attendant present at the time. Mrs. Kelly yelled to her husband who was in the back. When he answered, she yelled back that there was a boy in the store with a gun on her. This apparently scared McGee, and he ran out of the store empty-handed.

 Witnesses testified that McGee ran toward and got into the back seat of the same maroon Grand Prix automobile that had been there the day before. The car drove off slowly.

 Thomas McGee testified that Arletha Winters had devised the entire operation. He said that Winters had arranged for the use of Ruby Brown's automobile that day. He stated that Arletha Winters, who was five years his senior, planned the robbery and that she furnished the gun with which he attempted to rob the Tinnin Road Grocery. He testified that Winters was in the automobile at the time of the robbery attempt. When he got back to the car, McGee said that Winters asked him what had happened, and he told her that the robbery attempt had failed. The three then drove back to Jackson, and Winters took McGee home.

 At trial, Winters vehemently denied any involvement in the robbery attempt, although in a post-arrest statement to law enforcement officers she acknowledged her presence at the scene. She suggested that McGee had implicated her in order to secure a more favorable treatment from the state for his involvement in the robbery. To be sure, the most substantial evidence implicating Winters was the testimony of McGee. For reasons set forth below, however, the McGee testimony was substantial and not inherently incredible. Suffice it to say that the jury resolved all credibility issues against Winters as it returned a verdict of guilty as charged in the indictment.

 III.

 A.

 Winters charges here that the trial court improperly restricted her efforts to offer character evidence. The challenged rulings occurred as follows:

 First, Ruby Brown, a friend of Winters, was asked:

 Now, Mrs. Brown, do you know the general reputation of Arletha Winters in the neighborhood or in the community where she resides or has resided for commission of crimes such as she is being charged with here?

 The state objected to this question, and the objection was sustained.

 Second, Ruby Nell Winters, the mother of the defendant, was asked on direct examination:

 Do you know her general reputation for the commission of crimes such as ...


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