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ELTON DUCKWORTH v. STATE OF MISSISSIPPI

AUGUST 07, 1985

ELTON DUCKWORTH
v.
STATE OF MISSISSIPPI



BEFORE ROY NOBLE LEE, DAN LEE AND ROBERTSON

DAN LEE, JUSTICE, FOR THE COURT:

This is an appeal from the Circuit Court of the First Judicial District of Harrison County wherein the appellant, Elton Duckworth, was found guilty of armed robbery. The jury fixed Duckworth's sentence at life imprisonment.

Shortly after 11:00 a.m., on January 26, 1978, Elton Duckworth and Willie George Carter entered Rouse's Grocery, located near Saucier, Mississippi. Carter bought some ice cream, after which Duckworth approached the counter, pulled a gun on the clerk and ordered her to open the cash register. The clerk, Georgia Ann Henley, was told to lie on the floor, whereupon Willie George Carter tied her hands behind her back with a piece of wire. Duckworth and Carter then left the store, taking with them approximately $126 and some food stamps still in the change drawer of the cash register. They reentered the car in which they had arrived and drove away. That vehicle was driven by Troy Carter, the brother of Willie George Carter. Shortly thereafter, the three were apprehended by officers of the Harrison County Sheriff's Department.

 At trial, Georgia Ann Henley stated that on January 26, 1978, at about 11:15, she was held up by three black men, one who stayed with the vehicle while the other two entered the store. She testified that Willie George Carter bought an ice cream while Elton Duckworth looked around the store awhile. Shortly thereafter, Duckworth pulled a gun on her and told her to open the cash register. Henley identified Duckworth in the courtroom, identified the change drawer from the cash register, and testified as to the contents of the change drawer on the day of the robbery. Henley identified the gun used in the robbery as being black with a white handle and described it as looking real to her. Henley went on to testify that Willie George Carter tied her hands with a piece of wire and made her lie down on the floor behind the counter where she remained until they left the store.

 William F. Collins testified that, on January 26, 1978, he was employed as a County Patrolman with Harrison County. On that day, he and his partner got a call alerting them to an armed robbery that occurred at Rouse's Grocery. They were advised to be on the lookout for an old model green car containing three black males, one of whom was possibly wearing a tan or reddish leather coat. Shortly

 thereafter, Collins and his partner stopped an old model green car with three black males in it, two in the front seat and one in the rear. The driver wore a leather coat which fit the description the officers had been given. Collins identified the occupants of the vehicle as being the three defendants, Elton Duckworth, Troy Carter and Willie Carter. Collins described finding the cash register change tray lying in the highway, 150 to 200 yards south of Rouse's Grocery. He went on to identify money and food stamps found in the tray and in the automobile. No weapon was found in the vehicle, according to Collins's testimony, although a gun was subsequently located one-half to three-quarters of a mile north of where the car was stopped.

 Major Jerry Cooper, Chief of Patrol with the Harrison County Sheriff's Department, testified that he assisted in the investigation and was present when the gun was recovered, though not when the vehicle was stopped. He testified that the weapon was a .22 caliber type pistol, with a plugged barrel, and was actually a blank pistol. He also stated that he did not know whether it was possible that the gun could harm someone by being fired, although he acknowledged that it could have been used as a club and that he would not want it fired at him from close range.

 At this point the state rested its case whereupon counsel for Elton Duckworth moved the court for severance prior to the testimony of co-defendant, Troy Carter. This motion was overruled.

 Troy Lee Carter took the stand and stated that, on January 26, 1978, he had driven his green, 1966 Oldsmobile to his aunt's house, located across the highway from Rouse's Grocery. He stated that he had dropped off his brother, Willie Carter, and Elton Duckworth at Rouse's Grocery while he waited in the car. Carter further testified that he had never seen the cash register change tray until after he was in police custody and that he had never seen the pistol before.

 When shown a photograph of the front interior of his car, Carter acknowledged that it fairly and accurately depicted the scene and the condition of his car when the officer stopped it, with the exception of the placement of some tapes on and under the seat. Carter subsequently identified another photograph as showing Rouse's Grocery the way it appeared on January 26, 1978. Both photos were admitted into evidence as was an additional photograph of a brown paper bag which Carter testified looked like the same bag that was visible in the photograph of the front

 interior of his car.

 After a lunch recess, on redirect, Troy Carter changed his testimony, stating that the photograph of the interior of his car did not show his car the way it was when he got out. Specifically, Carter denied the presence of the bag of money which was shown in two of the photographs.

 On recross, Troy Carter admitted that an attorney, alleged to have represented Willie George Carter, had approached him during the noon hour, that they had discussed the photographs showing the bag with money in it and that, after talking with that attorney, he had changed his testimony. He stated that he had not understood that his original testimony regarding the appearance of the interior of the automobile had included the bag of money depicted within ...


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