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AUGUSTINE MERRILL v. STATE OF MISSISSIPPI

FEBRUARY 05, 1986

AUGUSTINE MERRILL
v.
STATE OF MISSISSIPPI



BEFORE ROY NOBLE LEE, DAN LEE AND PRATHER

DAN LEE, JUSTICE, FOR THE COURT:

Augustine Merrill was tried on August 30, 1983, in the Circuit Court of Newton County, Mississippi, and convicted of the crime of murder. She was sentenced to serve a term of life in the custody of the Mississippi Department of Corrections. From her conviction and sentence, she appeals to this Court.

In the early morning of January 9, 1983, Augustine Merrill shot and killed her husband, Robert Merrill. Although Robert Merrill had been arguing and fighting earlier with his wife, Augustine Merrill waited until he had been asleep

 thirty minutes before she shot him. She used a .410 bore shotgun which had been kept in the family car and loaded it with a shell retrieved from coveralls also kept in the car.

 After shooting her husband, Augustine Merrill and her children tried to carry Robert (who was then still alive) out to the car. Failing in this effort, she left Robert in the yard, drove to a neighbor's house and instructed the neighbor to attend to Robert. She then drove to her mother's house in Lauderdale County. Accompanied by members of her family, Augustine Merrill turned herself in to the Lauderdale County Sheriff's office in Meridian.

 At trial Robert Dean, Deputy Sheriff of Newton County testified that on January 9, 1983, at 12:20 a.m., he was called to the home of Robert Merrill in the Battlefield Community. There he found the body of Robert Merrill lying in the front yard. Inside the Merrill's house there was a couch covered with blood; a trail of blood led to the body.

 At approximately 2:00 a.m. Dean talked with Augustine Merrill at the Newton County Sheriff's office. Sheriff Ed Cumberland, Deputy Bud Miles, Dean, and Augustine Merrill were present. At that time Augustine Merrill did not appear to be under the influence of any drugs or alcohol and no threats or promises of leniency were made to her. She was read her Miranda rights and subsequently confessed to the killing.

 Sheriff Ed Cumberland testified to essentially the same set of events as had Dean. The .410 shotgun that had been turned over to the Lauderdale County Sheriff's office was given to Sheriff Cumberland. Augustine Merrill admitted that it was the gun she had used and that it had belonged to her husband Robert.

 Deputy Sheriff David Franklin, of the Lauderdale County Sheriff's Department, testified that Augustine Merrill came to the Lauderdale County Sheriff's office at approximately 1:00 a.m. on the morning of January 9, 1983, accompanied by three other people. A .410 bore shotgun was turned over to him at that time. Franklin identified it as the same one which had been introduced by Sheriff Cumberland. Franklin also testified that Augustine Merrill had not appeared to be under the influence of drugs or alcohol and that no threats or promises of leniency were made to her. At that time, in the Lauderdale County sheriff's office, Augustine Merrill had signed a waiver of her Miranda rights after which she confessed.

 Newton County Deputy Sheriff Bud Miles corroborated the testimony of the other law enforcement officers.

 Dr. Robert Jarrett, the physician who performed the autopsy on Robert Merrill, testified that his death had been caused by a shotgun wound to the abdomen. He also indicated that the gun had been fired from very close range.

 The state rested its case and the defense offered as a witness Annie Cryer, the mother of the defendant. Mrs. Cryer testified that the marriage of Augustine and Robert Merrill had been characterized by "violence between them." She further testified that, on the night of the killing, Augustine had walked with a stagger and had exhibited a staring countenance. However, she admitted that she saw no cuts on her daughter that night.

 Two brothers and a sister of Augustine Merrill corroborated their mother's testimony as to the turbulent nature of the Merrills' marriage. One brother, Lonnie Cryer, also testified that, on the night of the killing, he had accompanied his sister to the Lauderdale County Sheriff's office. He said that her movements had been slow and she had seemed to walk with her head down.

 Augustine Merrill took the stand in her own defense. Much of her testimony attested to the violent nature of her marriage. With reference to the night of January 9, 1983, Augustine Merrill stated, "I was always scared of him. (Robert)" . When asked why she shot her husband she said "I didn't want him hitting on ...


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