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RONALD WILLIAMS v. STATE OF MISSISSIPPI

JULY 29, 1987

RONALD WILLIAMS
v.
STATE OF MISSISSIPPI



BEFORE HAWKINS, P.J.; ROBERTSON AND ANDERSON, JJ.

ROBERTSON, JUSTICE, FOR THE COURT:

I.

This burglary case arises out of an after midnight victimization of one of life's more helpless creatures - a thirty-year-old mentally retarded female who lived somewhat alone in a Jackson apartment. Questions are presented regarding the weight of the evidence, the nature and extent of the prosecution's obligation to prove criminal intent attendant upon the breaking and entering and prosecutorial misconduct. Although on the latter point the prosecution

 skated perilously close to familiar limits upon his conduct, we find in the end no error warranting reversal.

 II.

 Janice Bates is the thirty-year-old adopted daughter of Harry Bates. She lives alone in Jackson above her father's cafe, Thelma's Pink Kitchen, which is not unusual except that Janice has the mind of an eight to ten-year-old child. She communicates only with members of her family familiar with her sign language. Janice Bates was not able to tell about the night her stepbrother found her partially nude and beaten about the face.

 It all happened in the early morning hours of April 13, 1985. Jackie Davis, Janice's stepbrother, was "messing around" on Lynch Street after having helped out at the cafe, and he decided to turn in for the night. He headed for the apartment above the cafe, as he had sometimes done in the past, since his parents' home is clear across Jackson. The apartment has six rooms and two beds. There is always a place to stay.

 The apartment faced a side of the Pink Kitchen. Davis entered and began walking up a flight of wooden stairs. At about the fourth step he looked up and saw Ronald Williams coming out of the door and putting his shirt back on. Before this, Davis knew Williams slightly.

 Davis heard his stepsister "hollering" and ran up the stairs to check on her. He found her in the apartment, bleeding from the mouth and nude from the waist down. Janice usually sleeps with her clothes on. Davis then ran back down the stairs and searched for Williams but without success. He came back to the Pink Kitchen and called his parents who then called the police.

 Davis had found Janice at about 4:00 a.m. By the time he called his parents some fifteen to twenty minutes had elapsed.

 Prior to all of this, Janice was locked into the apartment every night by her stepfather, Harry Bates. Still Janice could open the door from the inside and Davis only has to knock to gain entrance. After calling his parents Davis examined the door to the apartment. One window pane had been broken out near the doorknob. Williams had been living with his mother. When the police came to Janice's apartment, Davis told an officer what had happened and then accompanied the officer to Williams' mother's house. Williams was not there.

 Jackson Police Officer Doug Winstead investigated the incident. The telephone call from Janice's parents had been received at the Jackson Police Department at 4:18 a.m. on April 13, 1985. Officer Winstead went immediately to the apartment over the Pink Kitchen and found Janice Bates as we have described her, her face having been beaten, her mouth bleeding. A window pane in the door was broken. The glass was on the floor inside, suggesting that the pane had been smashed from the outside. That the glass was still on the floor suggested that the pane had been freshly broken.

 Some three and a half hours earlier, around 1:00 a.m., Harry Bates had locked Janice in the apartment. The door was in its ordinary condition at the time and no pane had been broken. Bates received a phone call from Jackie Davis around 4:00 a.m. and immediately called the police. He went to the cafe, found the police there and his daughter was crying. She had blood on her mouth and no panties on. The door had one glass pane "busted out."

 Ronald Williams knew Jackie Davis and admitted seeing Davis. He was on the street going to the home of Fred Williams when he saw Jackie Davis going away from the Pink Kitchen.

 The way Ronald Williams and Jackie Davis knew each other is this. Davis is a friend of Anthony Parker. Parker is the son of Williams' mother's husband. Parker had been living with Williams' mother until she caught him stealing and she kicked him out. Williams suspected that Parker was "going to repay" him. Williams at one point thought Anthony Parker framed him. *fn1

 On the afternoon of April 12, Williams had been standing outside his mother's house when Fred Williams passed by and invited him over. Ronald went to Fred's house at about 5:00 to 6:00 p.m., then left and went to his mother's house and then to an unnamed friend's house to play cards until about midnight. In the vicinity of midnight, he then went home, called Fred Williams and asked to come over again. He went to Fred's house for about fifteen to thirty minutes and then went back home to sleep until his mother's poodles woke him up. He then went back to Fred Williams' house. It was at this time that he saw Jackie Davis going away from the Pink Kitchen. He got to Fred Williams' house at about 4:00 a.m., and he and Fred sat up and watched television for about twenty minutes before dozing off. Fred Williams woke up Ronald at about 7:00 a.m. Ronald then went home and his mother's husband told him the police were looking for him. Ronald went down to the

 police station but was not arrested at that time and in fact was not arrested until some two weeks later.

 Geraldine Burton, Ronald Williams' mother, saw her son around 11:30 or 12:00 on the night in question. She did not see him again until the next morning.

 Fred Williams is a retired school teacher. He recalls that Ronald came to his house the afternoon of April 12, that he came back around midnight and that he came back again around 4:00 a.m. Fred was up as he lives alone and stays up reading and writing at night, "Since I knew his mother, I just let him in." Ronald did not look as though he had been running or was disheveled in any way.

 B.

 On July 8, 1985, the Hinds County Grand Jury returned an indictment charging Ronald Williams with burglary of an occupied dwelling. Miss. Code Ann. 97-17-21 (1972). The case was called for trial in Circuit Court sitting in Jackson, Mississippi, on September 19, 1985. At the conclusion of the trial the jury returned a verdict finding Ronald Williams guilty as charged. Williams was sentenced to a term of fifteen years in the custody of the Mississippi Department of Corrections, with five years suspended and ten years to be served.

 In due course, Williams filed a motion for a new trial. On October 10, 1985, the Circuit Court overruled and denied the motion. ...


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