BEFORE ROY NOBLE LEE, PRATHER and GRIFFIN
ROY NOBLE LEE, CHIEF JUSTICE, FOR THE COURT:
Robert Lee Jackson was indicted, tried and convicted in the Circuit Court of Marshall County, Mississippi, for the murder of his wife, Helen Jackson, and was sentenced to life imprisonment in the custody of the Mississippi Department of Corrections. He has appealed from the judgment and sentence and has assigned four (4) errors in the trial below.
Appellant and Helen Jackson, were separated in March, but in early May of that year, they were reunited and resumed cohabitation. Jessica Pierson, the ten-year-old daughter of Helen Jackson and step-daughter of appellant, lived with them in Slayden, Mississippi, at the time of Helen Jackson's death.
On May 24, 1984, at approximately 5 a.m., Helen Jackson was shot and killed while in the home of the parties. The cause of death was a single gunshot wound at close range from a .22-caliber Magnum handgun, the bullet entering the
left side of her chest and piercing through her body. The only witness to the homicide was the appellant. The State presented seven (7) witnesses to establish its case.
Osborne Bell, Marshall County Sheriff, testified he arrived upon the scene, after receiving a call, at approximately 5:50 a.m., May 24, 1984. The appellant told him that his wife had committed suicide. Sheriff Bell found the victim's nude body in the kitchen of the house. She was dead, obviously from a bullet wound to the left chest. According to Sheriff Bell, there was little or no blood in the kitchen. He inspected the remainder of the house and found a .22-caliber pistol on the floor of the master bedroom, as well as drugs and drug-related paraphernalia. That bedroom was in complete disarray and there were thirty (30) or more bloody pieces of tissue paper, photographs, letters, an ashtray, a gun holster, cocaine, marijuana and drug-related paraphernalia strewn about the bed and the floor of the bedroom. Appellant told Sheriff Bell that his wife held the .22-caliber pistol in both hands and shot herself in the chest. He told the sheriff positively that his wife shot herself and collapsed just inside of the master bedroom door leading to the hallway and that he had dragged her body into the kitchen with the intention of taking her to his automobile, thence to the hospital for emergency treatment.
Creekmore Wright, a criminal investigator with the Mississippi Highway Patrol, arrived at the Jackson residence at approximately 8:30 a.m. The victim's body had been removed, but he inspected the house and corroborated the testimony of Sheriff Bell. Wright also located and photographed a .22-caliber Magnum pistol in the master bedroom. The pistol contained five (5) live cartridge rounds and one (1) spent round. After learning that the projectile had cleared the victim's body, Wright conducted a minute inspection of the walls of the house and located a .22-Magnum projectile in the master bathroom wall, just above the lavatory. That projective was identified as having been fired from the Magnum pistol and caused the death of Helen Jackson. Wright also found torn pieces of yellow sheet paper on the dresser in the master bedroom, which he pieced together and was able to read.
The writing on the paper was identified by a handwriting expert as that of the victim.
Investigator Wright was present at approximately 6:15 p.m. on May 24, 1984, when the appellant gave a statement to Sheriff Bell. Appellant stated that his wife held the pistol in both hands and, as he tried to wrestle the pistol
away from her, it discharged. The appellant positively stated that the shooting occurred just inside of the master bedroom door leading to the hallway.
According to Wright appellant's version of Helen Jackson's suicide was not borne out by the physical facts he observed at the scene soon after the shooting. He testified further that Helen Jackson's right forearm was powder burned, similar to the markings around the entrance wound in her chest.
Dr. Michael Todd, a pathologist, established that Helen Jackson died from the gunshot wound to the left side of her chest; that the gunpowder residue surrounding the entrance wound indicated that the shot was fired from very close range - within one-half (1/2) of an inch or with the pistol touching the flesh; that the entrance wound in Helen Jackson's chest was approximately one and one-half (1-1/2) inches higher than the exit wound in her back.
Steve Byrd, a firearms expert with the Mississippi Crime Laboratory, testified that the projectile recovered from the master bathroom wall was fired from the .22-caliber pistol found in the master bedroom and that the mark on the right forearm of the victim contained lead residue, similar to that on the chest wound.
Appellant testified on his own behalf that at approximately 5 a.m. on May 24, 1984, he was awakened by his wife as she rummaged through the bedroom closet; that she was a drug user and he suspected she was searching for drugs; that he took a blue Kleenex box from Helen and dumped the drugs and related paraphernalia therein out onto the bed; that when he looked up, his wife was walking toward the bathroom with his .22-caliber pistol in her right hand; that she grabbed the pistol with both hands and pointed it at her chest; that he lunged toward her in an attempt to get the gun and it fired. His testimony as to the position of Helen Jackson when the gun fired differed from his previous positive statements that she was in the bedroom door leading into the hall when the gun fired. If she had been at the point, as he previously stated before the projectile was found in the bathroom, it would have been impossible for the projectile to have struck the bathroom wall above the wash basin.
THE LOWER COURT ERRED IN ADMITTING THE VICTIM'S HANDWRITTEN NOTE INTO EVIDENCE.
The appellant objected to the introduction of the torn yellow sheet of paper which had been put back together by Investigator Wright and which was identified as the handwriting of the victim. The note was dated March 10, 1984, ...