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Williams v. State

February 11, 1998

DON JERRELL WILLIAMS, APPELLANT
v.
STATE OF MISSISSIPPI, APPELLEE



DATE OF JUDGMENT: 09/06/95 TRIAL JUDGE: HON. L. BRELAND HILBURN JR. COURT FROM WHICH APPEALED: HINDS COUNTY CIRCUIT COURT

TRIAL COURT DISPOSITION: MURDER: SENTENCED TO SERVE A TERM OF LIFE IN THE MDOC DISPOSITION AFFIRMED - 2/10/98

Before Thomas, P.j., Diaz, And King, JJ.

The opinion of the court was delivered by: King, J., For The Court

THIS OPINION IS NOT DESIGNATED FOR PUBLICATION AND MAY NOT BE CITED, PURSUANT TO M.R.A.P. 35-B

NATURE OF THE CASE: CRIMINAL - FELONY

Don Jerrell Williams was convicted of murder in violation of Miss. Code Ann. § 97-3-19 (Rev.1994) in the Hinds County Circuit Court and sentenced to life imprisonment in the custody of the Mississippi Department of Corrections. Williams assigns nine errors on appeal:

(1) The trial court improperly limited the cross-examination of pathologist Dr. Rodrigo Galvez and the introduction of possible mitigating and exculpating evidence.

(2) The trial court improperly limited the cross-examination of Jeffrey Myers.

(3) The jury was inadequately instructed on manslaughter and murder.

(4) The trial court erred in refusing to instruct the jury about malice aforethought and deliberate design.

(5) The trial court erred in refusing to give a cautionary instruction about accomplice testimony.

(6) The evidence did not adequately support a murder conviction.

(7) The sentence of the appellant was unconstitutionally disproportionate to the co-defendants' sentences.

(8) The jury was improperly instructed on reasonable doubt.

(9) The trial court erred in not giving a simple assault instruction.

We affirm the circuit court judgment.

FACTS

During the early morning of May 27, 1994, Jessie Cutley began to walk from his cousin's house to his house located on Cherry Street in Jackson, Mississippi. As Mr. Cutley walked home, he eventually came into contact with Arnotia Baker, Kevin Smith, and Kevin's sister, Catrina Smith. Arnotia testified that as they walked from a store in the same area, she saw her father drive past on Terry Road. As she turned to the others and stated that her father had passed by, Mr. Cutley stopped in the street and smiled. Arnotia testified that Mr. Cutley must have thought she was speaking to him. At this point, Kevin went over to him and punched him in the head which made him fall down in the street. Williams, several other boys, and Kevin's other sister, Carla Smith, then walked up the street to where Mr. Cutley lay. They hit, kicked, and stomped him in the head, side and thighs as he bled in the street. Two of the boys also threw a water gun and a beer bottle at Mr. Cutley's body. Jackson police later found these items at the scene.

Different versions of how the beating began were given by Katrina, Arnotia, and Jeffery Myers, an accomplice in the beating. Katrina stated that Mr. Cutley called Arnotia a bitch. Arnotia initially stated in her police report that Mr. Cutley called her this name. However, she later denied that he made this statement, stating further that Kevin lied about the fact that Mr. Cutley called her a bitch. Arnotia testified that Mr. Cutley never called her any names, but merely acted friendly. It was her impression that Kevin merely wanted to start a fight with someone that morning. Jeffery testified that Mr. Cutley was minding his own business. He did not do or say anything to any member of their group to provoke them into a fight.

Katrina, Arnotia, and Jeffery also testified specifically that Williams was involved in the beating. Katrina testified that she saw Williams kick Mr. Cutley in the side and head and stomp him in the face. Arnotia testified that she saw Williams kick and hit Mr. Cutley in the side during the same time the others were kicking and hitting. According to Jeffery, Williams kicked Mr. Cutley in his ribs, legs, and head.

Williams, along with Katrina, Carla, Kevin, Jeffrey and several other boys were arrested for murder. Williams' motion to sever his case from the other defendants was granted. A trial was held and Williams was convicted of murder and sentenced to life imprisonment. His motion for a new trial having been denied, he now appeals his conviction and sentence.

ISSUES

I. DID THE TRIAL COURT IMPROPERLY LIMIT THE CROSS-EXAMINATION OF PATHOLOGIST DR. RODRIGO GALVEZ AND THE INTRODUCTION OF POSSIBLE MITIGATING AND EXCULPATING EVIDENCE?

In Williams' first assignment of error, he argues that during the cross-examination of Dr. Rodrigo Galvez, the trial court improperly precluded the introduction of evidence contained in the coroner's report and toxicology reports ordered by Dr. Galvez. Williams argues that this evidence should have been allowed because it was relevant to who was the aggressor and demonstrated another possible intervening cause of death. After review of Dr. Galvez's cross-examination and Williams' proffer to demonstrate that Mr. Cutley was the aggressor and that his death resulted from another cause, we disagree.

The following proffer, in pertinent part, was elicited from Dr. Galvez by defense counsel regarding Mr. Cutley's cause of death:

Q. Now in this case, the autopsy--I mean the coroner's report states that there were subdural hematomas and congestive ...


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