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Alexander v. State

March 24, 1998

ALEXANDER
v.
STATE



Before Bridges, C.j., Coleman, And Diaz, JJ.

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Coleman, J.

THOMAS LYNN ALEXANDER, APPELLANT v. STATE OF MISSISSIPPI, APPELLEE

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

DATE OF JUDGMENT: 03/03/95

TRIAL JUDGE: HON. R. KENNETH COLEMAN

COURT FROM WHICH APPEALED: MARSHALL COUNTY CIRCUIT COURT

NATURE OF THE CASE: CRIMINAL - FELON IN POSSESSION OF A FIREARM AND KIDNAPPING

TRIAL COURT DISPOSITION: FOUND GUILTY OF FELON IN POSSESSION OF A FIREARM AND SENTENCED TO SERVE 3 YEARS IN MISSISSIPPI DEPARTMENT OF CORRECTIONS WITH 2 YEARS SUSPENDED AND KIDNAPPING AND SENTENCED TO SERVE 15 YEARS IN MISSISSIPPI DEPARTMENT OF CORRECTIONS WITH 7 YEARS SUSPENDED WITH SENTENCES TO RUN CONCURRENTLY.

DISPOSITION AFFIRMED

A grand jury in Marshall County returned a two-count indictment against the appellant, Thomas Lynn Alexander. Count I of the indictment charged that Alexander was a felon in possession of a firearm, and Count II charged that Alexander had kidnapped Clayton Williams. A jury found Alexander guilty of both felon in possession of firearm and kidnaping, and the trial court sentenced Alexander to serve three years in the custody of the Mississippi Department of Corrections, with two years suspended, for his conviction of felon in possession of a firearm. It also sentenced Alexander to serve fifteen years in the custody of the Mississippi Department of Corrections, with seven years suspended, for his conviction of kidnapping. The trial court further ordered that both sentences were to run concurrently, one with the other. In this appeal, Alexander asserts that the trial court erred by denying his motions for directed verdicts on both charges and that the statute under which he was charged as a felon in possession of a firearm is so overly broad as to be unconstitutional. This Court nonetheless affirms the trial court.

I. FACTS

Thomas Lynn Alexander, who earned the rank of E-5, or sergeant, during his five years of active duty between 1966 and 1971, during which he spent two tours of duty in Vietnam, was employed at Thompson International (TI) in Marshall County as a lab supervisor. TI made decorative trim for automobiles such as wheel covers and strapping brackets for seat belt shoulder harnesses and anchor seats. Because Ford Motor Company had announced that it was phasing out a product which TI manufactured at its plant in Marshall County, TI was compelled to "downsize" by firing those of its employees who were no longer needed to manufacture that product. On June 26, 1993, Clayton Williams, TI's plant manager in Marshall County, notified Alexander that he would become one of the employees whom TI planned to terminate. Indeed, the last day of Alexander's employment at TI was October 31, 1993.

The events which begat Alexander's indictment in this case began during the day of December 14, 1993, when Alexander returned to TI's plant to return some computer tapes to Perry Morgan, TI's quality manager. A conversation occurred among Alexander, Williams, and Joel Dusek, Personnel Director at TI's Nicholasville plant, whom Williams had summoned to the Marshall County plant to assist him with TI's "downsizing" at the Marshall County plant.

Later the same evening at approximately 8:45 p.m., Alexander telephoned Clayton Williams at his home and asked him for the telephone number of Al Gage, Williams's predecessor as plant manager, who had left the TI plant in January 1993. Williams told Alexander that he did not have Gage's current telephone number at home, but Williams assured Alexander that he would be happy to return Alexander's telephone call the next day after he had returned to his office and ascertained Gage's telephone number. Williams's commitment to return Alexander's telephone call the next day placated Alexander, and thus ended their first telephonic conversation. About five minutes later Alexander called Williams's home again, again spoke with Williams, and asked Williams if he would meet Alexander in the parking lot of the TI plant to talk. Williams testified at trial that he had met Alexander at the plant several times previously and the two men had talked about various topics. Williams arrived at the plant parking lot around 9:00 p.m. that evening.

While Williams waited for Alexander to arrive at the plant, he went inside and spoke to Yvonne Jones, a lab technician who was working the "afternoon" shift. Williams told Jones that he had returned to the plant that night because Alexander had called him at home to ask that he meet Alexander at the plant so that the two of them might talk about Alexander's problem. Williams then went out to the front porch of the plant to wait for Alexander to arrive. At approximately 9:10 p.m., Alexander pulled up to the front of the plant, opened the door of his vehicle, and motioned for Williams to get in his car. Alexander, who had a twelve-pack of beer in the car, had been drinking earlier that evening. Williams testified that Alexander immediately began to relay a story about his next door neighbor, Larry, who had a drug abuse problem and regularly attacked his wife, once so severely that Larry's wife had to go to the hospital. Alexander told Williams that he was going to "go to stick him," but Williams tried to explain to Alexander that was not the right way to handle the situation.

Alexander started the car and told Williams he wanted to go to the far end of the parking lot to continue talking. The two men sat in Alexander's car parked in the far corner of the plant's parking lot and continued to discuss Alexander's problems for another thirty minutes. Alexander, who had been drinking beer throughout his conversation with Williams, suddenly started his car and told Williams that they were going for a ride. Williams testified during the trial that he told Alexander that he did not want to go because it was getting late, but that Alexander retorted, "No, we're going for a ride."

Because Alexander was apparently intoxicated, he sped toward U. S. Highway 78, careening about the road and turning sharply into the highway without stopping at a stop sign posted at the intersection. Williams testified that while Alexander sped down U. S. Highway 78 toward Alexander's home, Alexander told him that he had his finger on a.357 caliber handgun and that he was going to ask Williams some questions. According to Williams's trial testimony, Alexander told him, "You give me the wrong answers, and you're a dead man."

Alexander continued to threaten Williams until they finally arrived at Alexander's mobile home, where he stopped his vehicle. According to Williams's testimony, Alexander told him, "Get out and go inside." Both Alexander and Williams exited Alexander's parked car and went inside Alexander's home. Once they were inside his home, Alexander told Williams to sit down at the table in the kitchen. Alexander hung his car keys on a hook near the front door, reached above the door, and removed a large knife, which Alexander described in his testimony as a "fighting" knife, from above the door casing. Williams testified that Alexander continued to threaten not only him but members of his family. Williams further testified that Alexander forced him to perform some "guerilla warfare-type exercises," which included squats, yelling as loudly as he could, and waving his arms around. According to Williams, Alexander slapped Williams several times in the face with a laminated picture. Williams observed perhaps as many as three firearms, one of which he described as a rifle with a scope on it, arranged on the kitchen table.

Williams's testimony was that he repeatedly asked Alexander when he would let Williams leave Alexander's house, and Alexander eventually replied that Williams could leave at midnight. Williams's version of this saga included his testimony that at about 11:50 p.m. he stood up and said, "Tommy, I got to go." Then Williams removed Alexander's keys from the hook by the door where Alexander had hung them when they entered the house, went outside with Alexander, and got into the driver's seat of Alexander's car. According to Williams's testimony, after Alexander sat in the passenger's seat and Williams drove away from Alexander's house, Alexander tried to tell him how to return to Highway 78. Because of Alexander's intoxicated condition, Williams drove down several dead ends before he finally reached Highway 78 and drove back to the plant.

Williams's version of what transpired when he arrived at the plant was the following: When Williams drove into the plant's parking lot, he made a U-turn in the lot, got out of the car and began to walk toward the plant with his back toward Alexander. Alexander reached from the passenger's seat to turn off the ignition, got out of the car, went around to the rear of the car, and opened his car's trunk. Alexander then removed a rifle from the trunk. Alexander yelled to Williams, "Clayton, I've got something I want to show you." Williams turned around, saw the rifle, and told Alexander, "Tommy, you get in that car and you go home." Williams turned his back to Alexander and continued to walk toward the front door of the plant. Once he entered the plant, Williams locked the front door and looked back through a window just in time to see Alexander put the rifle in his car and drive away.

After Williams had gained safe entry into the plant and locked its front door, he told another TI employee, Billy Thomas, what had transpired while he had been in Alexander's company earlier that evening. Instead of telephoning the Holly Springs Police Department to report the incident that same evening, Williams elected to return home and attempt to sleep. The next morning Williams reported to work and personally prepared a report of the previous day's experience with Alexander by typing it. Williams then called the Holly Springs Police Department to report the episode with TI's former employee.

Because Alexander's mobile home was beyond the corporate limits of Holly Springs, the Holly Springs Police contacted the Marshall County Sheriff's Office to request that its officers arrest Alexander. Around 7:00 p.m. on December 15, 1993, the Marshall County Sheriff deputies surrounded Alexander's mobile home. With this accomplished, a spokesman for the Holly Springs Police Department spoke with Alexander over the telephone and advised him that the Sheriff and his deputies had surrounded his home. The spokesman suggested that Alexander leave his home and surrender to the officers of the Marshall County Sheriff's Office. Without incident, Alexander stepped outside of his trailer and was immediately arrested by Marshall County Sheriff Ernest Cunningham and his deputies. During a subsequent search of Alexander's mobile home, the deputies found four firearms, including a.22 caliber rifle with a scope mounted on it, which they tagged for identification and then secured in the sheriff's office.

It will be seen that the nature of Alexander's three issues do not require a detailed treatment of what transpired before, during, and after his trial. However, Alexander testified as his only witness to relate his version of the events of the night of December 14, 1994. Not surprisingly, his version was that Williams had voluntarily accompanied him to his house that evening. However, Alexander's explanation for his conference with Williams was as follows: During the conversation with Williams and Joel Dusek which occurred on the afternoon of December 14 after Alexander had returned some computer tapes to Perry Morgan, the quality control manager at TI's plant in Marshall County, Joel Dusek inquired of Alexander about his prospects for employment. According to Alexander's testimony, Dusek told him that the downsizing at the plant in Marshall County had nothing to do with his termination. Instead, Dusek told Alexander that when he was asked about his reason for being terminated at TI, he should answer that "due to a personality conflict with a former plant manager [Al Gage], I built a reputation not being a team player." Alexander then testified that when he heard Dusek speak that statement, "I went through the roof in my mind," because "[t]he automobile industry is very heavy into team players."

Thus, Alexander testified that his only purpose in talking with Williams at Alexander's home on the night of December 14 night was to "negotiate" the inclusion in TI's employee record that Alexander was "not a team player." He decided to abandon talking to Al Gage, Williams's predecessor as plant manager, because he had been "terminated." During the State's cross-examination, Alexander admitted that he "was extremely angry at the term 'not a team player.'" Alexander denied that he had kidnapped his former boss. The following excerpt from Alexander's testimony represents the gist of Alexander's denials:

Q. Okay. Well, did you ever, during this period of time, did you ever think that you had kidnapped Mr. Williams?

A. No, sir.

Q. Did you ever force him to go with ...


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