COURT FROM WHICH APPEALED: HINDS COUNTY CIRCUIT COURT
Before Sullivan, P.j., McRAE And Smith, JJ.
The opinion of the court was delivered by: Sullivan, Presiding Justice, For The Court:
DATE OF JUDGMENT: 04/10/96
TRIAL JUDGE: HON. JAMES E. GRAVES JR.
NATURE OF THE CASE: CRIMINAL - FELONY
MOTION FOR REHEARING FILED:
¶1. This case is an appeal from Johnny Vaughn's murder conviction and sentence to life imprisonment without possibility of parole. Vaughn and Vanessa Givens were indicted by the Hinds County Grand Jury during the January Term, 1995, for the murder of Albert Shields on or about November 27, 1994. Givens pled guilty to the murder charge and was sentenced to life imprisonment. Vaughn pled not guilty and proceeded to trial on April 8, 1996, before Circuit Court Judge James E. Graves, Jr. Based primarily upon the testimony of Givens and five other eyewitnesses, the jury found Vaughn guilty of murder. After the State presented proof of Vaughn's prior convictions at the sentencing hearing, judge Graves sentenced Vaughn to life imprisonment in the Mississippi Department of Corrections as a habitual offender. On April 18, 1996, Vaughn filed his motion for a new trial or for judgment notwithstanding the verdict, which Judge Graves overruled in an order dated April 19, 1996. Vaughn perfected his appeal to this Court, assigning as error the overwhelming weight of the evidence against the verdict and the replacement of a juror with the alternate. Because we find that there was sufficient evidence to at least convict Vaughn of aiding and abetting in Shields's murder, and that the trial court did not abuse its discretion in replacing the absconding juror, we affirm Vaughn's conviction and sentence.
¶2. On the morning of November 27, 1994, Vanessa Givens went to Johnny Vaughn's house and woke him up to take her to Albert Shields's house. Givens testified that she told Vaughn that she needed to "take care of a little business," because Shields had struck Givens's sister, Annie Simmon, and Vaughn's sister, Katie Easterling during a fight at the Gee Gee Club on Woodrow Wilson Avenue in Jackson. Givens stated that Vaughn gave her a gun, took one himself, and told her to "come on." However, Vaughn testified that Givens was drunk and hysterical, and that she took the gun from his house on her own. He maintained that she never told him where they were going or why.
¶3. Vaughn and Givens drove a borrowed truck to Shields's house where they parked behind Leroy Harris, Jr.'s car on Carter Street. Leroy Jr. had driven to Shields's house to drop off his uncle Arthur Mitchell. His father, Leroy Harris, Sr., was in the car with them. Shields, another of Leroy Jr.'s uncles, was standing inside the driver's door talking. Henry Green was talking with his girlfriend, Shields's sister Edna, on the porch. Shields's other sister, Loretha, was watching from the window.
¶4. Vaughn and Givens both exited the truck, and Vaughn approached Shields, while Givens stood between the car and the truck. Testimony from the witnesses established that Vaughn's gun was a 9 mm, and Givens was carrying a .22. Vaughn walked up to Shields and said, "I told you about jumping on my sister." Shields begged him not to shoot, but Givens, Green, Leroy Jr., Leroy Sr., and Loretha all testified that Vaughn fired his gun directly at Shields,who held no weapon. Givens fired her gun a couple of times, but no one was sure whether or not she shot Shields. Vaughn maintained that Givens did all of the shooting, and he never once fired his weapon. After shooting Shields, Vaughn and Givens jumped back in the truck and drove away. When Officer Don Deaton arrived on the scene at 11:38 a.m., Shields was dead.
¶5. The parties stipulated at trial that three .22 shell casings were found at the scene, and a .22 caliber projectile was found in Leroy Jr.'s speedometer dial. John Dial from the Jackson Police Department Crime Lab confirmed that the casings and projectile were .22 caliber and that the three casings were fired from the same gun. Dr. Steven Hayne, who performed the autopsy on Shields, testified that Shields died from a single gunshot wound to the right side of his chest. Dr. Hayne was not able to reach any Conclusion as to the caliber of the projectile entering Shields's body. He testified that it was probably larger than a .22, but he could not eliminate the possibility that it was a .22. Dr. Hayne stated that the wounds were consistent with the weapon being to Shields's right when fired.
¶6. Based upon the foregoing evidence, the jury found Vaughn guilty of murder. The State presented evidence of Vaughn's two prior convictions for possession of cocaine with intent to distribute, and judge Graves sentenced Vaughn to ...