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[T] Collins v. State

July 21, 1998

VICTOR COLLINS, APPELLANT
v.
STATE OF MISSISSIPPI, APPELLEE



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

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

Collins v. State, 96-KA-00352-COA

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

DATE OF JUDGMENT: 02/23/96

TRIAL JUDGE: HON. R. KENNETH COLEMAN

COURT FROM WHICH APPEALED: MARSHALL COUNTY CIRCUIT COURT

NATURE OF THE CASE: CRIMINAL - FELONY

TRIAL COURT DISPOSITION: GUILTY OF MURDER; SENTENCED TO SERVE A TERM OF LIFE IN THE MISSISSIPPI DEPARTMENT OF CORRECTIONS

MOTION FOR REHEARING FILED:

CERTIORARI FILED:

MANDATE ISSUED:

A jury in the Circuit Court of Marshall County found the appellant, Victor Collins, guilty of the murder of Peggy Campbell, pursuant to which the trial court sentenced Collins to life in an institution to be designated by the Mississippi Department of Corrections. In this appeal, Collins asserts the following five issues, which we quote verbatim from his brief:

(1) WHETHER THE TRIAL COURT ERRED IN ADMITTING CERTAIN PHOTOGRAPHS OF THE VICTIM'S BODY THAT WERE IRRELEVANT AND HIGHLY PREJUDICIAL.

(2) WHETHER THE TRIAL COURT ERRED IN REFUSING TO GRANT INSTRUCTION D-7 ON THE LESSER OFFENSE OF MANSLAUGHTER.

(3) WHETHER THE TRIAL COURT ERRED BY ALLOWING THE STATE TO RECALL A WITNESS TO TESTIFY TO NEW MATERIAL NOT BROUGHT OUT ON CROSS-EXAMINATION.

(4) WHETHER THE TRIAL COURT ERRED IN REFUSING TO GRANT THE DEFENDANT A DIRECTED VERDICT IN LIGHT OF THE WEATHERSBY RULE.

(5) WHETHER THE VERDICT WAS AGAINST THE OVERWHELMING WEIGHT OF THE EVIDENCE.

This Court affirms the trial court's judgment of Collins's conviction of murder and its sentence of Collins to serve life in an institution to be designated by the Mississippi Department of Corrections.

I. FACTS

On October 8, 1994, in the Municipal Court of Holly Springs, Peggy Campbell filed affidavits charging the appellant, Victor Collins, with petit larceny and grand larceny. Holly Springs Police Officer Wesley Crutcher arrested Collins on the warrants which the municipal Judge had issued on Ms. Campbell's affidavit, and Collins remained incarcerated for a period of thirty-two days until November 10, 1994, when the municipal court Judge dismissed the charges in open court at Ms. Campbell's request. Campbell and Collins spent that night, November 10, in a local motel, and the next morning, November 11, Collins went to his grandmother's house in Holly Springs while Campbell reported for work at Wal-Mart in Holly Springs. On her way to work that morning, Peggy Campbell stopped by the home of her mother, Suzanne Campbell, to get ready for work and to take her younger son, Jason, then thirteen years old, to school. Peggy Campbell and her four school-aged children were living in her mother's home on November 11. They had previously lived next-door to her mother for about eight months with Collins.

Around noon, Collins went to Wal-Mart to join Campbell for lunch. Collins and Campbell left Wal-Mart in Campbell's car, a green 1991 Plymouth Sundance sedan which bore a personalized Mississippi license plate, "GOGIRL1." During her lunch break, Campbell drove to the home of her mother, Suzanne Campbell, in Holly Springs, to ask her mother for five dollars to take to her eldest son, Derrick, at school so that he could go to a football game that Friday night. Later that same afternoon, Campbell and Collins drove to the high school, where she left the money at the office for her son.

Campbell never returned to work at Wal-Mart that afternoon. Because her daughter usually came home from work no later than 6:00 p.m., Suzanne Campbell became concerned about her when her daughter had not come home by 8:00 p.m. Out of concern for her daughter, Suzanne Campbell called her brother to ask for his help in finding her, and the two of them drove around Holly Springs in search of Peggy Campbell or her automobile. At about 9:50 p.m., Suzanne Campbell went to the Holly Springs Police Department to report that her daughter had not come home from work, and Officer John Camfield, among others, began to search for Peggy Campbell and her automobile. The officers were also looking for Collins because Suzanne Campbell reported to them at the police department that she had seen her daughter with him earlier that day.

Suzanne Campbell's sister informed her that she had seen Peggy Campbell's car parked in the Jitney Jungle parking lot near a lamp post earlier that night. The Jitney Jungle was located near, if not adjacent, to Wal-Mart.

When Suzanne Campbell went with her brother to her daughter's car, she found that it was muddy and "all dirty on one side." Suzanne Campbell called the police department to report that her daughter's car had been located in the Jitney Jungle parking lot. Holly Springs Police Officer John Camfield responded to Campbell's call and drove to the Jitney Jungle parking lot with fellow Reserve Officer Jerry Blessike. When Officer Blessike shined his flashlight into the parked car, they and Suzanne Campbell saw her daughter's coat "all wadded up" on the front seat on the passenger's side of the car. When Suzanne Campbell pulled the coat back, she and the officers found blood beneath it in the seat. When the officers saw the blood, they secured the car and called for a detective. Police Sergeant Darren Johnson arrived at the Jitney Jungle parking lot, and he called Detective Wesley Crutcher, who was off-duty and at home. Detective Crutcher came to where Peggy Campbell's car had been found.

After Sergeant Johnson arrived, Officers Camfield and Blessike left to search for Collins. The two officers found Collins talking on a pay telephone at Hurdle's Mini Market in Holly Springs. Camfield arrested Collins, handcuffed him, and advised him of his right not to incriminate himself. Camfield and Blessike took Collins to the Holly Springs Police Department. When Detective Crutcher learned of Collins's arrest and transportation to the police department, Crutcher went to the police department to question Collins. Crutcher initially interviewed Collins in Crutcher's office at the police department. As Camfield had done, Crutcher again Mirandized Collins, although Collins declined to sign the printed waiver of his right not to incriminate himself. Collins told Crutcher that the last time he had seen Campbell was around three o'clock that afternoon when she had returned to work at Wal-Mart and that he had gone by her mother's house three times earlier that afternoon because they were supposed to have dinner together that night.

Crutcher interrupted his interview with Collins to organize a search for Peggy Campbell. The Chief of the Holly Springs Police Department and Crutcher resumed questioning Collins in the police chief's office, which was just around the corner from Crutcher's office. Chief Hasty and Detective Crutcher did not record this second interview with Collins. While both Collins and Crutcher were standing in the chief's office, Crutcher noticed what he thought were blood stains on Collins's sweater and pair of cowboy boots. In particular, Crutcher observed blood around the tips of both boots, around the rims of the soles of both boots, and in the instep of one boot. Crutcher removed Collins's cowboy boots and clothing and "bagged" them for delivery to the Mississippi State Crime Laboratory for further testing.

Police Chief Hasty and Detective Crutcher persuaded Collins to take them to Peggy Campbell's body on the condition that they would also take Collins's grandmother along. At one o'clock in the morning of November 12, the officers escorted Collins to his grandmother's house, awakened her, and took her with them in search of Campbell's body. Collins eventually directed the officers to a field road which turned off Bicycle Road. Once they stopped their vehicles in the field road, Detective Crutcher directed the beam of his flashlight onto a pile of leaves. He asked Collins if Campbell's body was in the leaves, and Collins replied, "No." However, when he again pointed the beam from the flashlight onto the pile of leaves, Crutcher saw something sticking out of the leaves. When he approached the object which had attracted his attention, he found it to be the heel of Peggy Collins's boot. Collins was lying face down in the pile of leaves. She was dead.

II. TRIAL

Because all five of Collins's issues address events which occurred during the evidentiary phase of his trial, we review the events which are relevant to the issues in some detail. Among the State's eight witnesses were Suzanne Campbell, the victim's mother, Officer John Camfield, and Detective Wesley Crutcher. Our recitation of the facts represents a synopsis and synthesis of their testimony, which the jury's verdict that Collins was guilty of murder indicates that they found to be the credible testimony.

After the State had called Suzanne Campbell as its first witness, it called Dr. Stephen T. Hayne, a forensic pathologist who performed Peggy Campbell's autopsy, as its second witness. Dr. Hayne explained that he observed large lacerations or contusions on Peggy Campbell's head and multiple bruises and scratches about her face and neck. He noted that the base and left side of her skull cap was essentially crushed. About Campbell's cause of death, Dr. Hayne opined, "Craniocerebral trauma secondary to blunt force trauma which essentially medically tells me that there is injury to the skull, the base of the skull, the skull cap itself, and the brain and that it was produced by a blunt object." With Dr. Hayne's opinion about the cause of Campbell's death before the jury, the assistant district attorney "tender[ed] the witness" to Collins's defense counsel. Collins's counsel announced ...


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