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Watts v. State

July 23, 1998

MILTON E. WATTS A/K/A MILTON EIFF WATTS A/K/A MILTON SMITH
v.
STATE OF MISSISSIPPI



Before Prather, C.j., Banks And Smith, JJ.

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Smith, Justice

DATE OF JUDGMENT: 04/13/95

TRIAL JUDGE: HON. FRANK G. VOLLOR

COURT FROM WHICH APPEALED: ISSAQUENA COUNTY CIRCUIT COURT

BY: PAT S. FLYNN

DISTRICT ATTORNEY: G. GILMORE MARTIN

NATURE OF THE CASE: CRIMINAL - FELONY

DISPOSITION AFFIRMED

¶1. Milton Watts was indicted by the Issaquena County Grand Jury for the crime of murder in violation of Miss. Code Ann. § 97-3-19 and for the crime of armed robbery in violation of Miss. Code Ann. § 97-3-79. On April 3, 1995, Watts was tried by jury in the Issaquena County Circuit Court, and a verdict was rendered finding Watts guilty of depraved heart murder and armed robbery. The trial court imposed a sentence of life imprisonment for the crime of murder, and at a later sentencing hearing, the trial court imposed a thirty-five year sentence for armed robbery, to run consecutive to the life imprisonment sentence. Aggrieved, Watts, now appeals to this Court and raises the following issues:

I. WHETHER WATTS' CONVICTION SHOULD BE REVERSED AND REMANDED DUE TO THE ABSENCE OF A FULL, ACCURATE AND COMPLETE TRANSCRIPT OF THE TRIAL PROCEEDINGS IN THIS CAUSE.

II. WHETHER THE TRIAL COURT ERRED BY ALLOWING THE STATE TO PROCEED ON THE INDICTMENT CHARGING WATTS WITH SIMPLE MURDER AND ARMED ROBBERY BASED ON THE SAME SET OF FACTS.

III. WHETHER THE TRIAL COURT ERRED BY DENYING WATTS' MOTION FOR DIRECTED VERDICT BASED ON THE WEATHERSBY RULE.

IV. WHETHER THE TRIAL COURT ERRED BY DENYING WATTS' MOTION IN LIMINE TO EXCLUDE TESTIMONY ABOUT WATTS' PURCHASE OF CRACK COCAINE.

FACTS

¶2. During the late evening hours on July 23, 1994, W. P. "Jake" Shivers was murdered in the bathroom of his trailer at Mims Mitchell Hunting Club in Issaquena County. Milton Watts was employed by Shivers to help him with odd jobs since Shivers was partially handicapped after an accident with a hay bailer. According to Watts, on July 23, 1994, Watts accompanied Shivers to the hunting camp to do some work at Shiver's trailer. After arriving at the hunting camp, Shivers and Watts decided to go fishing and fished until dark. Watts and Shivers returned to the trailer after fishing where they cleaned and cooked the fish for supper. After supper, Shivers asked Watts to go downstairs and bring him his gun so that Shivers could clean it. Watts then went downstairs, smoked a cigarette, retrieved the gun, and took it back upstairs. When Watts returned to the trailer, he called Shivers name aloud but received no response. Watts then walked down the hallway towards the bedroom calling Shivers' name, and when he reached the bathroom, a jug came up and hit the gun. Watts reaction was that he pulled the trigger of the gun he was carrying and shot Shivers a total of ten times with the.22 caliber rifle. After shooting Shivers, Watts cut the phone lines in the trailer, took Shivers' wallet and truck keys and the gun, left the trailer, and went to Yazoo City in Shivers' truck. Watts threw Shivers' wallet out about four miles from the trailer after removing the money in it and disposed of the gun alongside Highway 3 about four or five miles north of Yazoo City. Watts stayed in Yazoo City at an abandoned house until he turned himself in at the Yazoo County Sheriff's Department.

¶3. The Yazoo County Sheriff's Department recovered Shivers' stolen truck two days prior to Watts' turning himself in and confessing. On July 27, 1994, Watts went to the Yazoo County Sheriff's Department and asked to speak to the sheriff. After being read his rights, Watts gave a voluntary statement concerning the shooting of Shivers in Issaquena County, but Watts claimed that it was an accident and that he did not intend to kill Shivers. Watts was then arrested by the Yazoo County Sheriff's Department for Shivers' murder.

DISCUSSION OF THE LAW

I. WHETHER WATTS' CONVICTION SHOULD BE REVERSED AND REMANDED DUE TO THE ABSENCE OF A FULL, ACCURATE AND COMPLETE TRANSCRIPT OF THE TRIAL PROCEEDINGS IN THIS CAUSE.

¶4. Watts asserts that his conviction and sentence should be reversed due to the absence of a full, accurate and complete transcript of the trial proceedings below, and therefore, he has been deprived of his right to meaningful appellate review. The State, however, contends that Watts is not prejudiced by the missing parts of the record and that a mistrial is not necessitated where this Court can fully review all of the alleged errors assigned by Watts with the record that exists not before the Court.

ΒΆ5. Ruth Bell-Green was the official court reporter responsible for preparing the record of the trial in this cause. However, because of a physical disability, Bell-Green retired and was unable to complete the record in this cause. Another reporter, LaLisa Ledlow Linemann, was assigned to complete the record for appeal but was unable to decipher Bell-Green's shorthand notes and was forced to rely on cassette tapes to complete the record. However, the cassette tapes were incomplete, and therefore, portions of the trial were unable to be transcribed. The portions that are missing from the record include voir dire, a portion of Watts' cross-examination and re-direct examination, and closing arguments of counsel. The ...


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