Before Sullivan, P.j., Banks And Smith, JJ.
The opinion of the court was delivered by: Banks, Justice, For The Court:
LEE FLOYD DANCER, JR. v. STATE OF MISSISSIPPI
DATE OF JUDGMENT: 09/06/96
TRIAL JUDGE: HON. JOHN M. MONTGOMERY
COURT FROM WHICH APPEALED: LOWNDES COUNTY CIRCUIT COURT
DISTRICT ATTORNEY: FORREST ALLGOOD
NATURE OF THE CASE: CRIMINAL - FELONY
¶1. This appeal challenges the validity of convictions for armed robbery and murder. After careful review of the circuit court proceedings, we conclude that the court committed no error mandating reversal and affirm the appellant's convictions and sentences accordingly.
¶2. On April 28, 1995, Charlie's One Stop, a neighborhood grocery store in Columbus, Mississippi, was robbed. The owner of the store, Blanche Welch, suffered multiple stab wounds and died of a fatal wound to the neck and chest. Two days following the murder, officers of the Columbus Police Department were canvassing the neighborhood in hopes of finding suspects. One such officer, Commander Donald Freshour, was walking on 20th Street when he saw an older woman with a group of young boys working on a lawn mower in her yard. Commander Freshour asked the woman if she had any information regarding the murder. She did not know anything. As he was about to leave, Freshour asked the group of boys whether they knew anything about the crime. One of the boys answered yes. He then proceeded to tell the officer that he was riding by the store on his bike when it happened.
¶3. Freshour did not know the boy's name at the time though it was later learned that he was the appellant, Lee Floyd Dancer, Jr. Freshour called Dancer off to the side and asked him was he sure about witnessing the murder. The boy replied, "Yes," and he then told the uniformed officer he saw two white men in a green Malibu with an Alabama license plate drive up in front of the store, shoot through the door, run inside, stab the woman, take potato chips, candy and money, run out, jump in their car and leave the scene. Believing the boy knew something about the murder because his story showed that he had obviously been at the store as there was a very old bullet hole in the door, because he said the woman had been stabbed when that information had not been made public *fn1 and because he had correctly identified the items that were actually missing from the store, Freshour asked Dancer if he would come to the station and give his information to the investigators. Dancer agreed.
¶4. A uniformed officer came and picked Dancer up. His bike was placed in the back of the patrol car and he sat up front with the officer. He was not handcuffed as he was being taken in as a witness and not a suspect. He was not under arrest at that point. Freshour radioed Sergeant Selvain McQueen at the station and told him that he was sending a potential witness to the murder and that the boy needed to be interviewed. When Dancer arrived, McQueen and David Turner, the other investigator, were speaking with two other individuals they suspected in the crime. They stopped their interrogation of the two suspects and went outside where Officer Gordon was dropping off Dancer. They took his bike out of the car and laid it against the building. Then, Dancer and the investigators went into the station. As they walked down a hallway, one of the investigators asked Dancer what kind of information he had. Dancer again stated that he was present when Welch was shot. Knowing the victim had not suffered any gunshots, McQueen told Dancer that they were tired and did not have time for games and asked him to leave. Turner, however, said they might as well interview him since he was there. As such, they took him into an interrogation room.
¶5. Inside the room, Turner sat behind the desk and Dancer sat in a chair close to the door. McQueen laid down on the couch. Turner and Dancer began to talk. Dancer repeated his story about the two white men in the green Malibu. Turner noticed a stain on Dancer's shoes. He asked him if it was blood. Dancer replied, "No." He then said, "I didn't kill that woman. I didn't stab her." Again believing the manner of Welch's death was not public information, the officers viewed Dancer as a suspect. As such, Turner read him his waiver of rights form, which Dancer said he understood. After several hours of telling the officers the same story about the white men, Dancer finally confessed to his involvement. This statement was recorded. According to this statement, Dancer was approached by seventeen-year-old Uron Bush who told him that he was going to rob Charlie's. Bush asked Dancer to be a lookout. Dancer "just left." He went to Charlie's One Stop a couple of hours later, but not as part of a plan with Bush. As he was paying for chips and a popsicle, Bush, "O" and a guy from the north side "busted into" the store. Dancer "got scared, jumped up against the wall and just froze." Bush began to stab Mrs. Charlie. The interrogating officer asked Dancer if he "forgot" to be the lookout, Dancer replied, "Naw, I wasn't going to be the look out."
¶6. After taking the money from the register and various items of food, Bush, "O" and the other guy left. Dancer remained in the store for about two minutes after they left. He was crying and almost fainted. He then grabbed his purchase as well as a Butterfinger and cola that he did not pay for and left. Dancer ran to a nearby friend's house. The other guys went to an abandoned flower shop. He saw Bush at some point later. Dancer told Bush that he (Bush) was going down big time. Bush threatened to kill Dancer if he told anybody what ...