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Ford v. State

February 23, 1999

ALBERTA FORD APPELLANT
v.
STATE OF MISSISSIPPI APPELLEE



Before McMILLIN, P.j., Coleman, And Southwick, JJ.

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

DATE OF JUDGMENT: 11/08/96

TRIAL JUDGE: HON. BARRY W. FORD

COURT FROM WHICH APPEALED: LEE COUNTY CIRCUIT COURT

NATURE OF THE CASE: CRIMINAL - FELONY

TRIAL COURT DISPOSITION: MANSLAUGHTER: SENTENCED TO SERVE A TERM OF 12 YRS IN THE MDOC; DEFENDANT IS ORDERED TO PAY COURT COSTS

DISPOSITION: AFFIRMED - 2/23/99

MOTION FOR REHEARING FILED:

CERTIORARI FILED:

MANDATE ISSUED:

¶1. A grand jury indicted the appellant, Alberta Ford, for the murder of her husband, Kelvin Ford, but the trial jury in the Circuit Court of Lee County returned its verdict of "Guilty of manslaughter." Pursuant to that verdict, the trial court entered its judgment of Alberta Ford's conviction of the felony of manslaughter. Two days later, after a pre-sentencing investigation had been completed, the trial court entered an order by which it sentenced Ford to serve a term of twelve years in "a facility to be designated by the Mississippi Department of Corrections." Ford appeals to present two issues for our review and resolution, which we quote verbatim from Ford's brief:

1. THE TRIAL COURT ERRED OVERRULING HER REQUEST FOR A PEREMPTORY INSTRUCTION AT THE CLOSE OF THE STATE'S CASE, PURSUANT TO THE WEATHERSBY RULE; AND

2. THE TRIAL COURT ERRED IN NOT GRANTING THE APPELLANT'S MOTION FOR JUDGMENT OF ACQUITTAL JNOV OR IN THE ALTERNATIVE, A NEW TRIAL, BASED UPON HER ASSERTION THAT THE JURY VERDICT WAS AGAINST THE GREATER WEIGHT OF THE EVIDENCE.

Notwithstanding appellant Ford's adroit analysis of the evidence adduced by both the State and Ford, this Court affirms.

I. FACTS

¶2. Booze, beer, barbecue, and a birth were among the facts in this case. On July 22, 1995, Bobby Gene Berry, a friend of Ford; Gladys Geneva Richey, Ford's daughter; Mary J. Young, Ford's other daughter who was pregnant; and Bernard Young, Ford's nephew; among others, gathered at the apartment occupied by Ford and her husband in Tupelo to enjoy a meal of barbecue. All, including Alberta Ford, were drinking beer, and some, including Kelvin Ford, were drinking both beer and whiskey. Around 7:30 o'clock that evening, Mary J. Young left the Fords' apartment and was taken by her companion to the hospital, where she gave birth to her baby later that same evening. Ms. Young's baby was born after Kelvin Ford had succumbed to the infliction of a wound to his heart caused by a steak knife held by Alberta Ford.

¶3. After Ms. Young left, Bernard Young asked his aunt Alberta if she was going to get some beer. Because Alberta had no money, Bernard Young gave her a one-hundred-dollar bill to buy the beer before Alberta Ford went to the hospital to be with her daughter. Alberta Ford and Bobby Gene Berry left the apartment and got into the Fords' automobile to go buy the beer. Once Ford was in the car, she realized that she did not have the keys to the car. She got out of the car, entered the apartment, and went into the bedroom where her husband Kelvin Ford was lying on the bed, apparently asleep. Alberta Ford awakened her husband when she reached into his pants pocket to get the car keys.

¶4. When Kelvin Ford awoke, he asked, "What are you doing?" When Alberta Ford replied, "I'm getting the keys," Kelvin Ford replied, "You ain't getting no key [sic]." An argument ensued, during which the Fords scuffled. In the midst of their scuffling, Alberta Ford went into the kitchen, where she got a steak knife and put it in a back pocket on her pants. Kelvin Ford, who had followed her into the kitchen, pushed Alberta Ford back into the bedroom, where the Fords resumed scuffling. Alberta Ford pulled the knife from the back pocket of her pants and held it in front of her. While she held the knife in front of her pointed at her husband, Kelvin Ford sustained a puncture wound through his sternum and into the left ventricle of his heart. The manner in which Alberta Ford inflicted this fatal wound is at issue in this case.

¶5. Someone in the Fords' apartment called 911. Tupelo Police Officer Marion Morrow was on patrol when he received notice of the stabbing at approximately 9:14 p.m. that evening. He and other police officers converged on the Fords' apartment in Tupelo, where they found Kelvin Ford lying in a pool of blood on the bedroom floor. An ambulance took Kelvin Ford to the hospital, where he died during surgery. Alberta Ford was arrested and taken to the Tupelo Police Headquarters, where she subsequently gave a statement about the events earlier that evening which culminated in her husband's death.

II. TRIAL

¶6. The grand jury indicted Alberta Ford for the "wilful, unlawful and felonious and with malice aforethought" murder of her husband, Kelvin Ford. Among the witnesses whom the State called were Officer Marion Morrow and Detectives Bart Aguirre and Teresa Broadway, all with the Tupelo Police Department. They testified about their various roles in the investigation of the death of Kelvin Ford and the arrest and detention of Alberta Ford. The State also called Alberta Ford's daughter, Gladys Geneva Richey, who testified about her observation of the argument and subsequent scuffle between Kelvin and Alberta Ford and about her futile effort to wrest the knife from her mother's grasp before Kelvin Ford received his fatal wound. Without objection from Alberta Ford, the State introduced into evidence a written statement which she had given Detective Aguirre after she had been taken to the Tupelo Police Headquarters.

¶7. For her witnesses, Alberta Ford called Thomas Richey, her brother; Jimmy Richey, her brother; Bernard Young, her nephew; and Mary J. Young, her daughter. Alberta Ford was the last to testify. We reserve further review of the testimony of the State's and Ford's witnesses for our resolution of Ford's two issues, at the heart of both of which lies the sufficiency and weight of the testimony of these witnesses.

III. REVIEW AND RESOLUTION OF THE ISSUES

A. Ms. Ford's first issue

1. Ford's argument

ΒΆ8. In her statement of the issues required by Rule 28(a)(3) of the Mississippi Rules of Appellate Procedure, Ford presents the following first issue for our review, analysis, and resolution: "The trial court erred overruling her request for a peremptory instruction at the close of the State's case, pursuant to the Weathersby [r]ule." In Weathersby v. State, 165 ...


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