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Sandlin v. State

Supreme Court of Mississippi

October 10, 2013

LISA SANDLIN a/k/a LISA A. SANDLIN a/k/a LISA BABLER a/k/a LISA HUSKY
v.
STATE OF MISSISSIPPI

Page 814

COURT FROM WHICH APPEALED: LEE COUNTY CIRCUIT COURT. DATE OF JUDGMENT: 12/01/2011. TRIAL JUDGE: HON. PAUL S. FUNDERBURK.

FOR APPELLANT: OFFICE OF STATE PUBLIC DEFENDER, BY: W. DANIEL HINCHCLIFF.

FOR APPELLEE: OFFICE OF THE ATTORNEY GENERAL, BY: LISA L. BLOUNT.

BEFORE RANDOLPH, P.J., KING AND COLEMAN, JJ. WALLER, C.J., DICKINSON AND RANDOLPH, P.JJ., LAMAR, KITCHENS, CHANDLER, PIERCE AND COLEMAN, JJ., CONCUR.

OPINION

Page 815

KING, JUSTICE.

¶1. Lisa Sandlin was convicted of murder for the death of her stepson Kirk Sandlin and sentenced to a term of life in prison. Lisa appeals, raising two issues:

I. Whether the trial court erred by allowing Lisa's husband Sammy Sandlin to testify for the State.
II. Whether Lisa received ineffective assistance of counsel.

¶2. We find that Issue I is barred from review. With regard to Lisa's ineffective-assistance-of-counsel claims, the record clearly establishes that three issues -- statements made in opening argument, statements made in closing argument, and Lisa's motion for directed verdict -- are without merit. Thus, we affirm Lisa's conviction and sentence on these issues. But the record is insufficient to consider two of her ineffective-assistance-of-counsel claims -- Sammy's testimony and a 911 call -- on direct appeal. Thus, we dismiss these two claims without prejudice to Lisa's right to bring these claims later in a properly filed motion for post-conviction relief.

FACTS AND PROCEDURAL HISTORY

¶3. Sammy and Lisa Sandlin married in 1998. Both had children from previous relationships -- Kirk Sandlin (Sammy's son) and Jesse Huskey [1] (Lisa's son). Sammy, Jesse, and Lisa testified that, early on, the entire family got along very well. Later, Kirk developed a drug habit which negatively affected the family relationship. Kirk stole frequently from Sammy, Lisa, and Jesse. Jesse said that Kirk was an intimidating person, and he was paranoid, distrustful, aggressive, and quick-tempered. Kirk and Lisa's relationship had become especially volatile. Jesse knew that Lisa was afraid of Kirk. While Jesse had never witnessed a physical altercation between Lisa and Kirk, Lisa had shown Jesse bruises she claimed were inflicted by Kirk. Sammy stated that Lisa previously had called the police on Kirk, but he thought her calls were unnecessary and urged her not to call the police again.

¶4. On September 22, 2010, in Saltillo, Mississippi, Kirk and Lisa were involved in a verbal altercation, which ended in Lisa shooting Kirk. Dr. Amy McMaster, a forensic pathologist, testified that the cause of death was a gunshot wound to the torso and labeled the death a homicide. [2]

¶5. John Russell Sandlin, Sammy's brother and Kirk's uncle, was not present when Kirk was shot. But John testified to events that had transpired the day before the incident. According to John, he and Kirk were working on a car at Sammy's barn. The barn was at least fifty to sixty yards away from the house. At one point, Lisa came on the porch and yelled, " If ya'll don't get the hell out from here, I'm fixing to start shooting." John testified that they had not exchanged words with Lisa prior to her statement, and they left the home soon thereafter. Lisa denied that she made the statement.

¶6. Sammy was present during the shooting and testified regarding what took place. That night, Lisa and Sammy's mother were sitting on the patio by the fire pit. Kirk came by the house to ask Sammy to help him get a city-maintenance job. Sammy expressed his hesitation to help Kirk, reminding Kirk that he had

Page 816

" messed up" previous job opportunities. According to Sammy, Lisa chimed in, stating, " Kirk, you are not going to do nothing but mooch off . . . your daddy." Sammy stated that Kirk called Lisa a bitch and continued to curse at her. Lisa told Kirk to get off the property. Although Sammy had not mentioned this to police before, at trial he testified that Kirk stood up, flexed his muscles, and told Sammy, " Daddy, if you don't get her away from me, I'm going to kill her." Sammy told Lisa to go into the house " and just hush."

¶7. Kirk stayed and talked to Sammy a few more minutes before heading away. Then, Kirk returned and said, " Daddy, I want to ask you something else." Kirk walked back toward the house and stopped in the breezeway at least six to eight feet away from the door. Sammy heard Kirk say, " Well, what are you going to do with that gun, bitch, shoot me?" Sammy could not see Lisa in the doorway, but he saw the gun barrel. Sammy ran to Kirk, but he did not get there in time. Sammy caught Kirk before he hit the ground and called 911.

¶8. According to Sammy, he normally kept the shotgun unloaded. All of the shells had been used except for two, which he kept in Lisa's jewelry box. After the shooting, only one shell remained. Lisa had reminded Sammy that either Kirk or Jesse had used the shotgun last, and perhaps they had left it loaded. After that reminder, Sammy recalled loading the shotgun himself to shoot a snake, and he testified that he had probably left the shell in the gun. As far as Sammy knew, Lisa never had touched the shotgun. Sammy acknowledged that Kirk and Lisa had not gotten along for some time. But he did not remember giving a written statement to police stating that Lisa had talked about shooting or killing Kirk for a long time.

¶9. Lisa testified in her own defense. She described her relationship with Kirk as pleasant until his drug addiction. Lisa testified that Kirk's attitude had changed, and he had become violent. Lisa gave her account of the night's events. According to Lisa, Kirk stated that " somebody had to work around here." Lisa told Kirk that Sammy worked hard. In response, Kirk told Lisa to " shut the f- up." Lisa snapped back, " You are not going to work. You can't even pass the drug test, Kirk."

¶10. Kirk was upset, and he cursed and spat in Lisa's face. Sammy told Lisa to go inside, and she did. Lisa stated that when she went inside the house, she grabbed the shot gun to intimidate Kirk. She walked to the door with the gun. Kirk saw her and asked, " What are you going to do with that, shoot me?" Lisa declared, " I will," and Kirk responded, " Go ahead." Lisa stated that she cocked the gun and pulled the trigger, and the shotgun made a loud noise. Immediately afterwards, Lisa called her father and informed him that he might not see her for a while because she had shot Kirk. Lisa stated that when the police arrived, she took full responsibility for her actions and cooperated with the police.

¶11. At approximately 7:35 p.m., Kerry Gaddy, a sergeant with the Lee County Sheriff's Department, responded to Sammy's 911 call. Upon arrival, Sergeant Gaddy found Kirk lying on the ground and saw Sammy giving Kirk aid. At the time, Kirk was alive. Sammy informed Sergeant Gaddy that Kirk, his son, had been shot by Lisa, his wife, and that Lisa was inside the home. Sergeant Gaddy called Lisa's name and asked her to come out with her hands up. According to Sergeant Gaddy, Lisa seemed agitated and upset but not frightened. He did not notice any signs of a struggle. As Lisa emerged, Sergeant Gaddy said that she yelled, " I

Page 817

shot the motherfucker. I was tired of his shit." Sergeant Gaddy secured the weapon -- a shotgun -- which ...


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