DATE OF JUDGMENT: 11/22/2013
FROM WHICH APPEALED: JACKSON COUNTY CIRCUIT COURT TRIAL JUDGE: HON. ROBERT P. KREBS COURT
ATTORNEY FOR APPELLANT: OFFICE OF STATE PUBLIC DEFENDER BY: GEORGE T. HOLMES
ATTORNEY FOR APPELLEE: OFFICE OF THE ATTORNEY GENERAL BY: LADONNA C. HOLLAND DISTRICT
ATTORNEY: ANTHONY N. LAWRENCE III
BEFORE IRVING, P.J., ISHEE AND CARLTON, JJ.
¶1. In 2013, Houston Lee Jones was convicted in the Jackson County Circuit Court of deliberate-design murder and sentenced to life imprisonment in the custody of the Mississippi Department of Corrections (MDOC). Aggrieved, Jones now appeals his conviction on four grounds: (1) the jury was improperly instructed on deliberate-design murder; (2) Jones was prejudiced by hearsay testimony; (3) the circuit court erred in excluding one of Jones's statements to the police; and (4) the weight and sufficiency of the evidence did not adequately support the conviction. Finding no error, we affirm.
STATEMENT OF FACTS
¶2. Jones, an eighteen-year-old father of a new baby girl named Ryleigh, was living with his sixty-four-year-old stepgrandfather, Leo Landrum, in 2011. Jones's parents had separated when he was a young boy, and his father had gained primary custody of him. Nonetheless, prior to his mother's suicide in 2010, Jones lived with each parent during various time periods. When Jones reached high-school age, he began living with Landrum. Landrum was Jones's mother's stepfather until his divorce from Jones's grandmother. Hence, Jones had been around Landrum often from the time he was a small child until Landrum's death.
¶3. The evidence shows that Landrum financially supported Jones throughout Jones's life. Jones even admitted that Landrum had always showered him with gifts. By the time Jones was eighteen, Landrum had purchased four vehicles for him. At the time of Landrum's death, Jones was an unemployed father. Hence, in addition to Landrum paying all of Jones's bills, he also began giving Jones money to help support Ryleigh. However, given all of the expenses Landrum was covering, he was rapidly falling into dire straits financially. Landrum's sister-in-law, Katherine Landrum, helped Landrum with his finances and was even listed on his bank account as an account holder.
¶4. The day before Landrum was murdered, Katherine testified that Landrum told her that Jones had maxed out all of his credit cards and that he was going to have to stop supporting Jones financially. According to Landrum's bank account, he only had approximately $2, 000 when he died, despite windfalls totaling almost $150, 000 from various sources over the years. Landrum's neighbor and best friend, Jimmy Spicer, also testified that he had coffee with Landrum every morning. He testified that while the two of them were visiting the morning of Landrum's death, Landrum said that Jones had reached his credit limit on all of his credit cards. He also testified that Landrum said Jones needed to "straighten up and work."
¶5. Jones asserts that Landrum's financial support of him was due to Landrum's alleged sexual molestation and assault on Jones for a number of years. Jones's recollection of the abuse is inconsistent. In some statements, it appears that Jones could not remember when the abuse began or the extent of the abuse. In other statements, Jones recalled the exact age, location, and description of the abuse in vivid detail.
¶6. On May 25, 2011, Jones shot and killed Landrum. He then used Landrum's cell phone to call his girlfriend, who is also Ryleigh's mother, Tilena Womack, to ask for permission to visit with friends that evening. After Womack gave him permission, he went to a friend's house for some time. Around 11:30 p.m., Jones volunteered to drive one of the friends home, and several other friends accompanied him in the car. On the way ...