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Williams v. State

Court of Appeals of Mississippi

January 3, 2017

JOHNNY WILLIAM WILLIAMS A/K/A JOHNNY WILLIAMS A/K/A JOHNNY WILLIAM WILLIAMS, JR. APPELLANT
v.
STATE OF MISSISSIPPI APPELLEE

          DATE OF JUDGMENT: 06/23/2015

         HINDS COUNTY CIRCUIT COURT, FIRST JUDICIAL DISTRICT, HON. WILLIAM A. GOWAN JR.

          ATTORNEY FOR APPELLANT: OFFICE OF STATE PUBLIC DEFENDER BY: MOLLIE MARIE MCMILLIN.

          ATTORNEY FOR APPELLEE: OFFICE OF THE ATTORNEY GENERAL BY: SCOTT STUART.

          DISTRICT ATTORNEY: ROBERT SHULER SMITH.

          BEFORE LEE, C.J., BARNES AND ISHEE, JJ.

          BARNES, J.

         ¶1. A Hinds County jury convicted Johnny Williams of capital murder in the killing of his seventeen-month-old daughter, Jada Williams. Williams was sentenced to life in the custody of the Mississippi Department of Corrections without the possibility of parole. Williams now appeals. He argues jury instruction S-3 was improperly granted, which permitted the jury to find Williams guilty of the underlying felony of child abuse without finding he actually abused the child. Williams also claims to have received ineffective assistance of counsel due to the admission of graphic photographs of Jada's body. Finding no error, we affirm.

         STATEMENT OF THE FACTS AND PROCEDURAL HISTORY

         ¶2. On July 3, 2012, at 3:45 p.m., Officer LaShanda Griffin of the Jackson Police Department responded to a call about an unconscious infant, later identified as Jada Williams, who was brought to the emergency room (ER) of the Central Mississippi Medical Center (CMMC) in Jackson, Mississippi. Officer Griffin was informed by a nurse that the child was stiff when her mother brought her in. Officer Griffin testified that Jada had bruises on her hips, buttocks, and legs.

         ¶3. Brandon Goldsmith, an ER nurse at CMMC, testified that when Jada was brought into the ER at 3:45 p.m., she was unresponsive, not breathing, and had no pulse. Medical staff attempted to open Jada's airway, but her jaws were locked; so they could not open her mouth. Also, they were unable to obtain IV access in Jada's arm because her arm was so rigid. Goldsmith explained that Jada's stiffness indicated rigor mortis; thus, Jada had been dead for several hours. Goldsmith observed several bruises on Jada's torso and legs, which were present before cardio-pulmonary resuscitation (CPR) was attempted. Medical staff attempted CPR, but Jada was pronounced dead at 3:50 p.m. Officer Griffin called her supervisor, the mobile-crime unit, robbery-homicide detectives, and the coroner to the hospital.

         ¶4. Officer Charles Taylor of the Jackson Police Department also responded to the call at CMMC, and took photographs of Jada's body in the trauma room of the ER. Thirty-one photographs of Jada's body were entered into evidence at trial without objection from the defense. Based on his experience, Officer Taylor testified that it appeared Jada had been severely beaten. Later, Officer Taylor also went to the apartment where Jada, her parents, and their two other small children lived. He took photographs of the apartment, and recovered clothing items and a belt.

         ¶5. Jasmine Porter, Jada's mother and Williams's co-indictee, testified against Williams at trial. Jasmine maintained that she was not offered "a deal" in exchange for testifying. Jasmine lived with Williams and their three children at the Vintage Apartments in Jackson on Ellis Avenue. In addition to Jada, the couple had a two-year-old child and a six-month-old child. The day Jada died, the family had been at home, arising at around 10:30 or 11:00 a.m. Jasmine explained that Jada had "an accident" on the couch; she was not wearing diapers because they were potty training her. Jasmine cleaned Jada up, and the family went to pay the light bill at a store on Capitol Street.

         ¶6. Upon returning home, Jasmine put Jada in the bathtub to play while she cleaned the kitchen and dining area. Jasmine went outside to smoke and talk to a neighbor for about five to ten minutes. When she came back inside, Williams was talking to Jada, who was on the bed limp, and neither moving nor breathing. Jasmine thought Jada was having a "breathing ...


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