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Clark v. State

Court of Appeals of Mississippi

March 7, 2017


          DATE OF JUDGMENT: 03/03/2015





          IRVING, P.J.

         ¶1. On February 24, 2015, a jury in the Circuit Court of Panola County, First Judicial District, convicted Patrick Evans Clark of the capital murder of Charlene Wren (Wren) and sentenced him as a habitual offender to life imprisonment without the possibility of parole. Aggrieved, Clark appeals and presents multiple issues-both through counsel and pro se-for this Court's resolution. For the sake of clarity and efficiency, we have edited the issues as follows:

         A. Issues Raised by Clark's Counsel:

1. Whether the trial court erred in requiring Clark to respond to cross-examination questions about a statement that had been excluded by pretrial order;
2. Whether Clark's trial counsel was constitutionally ineffective; and
3. Whether the trial court erred in refusing to allow Clark to be recalled as a witness.

         B. Issues Raised by Clark, Pro Se:

1. Whether the trial judge erred in requiring him to wear an electronic restraint at trial;
2. Whether the trial court violated his right to confront the witnesses against him in allowing the coroner['s] medical-examiner investigator to testify as to the state medical examiner's autopsy report;
3. Whether his right against double jeopardy was violated in allowing him to be convicted and sentenced a second time and in allowing the State to prove that he was a habitual offender for a second time;
4. Whether the State failed to prove that he was a habitual offender;
5. Whether he was denied his right to confidential communications with his attorney;
6. Whether the trial judge erred in allowing questioning as to his "Letter Confession";
7. Whether the trial judge erred in denying his motion to dismiss the indictment;
8. Whether the trial court erred in allowing witness testimony regarding "immaterial, irrelevant, and highly prejudicial" facts not in evidence;
9. Whether the trial judge erred in denying his motion for a change of venue; and
10. Whether the trial judge denied him his right to proceed pro se.

         ¶2. Finding no reversible error, we affirm Clark's conviction and sentence.


         ¶3. Clark and Wren, both residents of Panola County, Mississippi, were involved in an on-again, off-again romantic relationship for approximately two years. Clark and Wren broke up a final time on August 26, 1998, at which time Wren was living with her twenty-three-year-old son, Tony, in a trailer located on property owned by Wren's mother. Clark testified at trial that he had also been living at Wren's trailer for about seven months prior to August 26, 1998, and that Wren had given him a key to the trailer. Clark testified that the relationship ultimately broke apart because Wren's mother and three sisters-who also lived on the property in a house next door to the trailer-demanded that Wren ask Clark to leave the property or else they would both be forced to leave. Tony, Wren's mother, and one of Wren's sisters contradicted Clark's testimony at trial, maintaining that Tony and Wren were the only two persons living at Wren's trailer in the seven months prior to August 26, 1998. Tony further testified that while Clark might occasionally spend a couple of nights at the trailer, he neither resided there nor owned a key.

         ¶4. On the evening of August 26, 1998, Clark went to Wren's trailer to remove his personal property. The witnesses differed in their accounts of what occurred in the nighttime hours between August 26, 1998, and August 27, 1998, during which Wren was shot and killed. Tony testified that around 12 midnight or 12:30 a.m., Clark called the trailer's home phone twice and asked to speak to Wren. Tony answered and told Clark that his mother was asleep. Shortly after, Clark drove his truck to Wren's trailer. Tony was standing in the driveway when Clark arrived. Clark asked Tony whether Wren was seeing anyone else, to which Tony replied that she was not. Clark then left. Tony went inside the trailer, locked the door-including the deadbolt-went to his bedroom, and got in bed.

         ¶5. Around 1:30 a.m., Clark again called the trailer's home phone and requested to speak to Wren. Again, Tony answered and told Clark that his mother was asleep. About an hour later, Tony heard a truck pull up in the yard. Someone exited the truck and began knocking on the door. Tony got out of bed and looked out to see Clark walking off the trailer's porch, headed away from the door and back toward his truck. Tony thought Clark was leaving, so he lay down on the couch, which was located "right in front of the door" on which Clark had been knocking. The knocking suddenly resumed, but Tony, assuming that Clark had returned and would eventually leave, ignored it and stayed on the couch. Tony testified that the following then took place:

[TONY]: . . . Next thing I know I heard the screen door snatch open and the front door come flying open[;] he had kicked the door in.
[THE PROSECUTOR]: Was - - did he have a key to the house?
[TONY]: No, sir. He didn't.
[THE PROSECUTOR]: Did he force his way in?
[TONY]: Yes, sir. He did.
[THE PROSECUTOR]: You said he kicked the door open[;] what about the deadbolt?
[TONY]: He kicked that in[;] the door flew in.
[THE PROSECUTOR]: Did he break the door?
[TONY]: Yes, sir. He broke the door.

         Upon kicking in the door, Clark used his shoulder and back to force his way into the trailer. Tony testified that Clark was holding a twelve-gauge shotgun when he came through the doorway. Because Clark had forced his way in with his back to the trailer's interior, he did not immediately see Tony lying on the couch. Clark began heading toward Wren's bedroom; when he reached the kitchen-located about fifteen feet from the couch on which Tony was lying-Tony jumped up and yelled to warn his mother. Upon hearing Tony and noticing that he was in the room, Clark turned, cocked the gun, and shot at Tony; however, Clark missed Tony and instead shot the floor model television stand located by the door through which he had entered. Tony immediately ran out of the trailer to get help. As he was jumping off of the porch, he heard another two shots fired from inside the trailer. Tony testified that when he obtained help and finally returned to the trailer, he found his mother on the floor, dying from a gunshot wound to the chest.

         ¶6. At trial, Clark's account of these events differed greatly from Tony's. Clark testified that around 11:30 p.m. or midnight on August 26, 1998, he went to Wren's trailer to collect the last of his property, which he had been moving all evening. He testified that when he pulled up to the trailer, Tony was standing in the driveway, holding a cordless phone. Clark maintained that he saw Tony call Wren[1] and warn her that Clark was in the driveway, which he deemed suspicious, but he proceeded to head toward the trailer anyway. Clark testified that he used his own key to open the trailer door; however, immediately upon entering the trailer, he saw a "naked man[2] just with his clothes in his arm" run out the back door. According to Clark, Wren then appeared "with her little pink gown on, got a bath towel stuck between her legs trying to convince me that she wasn't doing anything." Although angered by what he had seen, Clark said he exited the trailer and returned to his truck. When he reached the truck, he saw Tony standing there, "looking crazy, steady [sic] fumbling with his shirt like he had something." Feeling uncomfortable, Clark left the house, stopped at a convenience store, and called Wren twice on her home phone. According to Clark, Wren answered both times, and the two argued. Clark testified that he wanted to get the remainder of his property from Wren's trailer, but he was afraid to return because all of his firearms were in the trailer, and he felt that both Tony and the unidentified naked man posed a threat to him. Thus, Clark went to his mother's house and "got a couple of guns, " to take with him to the trailer, "[n]ot to hurt anybody with, " but to ensure his own protection "because [he] didn't know what to expect."

         ¶7. Clark testified that he returned to Wren's trailer around 1:30 a.m. or 2:00 a.m. on the morning of August 27, 1998. He drove up, exited his truck, went to the door of the trailer, and knocked for several minutes. When no one answered, he went to the side of the trailer and knocked on the air-conditioning unit in the window of Wren's bedroom. Again, no one answered, so he went back to his truck and got his key to Wren's trailer. Clark testified that he "went back and opened the door to the [trailer], " and "went in the [trailer]" using his key. He denied ever having kicked in the trailer door. Further, he maintained that he "did not go in that house with a gun in [his] hand"; rather, according to him, he left the recently obtained guns in his truck. Clark testified that only after he entered the trailer did he become armed: he grabbed the gun that he always kept behind the TV stand that was located right next to the door. Clark stated that he never intended to hurt anyone with the gun; rather, he was just retrieving it from the trailer, along with the rest of his personal property.

         ¶8. Clark testified that he did not see anyone in the trailer at the time that he entered. He testified that he walked into the kitchen to retrieve his microwave and deep freezer, and that as he bent over to unplug the deep freezer, he was hit in the head with a crystal ashtray. According to Clark, he turned and saw Tony standing several feet away with another ashtray in his hand. Clark testified that he grabbed the gun from his shoulder, but it accidentally discharged and shot the TV stand. At this point, Tony ran out of the trailer. Clark testified that he began trying to unload the gun when Wren suddenly appeared from her bedroom-about twelve to fifteen feet from where Clark was standing-cursing and screaming. Clark testified that Wren was standing with one hand on the doorknob to her bedroom and the other hand holding a "rather small gun, " which Clark speculated to be a revolver. Clark said that at that time, the following took place:

She raised the gun up, [and] scared me[;] I'm just trying to get out of her way, but instinctively I just threw the gun up and I fired the gun and I went out the door. I was yelling back in the house at her, "Sit down somewhere. All I want to do is get my stuff." She never responded to me, so I was afraid to go back in the house. . . . I don't know where Tony [is] at, you know, I don't know what's out there. And all of her family members live right around in the same little area.

         When asked for more details regarding how he shot Wren, Clark maintained that it was an accident:

After the gun went off and fired and hit the TV, I was in the process of unloading the gun and this is when she just bust [sic] out on me. So just by instinct when I turned around and I saw her [screaming], ". . . I'm going to kill you. I'm going to kill you . . . ." It was just my instincts to throw up - - to throw the gun up[;] I just threw the gun up and I fired it. I never tried to kill Ms. Wren. I never had the intent to hurt [anybody], you know, but the incident did happen.
[DEFENSE COUNSEL]: When you say you threw the gun up you mean you threw it - -
[CLARK]: I just threw it up over my shoulder. [I was] getting out of her way, out of her path. Just [instinctively, ] I threw the gun up and fired the gun.
[DEFENSE COUNSEL]: So when you shot[, ] Ms. Wren was behind you?
[CLARK]: Yes.
[DEFENSE COUNSEL]: Okay. And you ran out of the house after that?
[CLARK]: Right.

         Clark testified that after running out of the trailer, he heard more gunshots coming from inside:

I called for Tony a couple of times but nobody responded. Then I heard two to three gunshots. By the gun being fired in the house[, ] my ears [were] ringing[;] I actually can't hear too [well], so [I was] looking to where the gunshot [was] coming from. I never [saw] any flashes. So this spooked me. So I feel like it was in my best interest to leave then and this is why I got in my truck and I left.

         ¶9. Clark testified that he knew the police were probably looking for him, so he drove to Senatobia and threw the guns he had brought with him from his mother's house out of the truck. However, he hid the gun used in the shooting under the hood of his truck. Sometime later on August 27, 1998, Clark was apprehended by the police and arrested.

         ¶10. Upon his arrest, Clark was immediately interviewed by Panola County Sheriff's Department Investigator Craig Sheley and Mississippi Bureau of Investigation Investigator Walter Davis. The interview was audio recorded; however, large portions of the tape were later deemed inaudible by the trial court. Days later, on September 2, 1998, Clark was interviewed by Panola County Sheriff David Bryan, now deceased.

         ¶11. On November 19, 1998, a Panola County grand jury indicted Clark, as a habitual offender, [3] for burglary, grand larceny, and the capital murder of Wren. The charges of burglary and grand larceny were remanded to the files. On February 12, 1999, Clark pleaded guilty to the capital-murder charge and was sentenced to life imprisonment in the custody of the Mississippi Department of Corrections. While incarcerated, Clark filed three petitions for post-conviction relief (PCR), the third of which sought to have his indictment quashed and dismissed on the basis that it was defective. On May 29, 2012, the trial court granted Clark's motion and entered an order and judgment quashing and dismissing the indictment. The court vacated and set aside Clark's conviction and sentence for capital murder.

         ¶12. On August 1, 2012, a Panola County grand jury indicted Clark a second time for burglary, grand larceny, and capital murder as a habitual offender. As before, the charges of burglary and grand larceny were remanded to the files. Between his second indictment and trial on February 23-24, 2015, Clark filed a litany of motions, both through counsel and pro se. Clark's counsel[4] filed the following motions: (1) a motion to dismiss the indictment on the basis that it constituted double jeopardy; (2) a motion for change of venue; (3) a motion for Clark to undergo a psychiatric examination; (4) a motion to suppress Clark's statement; (5) a motion to sever the counts in the indictment; (6) a motion in limine to prevent the elicitation or introduction of testimony or evidence as to Clark's felony convictions; (7) a motion in limine to exclude or limit photographic evidence and the autopsy report; (8) a motion in limine to exclude Clark's audio-recorded interview with Investigators Davis and Sheley because the recording was inaudible; and (9) a motion in limine to exclude Clark's audio-recorded interview with Sheriff Bryan because he had expired after Clark gave the interview. Of these motions, the ...

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