WILLIAM RAY PARKS A/K/A BILL PARKS A/K/A WILLIAM PARKS APPELLANT
STATE OF MISSISSIPPI APPELLEE
of Judgment: 08/17/2015
FROM WHICH APPEALED: COPIAH COUNTY CIRCUIT COURT HON. LAMAR
PICKARD TRIAL JUDGE.
ATTORNEYS FOR APPELLANT: MATTHEW ALLEN BALDRIDGE BENJAMIN
ATTORNEY FOR APPELLEE: OFFICE OF THE ATTORNEY GENERAL BY:
BARBARA WAKELAND BYRD.
IRVING, P.J., CARLTON AND WILSON, JJ.
William Parks claimed that he shot and killed Joshua Tarver
in self-defense, but a Copiah County jury convicted him of
heat-of-passion manslaughter. The circuit court sentenced
Parks to twenty years in the custody of the Mississippi
Department of Corrections, with two years suspended and two
years of post-release supervision. On appeal, Parks argues
that the jury should not have been instructed on
heat-of-passion manslaughter, that the deputy medical
examiner was not qualified or competent to testify as to
Tarver's cause of death or about Tarver's autopsy,
that there was insufficient evidence to support his
conviction, and that his conviction is against the
overwhelming weight of the evidence. We find no reversible
error; therefore, we affirm Parks's conviction and
AND PROCEDURAL HISTORY
Parks lived and operated an auto repair and restoration
business in a rural area of Copiah County near Crystal
Springs. Parks lived with his mother, Mary, near the entrance
to the property, and his business was located farther back on
the land. There were also two trailers on the property. In
2014, Parks hired twenty-three-year-old Tarver to assist him
at his shop. Parks also allowed Tarver to live in one of the
trailers on the property.
Parks was also employed by a contractor in the offshore
drilling industry. Parks went to work offshore on November
13, 2014, and did not return home until November 27, 2014.
While Parks was gone, around November 20, 2014, his shop was
burglarized. Tarver notified the Copiah County Sheriff's
Department of the burglary, and Deputy Alvin Starkey
responded and met with Tarver and Mary. Starkey asked for a
list of the missing property, but he never received it. On
November 22, 2014, Starkey returned to Parks's property
and met with Mary. Tarver was gone, and the trailer in which
he had been living was empty. Starkey attempted to call
Tarver to follow up, but Tarver never returned his calls.
Parks met with Starkey on November 28, 2014, after he
returned home from his work offshore.
On Saturday, December 6, 2014, Parks was working in his shop.
The shop was not open for business, so Parks had all of its
doors closed as he worked. From inside the shop, Parks heard
a noise from the back of the property that sounded as though
a vehicle was stuck in the mud. Parks took a .45-caliber
handgun and went to investigate. Outside the shop, Parks met
Mary, and Mary told him that Tarver was on the property.
Parks had not seen Tarver since he returned home and learned
of the burglary. Parks told Mary to call 911.
Parks testified in his own defense at trial. He testified
that as he walked toward the noise, he saw a truck with a
trailer stuck in the mud. He did not recognize the truck, but
he saw tools in the trailer that he believed had been stolen
from his shop. As Parks emerged from a wooded area, he began
firing at the truck. Parks testified that he was shooting at
the truck's tires because he wanted to prevent it from
leaving his property before law enforcement arrived. As he
fired at the truck, Parks saw someone in his "side
vision" running toward him. He turned and recognized
that it was Tarver. Tarver announced, "Don't shoot!
It's Josh." Parks testified that he acknowledged
Tarver and told him to "stop." Park claims that he
"shot at the ground in front of [Tarver's] feet to
stop him." Parks then turned back toward the truck and
resumed shooting at the truck.
Parks claims that Tarver continued toward him, so he
"turned around and looked at [Tarver] dead in the
eye" and fired another warning shot near Tarver. Parks
testified that he sensed that the truck was about to get
unstuck from the mud, so he turned and again resumed shooting
at the truck. Parks claims that Tarver then continued running
toward him, knocked him off his feet, and grabbed for the
gun. Parks testified that while they "were tussling with
each other . . . on the ground, " the gun "went
off." Tarver was shot in the arm, and the bullet
traveled through Tarver's arm into his torso. Tarver fell
to the ground.
Parks then stood up and fired the rest of his bullets at the
truck as it left his property. He testified that he did not
notice that Tarver had been shot until after the truck was
gone. He then walked back to his house to check on his mother
and to confirm that she had called 911. He returned to check
on Tarver, who was dead, and then sat and waited for law
enforcement to arrive.
When law enforcement arrived, Parks told them that he had
shot Tarver. Officers looked for shell casings in the area
but did not find any. They did find Tarver's cell phone,
which showed that Tarver had called Parks that day. Parks
claimed that cell phone reception was spotty in his shop, and
he denied that he had received Tarver's calls. Judy
Evans, the deputy medical examiner for Copiah County, arrived
and found Tarver's body face-down in the mud. She turned
over the body to photograph it and declared Tarver dead at
Parks was indicted for first-degree murder. At trial, Deputy
Michael Stogner of the Copiah County Sheriff's Department
testified that dispatch received a call from Mary at 1:08
p.m. to report that Parks was shooting at Tarver, who,
according to Mary, "wasn't supposed to be on
[Parks's] land." At 1:14 p.m., dispatch received a