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Bryant v. State

Court of Appeals of Mississippi

May 2, 2017

DWAYNE BRYANT APPELLANT
v.
STATE OF MISSISSIPPI APPELLEE

          DATE OF JUDGMENT: 10/09/2015

         COURT FROM WHICH APPEALED FORREST COUNTY CIRCUIT COURT HON. ROBERT B. HELFRICH TRIAL JUDGE.

          ATTORNEY FOR APPELLANT: OFFICE OF STATE PUBLIC DEFENDER BY: ERIN ELIZABETH BRIGGS.

          ATTORNEY FOR APPELLEE: OFFICE OF THE ATTORNEY GENERAL BY: BILLY L. GORE.

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

          LEE, C.J.

         ¶1. Dwayne Bryant was found guilty of second-degree murder by a jury in the Circuit Court of Forrest County and sentenced to forty years in the custody of the Mississippi Department of Corrections (MDOC). He appeals his conviction, arguing that (1) the evidence was insufficient to support a conviction; (2) he was entitled to an acquittal under Weathersby;[1] (3) the trial court erred when it allowed certain photos into evidence; and (4) his right to a fundamentally fair trial was violated by the prosecution's closing argument. Finding no reversible error, we affirm.

         FACTS AND PROCEDURAL HISTORY

         ¶2. On August 1, 2013, Bryant shot Adrian Walker multiple times, and Walker later died as a result of the gunshot wounds. Bryant was a resident of Bonhomie Apartments in Hattiesburg, Mississippi. Bryant and Walker were considered to be neighborhood friends. Walker had previously lived with his girlfriend, Stacy Pollard, a Bonhomie resident and one of Bryant's neighbors. Though Walker no longer lived with Pollard, he was regularly at Pollard's apartment. Bryant would sometimes cut Walker's hair, as he did for several residents of the apartment complex. And Walker would often come over when Bryant was grilling, which was a regular occurrence.

         ¶3. On the evening that Walker was shot, Bryant asked Walker if he could borrow a grill to cook some food, and Walker agreed. When Bryant went to Pollard's apartment to get the grill, he found that Walker had already started the coals, and so he decided to stay at Pollard's apartment to grill. The group at Pollard's apartment included Bryant, his brother Jeremy, Walker, Willie Wilson, and Slozella McDonald. At trial, Wilson testified that Walker and Bryant had been drinking before she arrived there, and she believed they were drunk. Bryant testified that he only consumed one alcoholic beverage during the time he was there. At some point, a conversation between McDonald and Bryant became intense, and Walker joined in the heated conversation. Bryant became irritated and decided to leave.

         ¶4. At trial, Bryant testified that when he announced he was leaving, Walker began cursing at him. Bryant gathered his food off of the grill and started walking back to his own apartment with his brother, Jeremy. Walker followed Bryant and Jeremy, though Wilson and Pollard told Walker not to pursue them. According to Bryant, he went inside his apartment and left the door open for Jeremy to follow. When Jeremy and Walker made it to Bryant's doorway, Jeremy did not come inside because he reportedly did not want to get involved in the argument. Jeremy testified that Walker, who was standing in Bryant's doorway, was still cursing and "fussing" at Bryant. Jeremy also testified that Walker told Bryant that he would physically harm him. Bryant walked back in and out of the house several times, and Walker did not leave Bryant's doorway. At some point, Bryant walked upstairs in his apartment to get his gun, which he testified he kept for protection. Bryant testified that he then went back downstairs to take Jeremy home. Jeremy testified that Walker said "I'm going to get you now, " and "started running up in the house, " "trying to fight . . . with his fists balled." Similarly, Bryant testified that he heard Walker say, "F--- it. I'm fixing to go ahead and get you now." According to Bryant, Walker flinched, and Bryant pulled out his gun and shot him. Both Bryant and Jeremy testified that Walker was in Bryant's doorway when Walker flinched and Bryant shot him.

         ¶5. Bryant testified that he felt threatened by Walker and was fearful of him when he armed himself and when he shot Walker. He also testified that Walker was in his doorway when he initially shot him, and that Walker "went backwards" and fell down "on the opposite side of the sidewalk." Bryant shot Walker eight times. He later turned himself in to the Hattiesburg Police Department. Walker was taken to the hospital where he underwent several surgeries and stayed in the ICU. A month after the shooting, Walker died from complications due to the gunshot wounds.

         ¶6. At trial, Bryant moved for a directed verdict at the close of the State's case-in-chief and at the close of all the evidence-both motions were denied. The case was submitted to the jury, and Bryant was convicted. Bryant filed a motion for a judgment notwithstanding the verdict (JNOV) or, in the alternative, a new trial, which was denied.

         STANDARD ...


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