OF JUDGMENT: 10/09/2015
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.
LEE, C.J., ISHEE AND GREENLEE, JJ.
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; (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.
AND PROCEDURAL HISTORY
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
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.
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.
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.
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.