VICTORIA SWANAGAN a/k/a VICTORIA P. SWANAGAN
STATE OF MISSISSIPPI
OF JUDGMENT: 08/03/2015
COUNTY CIRCUIT COURT HON. WILLIAM A. GOWAN, JR.
COURT ATTORNEYS: DAVID LINZEY IVON JOHNSON DAMON STEVENSON
ATTORNEYS FOR APPELLANT: OFFICE OF THE STATE PUBLIC DEFENDER
BY: HUNTER NOLAN AIKENS GEORGE T. HOLMES
ATTORNEY FOR APPELLEE: OFFICE OF THE ATTORNEY GENERAL BY:
KAYLYN HAVRILLA McCLINTON
DISTRICT ATTORNEY: ROBERT SHULER SMITH
RANDOLPH, P.J., KITCHENS AND CHAMBERLIN, JJ.
RANDOLPH, PRESIDING JUSTICE
Victoria P. Swanagan was convicted by a jury of the
depraved-heart murder of Vincent Hill and was sentenced to
twenty-five years in the custody of the Mississippi
Department of Corrections (MDOC), with ten years suspended,
fifteen years to serve, and five years of supervised
probation. Finding no error, we affirm the sentence
and conviction of Swanagan.
OF THE FACTS AND PROCEEDINGS BELOW
At trial, Derrick Sims testified that he and Vincent P. Hill
worked together. When Sims arrived at Swanagan's home to
pick up Hill for work, he heard Swanagan and Hill arguing in
her house. Swanagan exited her house and went next door to
her mother's house. During that time, Hill stayed inside
Swanagan's house. When Swanagan returned, Sims heard a
"ruckus." After a while, Hill came rushing out of
the house without a shirt. "About the time he made it
halfway down the stairs she hit him in the back of the -
Victoria hit him in the back of the head."
When they come outside, when she hit him in the back of the
head, he leaned against her car, and he said, don't hit
me no more. And he told her mama, I love your daughter to
death, but look how she treat me. That was his exact words.
He didn't cuss at her. He didn't call her nothing out
of her name. That's exactly what he said. And after that
she said a little something, and he came and got in my truck.
He was, like, man, let's go. He said, I'm tired. That
was his exact words.
Swanagan opened the passenger door and got in the truck. Hill
told Sims to drive to work. Sims also testified that no one
forced Swanagan to get in his truck.
Swanagan and Hill continued arguing in the truck. The arguing
escalated, and Swanagan hit Hill. Sims testified that Hill
could not strike Swanagan, "[b]ecause he was so tall in
the truck it's like how she was over him he couldn't
move." Then Swanagan bit Hill. Hill started yelling and
screaming, causing Sims to stop the truck. Sims got out of
the truck and opened the passenger door. Swanagan and Hill
fell out at the same time. As they were falling to the
ground, Hill hit Swanagan on top of her head. Sims testified
that Hill hit Swanagan only that one time, before he jumped
up and ran to the truck, yelling at Sims to "come
Sims was behind the truck, headed toward the driver's
side door, when he heard the first gun shot and saw Swanagan
with a gun, shooting at the truck. Swanagan was on the ground
and had her hand securely on a pistol, pointing up at the
truck. As Hill started to drive off, Sims heard two more
shots. After Swanagan had put the gun down, she told Sims she
would buy him a new window.
Sims heard his truck stop running, and he ran off toward it.
Sims found the truck in some woods nearby. Sims found Hill
"in the center of the dashboard dead." Sims then
jumped in the truck and drove to Swanagan's residence.
"I jumped out of the truck immediately, and I
couldn't say nothing but you killed him. . . . I just got
in the truck and left the scene." Sims then drove to a
service station because he wanted to be safe.
Sims testified that he neither owned a gun nor had a gun in
his possession the day Hill was killed. He said Hill knew
that Sims no longer owned a gun. Even when Sims did own a
gun, he carried it in his truck only when he went fishing,
but never to work. Sims testified that Swanagan had been
fishing with Sims and Hill, but she also knew he had gotten
rid of his gun.
Felicia Robinson, a forensic scientist with the Mississippi
Forensic Laboratory, was accepted as an expert in the field
of forensic analysis of firearms and tool marks. Robinson
testified that the projectile submitted to the crime lab from
Hill was fired from the firearm retrieved from Swanagan's
Lisa Funte, a state forensic pathologist, was accepted as an
expert in the field of forensic pathology. Funte testified
that she performed the autopsy on Hill. During the autopsy,
Funte noted abrasions and contusions on his face, neck,
hands, and legs. Funte also found
an entrance defect on the right side of the chest and an exit
defect on the left side of the chest. In alignment with that
exit defect that was on the left side of the chest there was
also defects in the left arm. The bullet went from the right
side of the chest through the chest, exiting on the left side
and reentered the left arm where the bullet was recovered.
After the State rested and motions were denied, Swanagan
offered her defense. Barbara Swanagan, mother of Victoria
Swanagan, testified that on the morning Hill was killed, her
daughter came over to her home twice. She heard noise in her
daughter's home each time Swanagan returned home. Barbara
went outside and called for her daughter. Both Swanagan and
Hill exited the house. Barbara tried to defuse the situation
by talking calmly to both Hill and Swanagan, but Hill cursed
After thinking she had calmed everyone down, Barbara turned
to go back in her house. As she turned, she heard the truck
start. She saw the truck start and stop several times and was
worried that something was not right. She asked her
daughter-in-law to call 911, and while Barbara was talking to
the 911 operator, she heard gunshots. Barbara saw her
daughter walking toward them with a gun in her hand. Barbara
was neither in her daughter's house when Swanagan and
Hill were fighting, nor did she see her daughter shoot Hill.
Swanagan testified that, on the morning Hill was shot, she
asked him about text messages she had received from his
family, and he "blew up" at her. Hill accused her
of cheating on him and then made sexual advances towards her.
When she refused, he began to shove, hit, and call her names.
She said this continued for more than ten minutes.
When Hill refused to leave, Swanagan walked to her
mother's house to get ready for work but then returned
after she heard noises coming from her house. She returned
and found that Hill had turned over stands, knocked things
off of furniture, and punched holes in her walls. Swanagan
tried to gather her things for work. Hill refused to leave
and continued to knock things over. He then ripped off his
Swanagan grabbed her purse and went back to her mother's
house. She heard noises again, went home, and found that Hill
was still tearing her house apart. They began to argue again,
and at some point, her tooth was knocked out. Swanagan admitted
to hitting and scratching Hill while they were fighting
inside her home.
Swanagan then heard her mother calling for her. She and Hill
went outside. Hill got in Sims's truck, while pulling her
into the truck. As she was trying to figure out how to get
out of the truck since the passenger-side door had no handle,
Hill hit her from behind. Hill told Sims to "crank the
truck. Let's go. We're gonna drop this bitch off on
the side of the interstate." Hill began twisting
Swanagan's arms, pinning her, and then tried to bite her,
but she was able to bite him first. When she bit him, he
yelled, and Sims stopped the truck. Sims then opened the
passenger-side door from outside the truck. Hill shoved
Swanagan out of the truck. While she was on the ground, Hill
continuously kicked her. Swanagan tried to protect herself
from his blows. While Hill was kicking her, his gun fell out.
Swanagan rolled on top of the gun when Hill tried to retrieve
After he was unable to get the gun, Hill began to back up,
nearing the truck. As Hill got close to the truck, he reached
behind him, trying to get something out of the truck.
Swanagan feared that Hill was trying to find Sims's gun
that he kept in his truck. Swanagan was "scared for her
life" and told Hill to leave. He did not leave, but
instead continued "fidgeting" in the truck.
Swanagan then fired the gun, hoping Hill would leave. Hill
then called Swanagan a "dumb bitch." She recalled
screaming for Hill to leave and the gun going off two or
three more times. At some point Hill got back in the truck
and drove away, but Swanagan could not recall when she fired
the other shots. When she saw that Hill was leaving, she
began walking back to her house.
The jury found Swanagan guilty of depraved-heart murder.
Swanagan was sentenced to a term of twenty-five years in the
custody of the MDOC, with ten years suspended and five years
to be served on supervised probation. Subsequently, Swanagan
filed a motion for judgment notwithstanding the verdict
(JNOV) or, in the alternative, a new trial, arguing that
"the State failed to prove [Swanagan] was not acting in
self-defense at the time [Hill] was shot." Swanagan also
argued that, if she was not acting in self-defense, at most
the evidence presented at trial established that she was
acting in the heat of passion, which "would mitigate the
murder to manslaughter." The trial court denied her
motions after determining the jury was properly instructed
and had heard the facts, before finding Swanagan guilty of