OF JUDGMENT: 08/19/2016
COUNTY CIRCUIT COURT HON. M. JAMES CHANEY, JR. TRIAL JUDGE
COURT ATTORNEYS: JERRY CAMPBELL DANIEL PAUL EDNEY, II RICHARD
EARL SMITH, JR.
ATTORNEY FOR APPELLANT: OFFICE OF THE STATE PUBLIC DEFENDER
BY: GEORGE T. HOLMES
ATTORNEY FOR APPELLEE: OFFICE OF THE ATTORNEY GENERAL BY:
DISTRICT ATTORNEY: RICHARD EARL SMITH, JR.
Joseph Patton was convicted of murder following a jury trial
in the Warren County Circuit Court. Patton appeals his
conviction, claiming his trial was rendered fundamentally
unfair by the trial court's refusal to strike for cause
two prospective jurors from the jury venire who said during
voir dire examination they knew the decedent's son.
Finding no merit in Patton's claim, we affirm
In September 2015, Patton was living with his
sixty-three-year-old uncle, Alfred Patton, in a mobile home
in Warren County. On Tuesday, September 22, 2015,
Alfred's next-door neighbor, William Thigpen, went to
Alfred's trailer to check on him, having not seen Alfred
in several days. Thigpen discovered Alfred's body inside
the mobile home with an ax lodged in the throat. The body
appeared to have been dead for several days.
Thigpen last saw Alfred alive on Friday, September 18. The
Thursday night before, he and Alfred had watched a televised
football game together at Alfred's trailer, and Patton
also was present. Thigpen said Alfred had expressed to him on
several occasions that Alfred did not like the circumstances
of Patton living there.
Thigpen's live-in fiancé, Gabrielle Phillips,
testified that Patton and Alfred had conflicts and that
Alfred wanted Patton to move out. She recalled an argument
Patton and Alfred had on Thursday, September 17, during which
Alfred asked Patton to leave. Phillips said she heard Patton
tell Alfred, "You keep on and one of these days
you're going to regret it." Phillips said she last
saw Alfred alive on Friday, September 18.
Phillips saw Patton on Saturday, September 19, and Patton
spoke to her before going inside Alfred's trailer. He did
not stay there long. She saw Patton again on Monday,
September 21, between 4:00 and 4:30 p.m. They spoke to each
other before Patton went inside Alfred's trailer.
Phillips saw Patton come out of Alfred's trailer carrying
a basket which Patton put in his car.
Warren County Sheriff's Investigator Chris Satcher
described the ax which killed Alfred as a 26-inch Estwing
brand camping ax. Investigators found a matching head cover
for the ax in the trash outside Alfred's trailer.
Investigators learned that a local Home Depot sells this
brand of ax and obtained an in-store video from the store
which showed Patton purchasing this type of ax on Wednesday,
September 16, 2015. Investigators also obtained a receipt
from the transaction, which showed a debit card was used to
purchase the item.
Meanwhile, at the scene of the homicide, investigators
observed and photographed a Cobra beer bottle on the floor
inside the trailer, along with a Seagram's gin bottle.
Satcher said the gin appeared to contain a cloudy foreign
substance, which experts later determined was
diphenhydramine, an active ingredient in Benadryl and other
over-the-counter sleep aids.
Satcher also inspected and gathered a pair of athletic shorts
from one of the trailer's bedrooms. Inside the shorts,
Satcher found a folded envelope containing a grainy white
powder similar to a crushed pill, which experts determined
Also found in the shorts was a debit card; a Nationwide life
insurance proposal for a sixty-three-year-old male with a
$25, 000 death benefit; a document addressed to Patton
referencing the last four digits of Patton's social
security number; and a receipt from a convenience store in
Vicksburg, Mississippi. The receipt was for gasoline and one
King Cobra 32-ounce beer, and was dated September 18, 2015.
The transaction was made with the debit card found in the
shorts, which matched the debit card number used to purchase
On the front deck of Alfred's home, Satcher recovered a
few folded towels, garbage bags, and a gallon container of
household bleach. From these items, Satcher recovered a
receipt from a Family Dollar store dated September 18, 2015,
with a time stamp of 3:36 p.m. Investigators also obtained a
video from the Family Dollar store showing Patton purchasing
When Patton developed as a person of interest on September
22, a BOLO ("be on the lookout") was issued. That
same day, Vicksburg police spotted Patton's vehicle
parked on Washington Street. As authorities approached the
vehicle, Patton appeared, and he was arrested. Patton
initially gave authorities Alfred's address as his
residence, but in a subsequent interview, Patton claimed his
address was 3133 Washington Street, the location where
authorities found Patton's vehicle parked.
After obtaining a search warrant for Patton's vehicle,
authorities found a small spiral notebook inside the vehicle.
Written inside the notebook was a "to-do list"
which included a list of items: "Clorox, garbage bags,
Benadryl, blankets, and towels." Also found in
Patton's vehicle was a term life-insurance policy
death-benefit quote from Nationwide Insurance for a
Investigators thereafter contacted several insurance
companies and subpoenaed information about a term life policy
issued by MetLife in the amount of $20, 000 on the life of
Alfred Patton. The policy was issued September 16, 2015, to
Joseph Patton as the beneficiary. The subpoena production
included MetLife's recorded telephone conversations with
the party who had purchased the policy and showed the initial
premium was paid with the same debit card found in the shorts
recovered from Alfred's home. Also produced were records
sent to an email address, purportedly Patton's.
When Patton was arrested on September 22, authorities seized
a cell phone in his possession. Investigators obtained a
search warrant for the phone's records and data.
Investigators found a text message dated September 16 from
MetLife thanking the recipient for signing up for texts.
At trial, Patton testified he moved in with Alfred after
moving back from Texas, and that he paid Alfred $75 a week in
rent. He said he did not have a bedroom in Alfred's
trailer and slept on the couch. Patton said he got along with
Alfred. But when Alfred drank, Alfred wanted to be left alone
and would ask Patton to leave, which is what occurred on
Thursday, September 17. Patton said there was no argument and
he complied with Alfred's request, leaving before the end
of the football game they were watching to go stay with a
friend in Vicksburg. Patton denied ever going back to
Alfred's house after Thursday night.
Patton denied killing Alfred. He said the athletic shorts
belonged to Alfred and were found in one of the rooms in
which Alfred slept. Patton said he did not know whose debit
card was found in the shorts, but he had a debit card and
Alfred had another. Patton said he and Alfred shared ...