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Sanford v. State

Supreme Court of Mississippi

May 3, 2018

WALTER DEWAYNE SANFORD a/k/a WALTER SANFORD a/k/a WALTER D. SANFORD
v.
STATE OF MISSISSIPPI

          DATE OF JUDGMENT: 02/07/2017

          PEARL RIVER COUNTY CIRCUIT COURT: HON. CLAIBORNE McDONALD JUDGE

          TRIAL COURT ATTORNEYS: JOHN MICHAEL HORAN, JAMES L. GRAY, JOHN A. HOWELL, CURTIS LEE HAYS, VANESSA J. JONES, HALDON J. KITTRELL

          ATTORNEYS FOR APPELLANT: OFFICE OF THE STATE PUBLIC DEFENDER BY: W. DANIEL HINCHCLIFF GEORGE T. HOLMES

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

          BEFORE WALLER, C.J., COLEMAN AND MAXWELL, JJ.

          WALLER, CHIEF JUSTICE

         ¶1. Walter Dewayne Sanford was convicted in Pearl River County Circuit Court for aggravated DUI causing death under Mississippi Code Section 63-11-30(5). Having found no appealable issues, Sanford's counsel filed a Lindsey brief.[1] Sanford argues, pro se, insufficiency of the evidence. Finding the conviction is supported by legally sufficient evidence, we affirm.

         FACTS AND PROCEDURAL HISTORY

         ¶2. On a clear afternoon around 3:00 on November 20, 2014, Sanford was driving with his passenger, Teresa Ann Spiers, on Interstate 59 South in a grey sedan owned by Sanford's mother. Kendra Newton, who was driving on Interstate 59 North, saw Sanford make a u-turn in the median and join the northbound lane of traffic. Norma Richard, also traveling northbound, reported that Sanford had crossed the median and started driving north.[2] Once Sanford was across the median and traveling in the northbound lanes, both Newton and Richard observed him driving erratically, including speeding up and slowing down several times in the left lane. Newton reported that, eventually, Sanford drove behind her vehicle in the right lane. Newton was about to exit Interstate 59 when Sanford crashed into the rear of Newton's car.

         ¶3. Emergency crews arrived at the scene of the accident and encountered Sanford trying to administer CPR to Spiers. Fireman Darren Dennis asked Sanford, "Man, what happened?" to which Sanford replied that he had "swerved or lost control and flipped the vehicle." Sanford's statements caused Dennis to believe Sanford had been driving the vehicle.

         ¶4. Newton, Sanford, and Spiers were taken to the hospital. Newton and Sanford survived, but Spiers passed away shortly after the accident. Dr. Lisa Leek, the emergency room physician, testified Spiers had died from "blunt force trauma to her head" caused by the accident.

         ¶5. Sanford admitted he had been drinking before the accident, and his blood alcohol concentration (BAC) was 0.23%. First responders also found several empty cans of beer inside and around Sanford's car. The grand jury indicted Sanford for DUI causing death.

         ¶6. At trial, Sanford testified Spiers was driving the vehicle, not him. Sanford's mother, Bobbie Sanford, also testified that Spiers was driving when they had left her house that morning. However, Newton testified that "the guy [Sanford] was driving, " not the woman. And Richard ...


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