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Lott v. State

Court of Appeals of Mississippi

July 24, 2018


          DATE OF JUDGMENT: 09/23/2016






          LEE, C.J.


         ¶1. Eric Lott was indicted for the murder of Adrian Eley.[1] A jury in the Jefferson Davis County Circuit Court convicted Lott of manslaughter. Lott was sentenced to serve twenty years in the custody of the Mississippi Department of Corrections. The trial judge denied Lott's posttrial motions. Lott now appeals, asserting the following issues: (1) his trial counsel provided ineffective assistance; (2) one of the State's witnesses was not qualified to testify under Mississippi Rule of Evidence 702; and (3) the trial judge failed to be impartial by improperly assisting the State during the trial. Finding no error, we affirm.


         ¶2. Just after midnight on June 9, 2015, Lott admittedly shot Eley while the two were arguing in the parking lot of the Palmetto Apartments in Jefferson Davis County, Mississippi. Eley was transported to a local hospital but died from multiple gunshot wounds. According to Lott, Eley had been threatening him for several weeks, accusing Lott of having an affair with Eley's longterm girlfriend, Konswaylo Durr.

         ¶3. Durr testified that she and Eley had been fighting in the days leading up to his death. A few nights prior to June 9, Durr and Lott had been at a local gas station when Eley arrived. According to Durr, Eley accused the two of having an affair. Durr said Lott asked Eley to go outside and discuss the situation. The situation deteriorated such that Durr retrieved Lott's gun from his car and shot Eley's car. Durr testified that she did so to scare Eley and to retaliate for him stealing her belongings. Eley left the area, and Durr went home.

         ¶4. The night before Eley's death, Durr testified that she became angry with Eley and asked him to leave their house. Durr had learned that Eley was going to have a child with another woman. At one point Eley tried to sneak back in the house by removing a bedroom air-conditioner unit, but Durr stabbed his hand to prevent his entrance. Durr gave Eley a towel and water for his injured hand, then she left their house. Ultimately, Eley followed Durr to the Palmetto Apartments, where Durr happened to see Lott. She pulled her car beside Lott's car, and the two began talking. According to Durr, Eley walked toward them and began yelling at Durr and Lott, accusing them of having an affair. Eley also grabbed Lott's cell phone. At some point, Eley and Lott were standing on the sidewalk outside the apartment complex talking to Durr, who was still in her car. Durr testified that both she and Lott were explaining to Eley that they were only friends. Durr stated, "[Lott] was mad and slammed in front of my car, saying, 'Man, keep my name out of your mouth. I told you I'm not f---ing your b----.'" Durr said Eley replied, "Well, man, I'm just asking." Durr testified Lott walked toward his car and then walked back with his arm behind his back. Durr stated Eley started running, then Lott began firing at Eley. Durr said Eley was unarmed. Durr further testified that she never heard Eley threaten Lott. Durr was unaware that Eley had previously confronted Lott about their relationship.

         ¶5. Lott remembered the events leading up to Eley's death differently. He testified that Eley had been harassing him for several weeks about his relationship with Durr. Lott stated he told Investigator Charles Johnson with the Jefferson Davis County Sheriff's Department that Eley was threatening him. Investigator Johnson testified that Lott told him someone was threatening him, but Lott did not give him a specific name, and without a specific name, he could not help Lott. Lott testified that the day before Eley's death, Eley came to Lott's parent's house looking for him. According to Lott, Eley thought Durr was with him. Lott stated that he wanted to resolve the situation. When Eley arrived, Lott testified that they did discuss the situation, with Lott reiterating that he and Durr were just friends. Lott said he felt frustrated and cut the conversation short. Both men left the house, and Lott drove to the apartment complex. Lott stated that he then received a text from Durr, indicating that Eley said Lott was afraid to come over.

         ¶6. When he saw Eley at the apartment complex on the night of June 9, Lott said Eley did grab his phone but also hit him in the chest. Lott stated that he was concerned for his safety since Eley weighed about fifty pounds more than he did and was known for his aggressive behavior. Lott further testified that Eley kept shoving him and yelling at him. Lott attempted to get in his car and leave, but Eley followed him. Lott grabbed his gun, which had been laying on the driver's seat, then shot Eley at least six or seven times. He fled the scene, claiming that he did not know if he had shot Eley.

         ¶7. Lott later turned himself in to the Jefferson Davis County Sheriff's Department, where he was read his Miranda[2] rights. He was then interviewed by Investigator Jeff Toler, Investigator Johnson, and Master Sergeant Leo Clemons of the Mississippi Bureau of Investigations.

         ¶8. Investigator Toler testified that Lott admitted to shooting Eley, but that he did so in self-defense. Master Sergeant Clemons testified that Lott admitted to shooting Eley. Master Sergeant Clemons stated Lott told him that Eley was not armed at the time of the shooting. Master Sergeant Clemons further stated Lott did not mention that Eley had previously threatened him with bodily harm, only that Eley had accused him of having an affair with Durr. Lott told the police that he believed Eley and Durr had concocted a plot against him.

         ¶9. During questioning, Lott stated that Eley was standing close to him and yelling at his face. Lott said he panicked and tried to walk away, but Eley followed. Master Sergeant Clemons then asked Lott what happened while Lott was reaching for his gun. Lott replied, "When [Eley] seen me reach for my [gun], you know what I'm saying, it was too late. . . . I'm threatened now. I'm scared."

         ¶10. Dr. John Davis, deputy chief medical examiner for the State of Mississippi, performed the autopsy on Eley. Dr. Davis stated that Eley received four gunshot wounds. One gunshot wound was in Eley's upper chest. Dr. Davis noted the bullet entered Eley's back, but he could not locate the exit wound on Eley's chest, most likely due to surgical intervention prior to Eley's death. Eley had two gunshot wounds to his left leg. One entered his left buttock and exited through the outside of Eley's left thigh. The other bullet entered the inside of Eley's left thigh and exited on the back of his left thigh. Another bullet entered ...

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