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Blanden v. State

Court of Appeals of Mississippi

September 18, 2018

WALTER BLANDEN APPELLANT
v.
STATE OF MISSISSIPPI APPELLEE

          DATE OF JUDGMENT: 05/04/2017

          COURT FROM WHICH APPEALED: HON. JANNIE M. LEWIS HOLMES COUNTY CIRCUIT COURT TRIAL JUDGE.

          ATTORNEY FOR APPELLANT: OFFICE OF STATE PUBLIC DEFENDER BY: GEORGE T. HOLMES.

          ATTORNEY FOR APPELLEE: OFFICE OF THE ATTORNEY GENERAL BY: KAYLYN HAVRILLA MCCLINTON.

          BEFORE GRIFFIS, P.J., FAIR AND TINDELL, JJ.

          GRIFFIS, P.J.

         ¶1. Walter Blanden was convicted of the first-degree murder of his wife, Remell Blanden. He was sentenced to life imprisonment in the custody of the Mississippi Department of Corrections and ordered to pay assessments of $500 to the Crime Victims Compensation Fund and $500 in attorney's fees. Blanden now appeals and argues: (1) the verdict is against the overwhelming weight of the evidence, (2) the circuit court erroneously gave a pre-arming jury instruction, and (3) the circuit court erred in admitting hearsay testimony of the investigating officer. We find no error and affirm.

         FACTS AND PROCEDURAL HISTORY

         ¶2. Blanden and Remell were married for fourteen years and had two children, Walter and Wendy.[1] Remell also had a son, Jason, from a previous relationship.

         ¶3. On April 23, 2016, Blanden and Remell were arguing over Jason. According to Walter, Remell was "telling [Blanden] to get out [b]ut [Blanden] kept on trying to argue with her." Remell began to remove some of Blanden's belongings from the house and put them outside under the carport.[2] At that time, Blanden "started looking for a gun." Blanden first checked inside the house under his pillow in the master bedroom, but the gun was not there. As a result, Blanden went outside and retrieved a gun from his truck. Blanden then fired the gun once outside.

         ¶4. After he fired the gun outside, Blanden went back inside the house and came down the hallway while Remell, Walter, Wendy, and Jason ran down the hallway to the back of the house. Remell ran into the master bedroom and locked the door. Walter, Wendy, and Jason ran into their bedroom, which was located across the hall from Remell's.

         ¶5. According to both Walter and Wendy, Blanden began to shoot through the door of the master bedroom where Remell was located. Jason called 9-1-1. Blanden then came into the bedroom where Walter, Wendy, and Jason were located and pointed the gun at Jason's face. Jason and Blanden wrestled for the gun, and Jason was able to take the gun from Blanden. Jason, Walter, and Wendy ran out of the room. As Walter ran out of the room, he saw Remell "[l]aying dead on the floor." Both Walter and Wendy testified that Blanden killed their mother.

         ¶6. When law enforcement arrived on the scene, they found Remell, deceased, lying on the floor of the master bedroom. Blanden was also found lying on the master-bedroom floor, with a cut on his wrist and a razor blade nearby. Blanden was transported to the University of Mississippi Medical Center (UMMC) in Jackson.

         ¶7. Following his conviction and sentence, Blanden moved for a judgment notwithstanding the verdict or, alternatively, a new trial. The circuit court denied the motion. Blanden timely appealed.

         ANALYSIS

         I. Weight of the Evidence

         ¶8. Blanden first argues the overwhelming weight of the evidence does not support his conviction of first-degree murder. "In determining whether a jury verdict is against the overwhelming weight of the evidence, this Court must accept as true the evidence which supports the verdict and will reverse only when convinced that the circuit court has abused its discretion in failing to grant a new trial." Boone v. State, 973 So.2d 237, 243 (¶20) (Miss. 2008). "Only when the verdict is contrary to the overwhelming weight of the evidence that to allow it to stand would sanction an unconscionable injustice will this Court disturb it on appeal." Id.

         ¶9. Blanden claims "the only conviction which could arguably . . . be supported by the evidence is one for [heat-of-passion] manslaughter." We disagree.

         ¶10. Manslaughter is defined as "[t]he killing of a human being, without malice, in the heat of passion, but in a cruel or unusual manner, or by the use of a dangerous weapon, without authority of law, and not in necessary self-defense . . . ." Miss. Code Ann. § 97-3-35 (Rev. 2014). "Heat of passion" is described as:

a state of violent and uncontrollable rage engendered by a blow or certain other provocation given, which will reduce a homicide from the grade of murder to that of manslaughter. Passion or anger suddenly aroused at the time by some immediate and reasonable provocation, by words or acts of one at the time. The term includes an emotional state of mind characterized by anger, rage, hatred, furious resentment or terror.

Westbrook v. State, 29 So.3d 828, 835 (¶26) (Miss. Ct. App. 2009).

         ¶11. In Westbrook, Danny Allen Westbrook was convicted of the murder of George Wayne Sharpe. Id. at 830 (ΒΆ1). Westbrook argued the circuit court should have allowed a jury ...


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