OF JUDGMENT: 05/04/2017
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.
GRIFFIS, P.J., FAIR AND TINDELL, JJ.
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
AND PROCEDURAL HISTORY
Blanden and Remell were married for fourteen years and had
two children, Walter and Wendy. Remell also had a son, Jason,
from a previous relationship.
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. 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.
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.
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.
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.
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
Weight of the Evidence
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.
Blanden claims "the only conviction which could arguably
. . . be supported by the evidence is one for
[heat-of-passion] manslaughter." We disagree.
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
Westbrook v. State, 29 So.3d 828, 835 (¶26)
(Miss. Ct. App. 2009).
In Westbrook, Danny Allen Westbrook was convicted of
the murder of George Wayne Sharpe. Id. at 830
(¶1). Westbrook argued the circuit court should have
allowed a jury ...