JAMES DOUGLAS WILLIE, SR. A/K/A JAMES DOUGLAS WILLIE A/K/A SOUTH MEMPHIS, APPELLANT
STATE OF MISSISSIPPI, APPELLEE
OF JUDGMENT: 09/15/2016.
FROM WHICH APPEALED: TUNICA COUNTY CIRCUIT COURT, TRIAL
JUDGE: HON. ALBERT B. SMITH III.
ATTORNEY FOR APPELLANT: OFFICE OF STATE PUBLIC DEFENDER BY:
JUSTIN TAYLOR COOK.
ATTORNEY FOR APPELLEE: OFFICE OF THE ATTORNEY GENERAL BY:
LISA L. BLOUNT.
DISTRICT ATTORNEY: BRENDA FAY MITCHELL.
LEE, C.J., BARNES AND WESTBROOKS, JJ.
James Willie Sr. was convicted of murder, possession of a
firearm by a felon, and possession of a stolen firearm. For
the murder conviction, the Tunica County Circuit Court
sentenced him to life imprisonment in the custody of the
Mississippi Department of Corrections (MDOC). He was
sentenced to ten years for possession of a firearm by a
felon, with the sentence to run consecutively to his life
sentence. For possession of a stolen firearm, the court
sentenced Willie to five years, which was to run
consecutively to the other sentences.
Willie filed a motion for a judgment notwithstanding the
verdict (JNOV) or, in the alternative, for a new trial,
alleging that the court erred in "allowing the
State['s] witness Bryon McIntire to be qualified and
testify as an expert witness in the area of firearms and
toolmark identification." The court denied his motion.
On appeal, Willie renews his claim concerning McIntire's
expert testimony. Finding no error, we affirm.
AND PROCEDURAL HISTORY
On May 11, 2012, Lori Ann Carswell was found dead near her
car on Highway 713 in Tunica County. The cause of death was a
distant gunshot wound to the head. Law enforcement recovered
a shell casing a few feet from her vehicle. On May 15, the
Tunica County Sheriff's Department received information
linking Willie to Carswell's murder. It obtained a search
warrant for Willie's apartment and a maroon Equinox SUV
belonging to Willie's girlfriend, Latoya Lewis. A
9-millimeter handgun was found in the SUV's glove
compartment, and a loaded magazine with nine rounds was
located above the sun visor. It was later determined that the
gun was stolen a month previously from a home in Coahoma
County. The gun was sent to the Mississippi Crime Laboratory
for ballistics testing.
Law enforcement officers interviewed Willie on May 15. He
told them he had bought the gun in Memphis on May 9 for
protection and had taken it to Arkansas with him. His
girlfriend, Lewis, initially told the sheriff's
department that she, Willie, and their children had been in
Arkansas that weekend and were in Memphis at the time of the
murder. Several hours later, she changed her story, saying
they had returned to Tunica from Arkansas late on May 10. She
had been asleep in the SUV but awoke to see Willie flagging
down a vehicle. The woman driving the car pulled over, and
Willie pulled a gun on the woman. Lewis then heard a
"pow." When Willie returned to the SUV, he told her
not to say anything or he would kill her.
On August 13, 2012, a Tunica County grand jury indicted
Willie of Count I, deliberate-design murder; Count II,
possession of a firearm by a felon; Count III, aggravated
assault; Count IV, kidnapping; Count V, rape; and Count VI,
possession of a stolen firearm. Willie moved to sever Counts
III-V as those counts involved a separate set of
circumstances, and the trial court granted the motion. A jury
trial was held September 6-8, 2016, on Counts I, II, and
The State offered McIntire "as an expert in the field of
toolmarking and firearm examination." Although defense
counsel objected to his testimony, claiming it failed to meet
the Daubert standard,  the trial court ruled that
McIntire was qualified as an expert in firearm and toolmark
identification and allowed his testimony. McIntire
testified that based on a "reasonable degree of
scientific certainty," the shell casing found at the
murder scene was fired from the 9-millimeter found in
Lewis testified, reiterating that she had seen Willie flag
down a car, get out of the car to speak to a woman, and she
heard a "pow." On cross-examination, Lewis admitted
that she gave inconsistent statements, but she said Willie
had asked her to lie for him. Although he had originally told
investigators he bought the gun on May 9, Willie testified at
trial that he bought the gun "off the streets" in
Memphis on May 13. Willie admitted that he had a prior
conviction for house burglary and knew he was not allowed to
possess a firearm, but he denied killing Carswell. When asked
about Lewis's testimony, Willie stated that she was mad
at him for sleeping with her coworkers.
Willie was convicted on all three counts. The trial court
sentenced him to life imprisonment in the custody of the MDOC
for Count I; ten years for Count II, to run consecutively to
his life sentence in Count I; and five years for Count VI, to
run consecutively to the other sentences. Willie filed a
motion for a JNOV or, in the alternative, for a new trial,
which the trial court denied.
Willie argues on appeal that the court abused its discretion
in qualifying McIntire as an expert and in admitting his
At trial, defense counsel objected to the qualification of
McIntire as an expert. The trial court overruled the
objection, finding: "[B]ased on the witness's
experience and training, which was adequate and standard, I
think, across the state, with regard to our forensic
scientists with the sub[-]specialty of toolmark
identification and firearm examination, I also find he has .
. . utilized reliable methods that are standard in
practice." On appeal, Willie argues that the trial court
erred in qualifying McIntire as an expert witness and in
allowing him to testify that the casing found at the murder
scene matched the gun recovered in Willie's possession.
He claims McIntire's testimony was conclusory, and the
scientific methods used by the expert were
"questionable," particularly noting McIntire's
failure to provide a ...