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Owens v. State

Court of Appeals of Mississippi

December 4, 2018

TIMOTHY OWENS A/K/A TIMOTHY OWENS JR. APPELLANT
v.
STATE OF MISSISSIPPI APPELLEE

          DATE OF JUDGMENT: 06/07/2017

          HINDS COUNTY CIRCUIT COURT, FIRST JUDICIAL DISTRICT, HON. WINSTON L. KIDD JUDGE

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

          ATTORNEY FOR APPELLEE: OFFICE OF THE ATTORNEY GENERAL BY: SCOTT STUART DISTRICT

          ATTORNEY: ROBERT SHULER SMITH

          BEFORE IRVING, P.J., CARLTON AND FAIR, JJ.

          CARLTON, J.

         ¶1. Timothy Owens was convicted of first-degree murder and sentenced to life in prison. Owens now appeals his conviction and sentence, arguing the following assignments of error: (1) the evidence was insufficient to support the conviction; (2) Owens was prejudiced by ineffective assistance of counsel; and (3) comments made by the State during closing arguments constituted prosecutorial misconduct, thus rendering Owens's trial unfair.

         ¶2. After reviewing the record, we find no error, and we affirm the trial court's judgment.

         FACTS

         ¶3. On May 27, 2015, police officers from the Jackson Police Department responded to a call about a shooting on Cox Street. When the officers arrived, they discovered the deceased body of Ruth Williams. After an investigation, officers arrested Owens, who was in a romantic relationship with Ruth and living with her at the time of the shooting, and charged him with Ruth's murder.

         ¶4. Marcus Williams, Ruth's son, testified that at the time of the shooting, he was living with his mother and Owens. Marcus testified that his mother and Owens had been friends for years before their relationship became intimate. Marcus testified that on the evening of May 27, 2015, he arrived home from work and went next door to do laundry. Marcus testified that during this time, both Ruth and Owens were home. Marcus said that when he returned home from doing laundry, Ruth asked him to bring her a glass of water. Marcus testified that he brought a glass of water to Ruth, who was sitting in a recliner in her bedroom. Marcus stated that Owens was also in the bedroom, lying on the bed. Marcus testified that when he walked out of the bedroom, he looked out of the corner of his eye and saw Owens get out off of the bed and close the bedroom door. Marcus then heard Owens call Ruth a "bitch." Ruth responded "I ain't no bitch. The bitch who brought you here is down the street," referring to Owens's mother.

         ¶5. Marcus stated that after exiting the bedroom, he walked past the bathroom and toward the kitchen. Marcus stated that as he passed the bathroom, he heard gunshots. Marcus called out to Ruth, and he heard Ruth call out his name in response.[1] Marcus then went to the bedroom, kicked the door in, and saw Ruth on the floor by the recliner near the foot of the bed. Marcus testified that he could see "the blood running from the top of her body." According to Marcus, Owens was still sitting on the bed, but he got up and pointed a gun at Marcus once Marcus entered the bedroom. Marcus testified that he took off running and called 911. Marcus stated that after he called 911, he walked to Owens's mother's house, who lived approximately three houses away, and "let her know that her son shot my mother." At trial, Marcus testified that Owens "shot my momma five times."

         ¶6. Marcus stated that after he spoke to Owens's mother, Owens's family ran to Marcus's house. Marcus explained that they had to wait approximately 45 minutes for an ambulance, and during that time, Owens was still inside of the house. Marcus testified that Owens's family members were trying to calm Owens down because Owens was pointing a gun at Marcus and Kiesha Owens, Owens's sister.

         ¶7. Kiesha testified that in May 2015, she lived three houses down from Owens and Ruth on Cox Street. Kiesha stated that on the evening of May 27, 2015, Kiesha's niece came into the house and said "there was a shooting down the street at [Owens's] house." Kiesha said that at first she ignored her niece, but then when her niece repeated that "they [are] shooting" at Owens's house, Kiesha ran down to Owens's house.

         ¶8. Kiesha testified that when she arrived at Owens's house, Marcus's brother, Rufus, and another man who was holding a gun, were standing at the door. Kiesha entered the house, where she saw Marcus and her nephew, Tiny, running out of the bathroom. Marcus then stood in the living room. Kiesha testified that the bedroom door was locked, so she knocked on the door and called out to Owens: "[T]his is your sister, Kiesha; let me in." Owens eventually opened the door, and then he went back to the bed and held a gun to his head. According to Kiesha, Owens did not look like himself, and Owens asked her to just let him kill himself. Kiesha stated that saw Ruth on the floor. Kiesha testified that she checked Ruth's pulse and felt a light pulse. Kiesha asked Owens to let her get help for Ruth. Kiesha also testified that "in the midst of me talking to him and checking on . . . Ruth[, ] I hear people in the background yelling please do not shoot. Please do not shoot." Kiesha asked Owens to put the gun down, and Owens "proceeded to put the gun down on the bed[.]" Kiesha asked Owens what happened, and he responded that Ruth "told [him] that she was going to f*ck somebody." Kiesha grabbed the gun off of the bed and ran out of the house. Kiesha stated that she handed the gun to a police officer who was standing across the street from Owens's house.

         ¶9. Detective Richard Washington of the Jackson Police Department testified that on the evening of May 27, 2015, he responded to a call about a shooting on Cox Street. Detective Washington testified that once he arrived at Owens's house, other police officers had already secured the scene. Detective Washington entered the house and walked into the bedroom, where he observed Ruth on the bedroom floor, deceased. Detective Washington stated that police officers retrieved a gun from the scene, and the officers determined that the gun belonged to Owens.

         ¶10. Officer Robert Watts worked as a crime-scene investigator for the Jackson Police Department in May 2015. Officer Watts testified that on May 27, 2015, he photographed the crime scene on Cox Street. Officer Watts stated that the weapon recovered from the scene was a Taurus .38 special revolver that could hold five rounds. Officer Watts testified that when the gun was examined, it was determined to contain four live rounds and one spent shell casing. Officer Watts explained that "[a] live round is a bullet that has not been fired, and a spent shell casing is a bullet that has been fired." Officer Watts also testified that a bullet was recovered from under Ruth's body.

         ¶11. Dr. Brent Davis, a medical examiner and forensic pathologist at the Mississippi State Medical Examiner's office, testified as an expert in the field of forensic pathology. Dr. Davis testified that he performed Ruth's autopsy, and he observed that she was shot five times, including two times in her abdomen.[2] Dr. Davis testified that he recovered three bullets from Ruth's body during his examination. The three bullets were admitted into evidence. After performing the autopsy, Dr. Davis opined that Ruth's cause of death was "multiple gunshot wounds, and the manner of death is homicide."

         ¶12. After the State rested, defense counsel acknowledged that "typically this is the portion of the trial where the defense will make a motion for a directive verdict because the State has rested." However, defense counsel requested that the trial court allow the defense "to reserve that motion until after the defense has been heard this time only because at this point I would have to make the same argument again twice, and if the Court has no objection, I just prefer to just do it ...


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