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Taylor v. State

Court of Appeals of Mississippi

December 4, 2018

DANTE O. TAYLOR A/K/A DANTE O'BRYAN TAYLOR A/K/A DANTE O'BRIEN TAYLOR A/K/A DANTE TAYLOR APPELLANT
v.
STATE OF MISSISSIPPI APPELLEE

          DATE OF JUDGMENT: 12/20/2016

          HARRISON COUNTY CIRCUIT COURT, FIRST JUDICIAL DISTRICT, HON. CHRISTOPHER LOUIS SCHMIDT JUDGE

          ATTORNEY FOR APPELLANT: OFFICE OF STATE PUBLIC DEFENDER BY: HUNTER NOLAN AIKENS

          ATTORNEY FOR APPELLEE: OFFICE OF THE ATTORNEY GENERAL BY: ABBIE EASON KOONCE

          DISTRICT ATTORNEY: JOEL SMITH

         EN BANC.

          FAIR, J.

         ¶1. Dante Taylor was convicted of murder and sentenced to life without parole as a habitual offender. He appeals his conviction asserting that the jury was improperly instructed, entitling him to a new trial. In the alternative, he argues that the jury's verdict was against the overwhelming weight of the evidence. Finding no error, we affirm.

         FACTS

         ¶2. On September 23, 2014, Dante was at a friend's house when his sister, Tiffany Taylor, called him crying. She said that their uncle, Willie Taylor, had jumped on her and choked her. At the time, Tiffany lived with their aunt, Michelle Evans, who is Willie's sister. Dante told Tiffany to call the police and press charges and to show police where Willie lived. Tiffany hung up the phone with Dante and then called the police.

         ¶3. Officer George Vitteck was dispatched to Evans's house in response to the domestic- disturbance call. He spoke with Tiffany, who informed him that she and Willie got into an argument over her child's bicycle. Tiffany told the officer that Willie hit her in the face and grabbed her around the neck. Officer Vitteck testified that Tiffany had no visible injuries.

         ¶4. Evans's daughter, Maya Taylor, witnessed the fight between Tiffany and Willie. Maya testified that Willie hid Tiffany's son's bicycle because he was riding the bike in the street, which Willie thought was unsafe. Willie and Tiffany started arguing, and Tiffany "[w]as all up on him, so he was pushing her up off of him. And once she start punching him he started hitting her back." Maya testified that the fight lasted "less than five minutes." When Tiffany called the police, Willie left. Maya also testified that Tiffany called Dante and told him that Willie had jumped on her, and Dante came to Evans's house later that night.

         ¶5. Madeline Adams, Dante's mother, testified that she called Dante that night and asked him to leave Willie alone. On direct examination, she testified that Dante said that "Willie put his hands on a female in the family for the last time" and that he was "going to do him" or "going to punish him." On cross-examination, Adams admitted that Willie was looking for Dante that night and wanted to hurt him.

         ¶6. Dante testified on his own behalf. He stated that he went to Evans's house that night to check on Tiffany and let her know that he loved her and was there for her. Before Dante left, he told Tiffany to lock the door to the house in case Willie tried to come back and hurt her. Dante also testified that, after Willie's fight with Tiffany, he "had words" with Willie. Dante said that Willie threatened him, and, in turn, Dante told Willie that he was not going to let Willie do anything to him.

         ¶7. Dante stated that his mother called him that night and told him that Willie had "just left [her] house, threatened to kill me, and [said] when he catch me he was going to kill me." According to Dante, his mother warned "don't let [Willie] do nothing to you, son, you know your uncle be sneaky, watch your back." Dante testified that he took his mother's warning seriously, and he believed that Willie was a real threat. Dante testified that he obtained a pistol that night because he knew Willie wanted to kill him and he needed protection. He denied that his mother asked him to leave Willie alone, and he denied telling her that he was going to "do" or "punish" Willie.

         ¶8. Dante also testified about what happened the day of the shooting. Tiffany called him that morning and told him that Willie came to Evans's house. Dante testified that Willie told Tiffany "since she went and called the police and played police games" she had an hour to get her things and car and leave or he was "gonna to come back and beat the 'F' out of her."

         ¶9. Dante told Tiffany that he was on his way to Evans's house, and he drove there in his vehicle. When Dante arrived at Evans's house, Evans, Maya, and their neighbor were sitting under a tree near the road playing cards. Dante testified that he tried to get Tiffany to leave Evans's house with him, but she did not want to leave because she was waiting on someone to come move her vehicle; she did not want to leave her vehicle because Willie had threatened to damage it or have it towed. Dante told Tiffany that he was going to wait on her. He drove to the store to get more cigarettes because he was anxious and "did not want to stay in that spot too long" given that ...


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