JALEN SHAQUILLE WILLIAMS A/K/A JALEN SHAQUILLE WILLIAMS SR. A/K/A JALEN WILLIAMS APPELLANT
STATE OF MISSISSIPPI APPELLEE
OF JUDGMENT: 04/12/2017
HARRISON COUNTY CIRCUIT COURT, FIRST JUDICIAL DISTRICT TRIAL
JUDGE: HON. LAWRENCE PAUL BOURGEOIS JR.
ATTORNEY FOR APPELLANT: OFFICE OF STATE PUBLIC DEFENDER
JUSTIN TAYLOR COOK
ATTORNEY FOR APPELLEE: OFFICE OF THE ATTORNEY GENERAL KAYLYN
DISTRICT ATTORNEY: JOEL SMITH
CARLTON, P.J., TINDELL AND McDONALD, JJ.
Jalen Williams was convicted of capital murder on March 21,
2017. He appeals the jury's verdict and the trial
court's denial of his post-trial motions. Finding no
error, this Court affirms the trial court's orders.
In the early evening of July 22, 2014, Jalen Williams, age
19, and Rashad Johnson, age 20, were shooting dice in the
parking lot of a church in Gulfport, Mississippi. As they
left, they commented to others, including Justin Atkinson,
that they were going to "hit a lick," meaning they
were going to rob someone. That someone was Lamont Hayes who
had attended the dice game a couple of weeks earlier flashing
one-hundred dollar bills. According to Atkinson, Williams
called him the next day to tell him about the robbery
"gone wrong." Apparently, Williams and Johnson had
entered the home with guns. Williams and Hayes began
tussling, and Williams called for Johnson's help. Johnson
came upon the two and fired two shots at Hayes. They both
fled, and Hayes later died from his wounds.
Rashad Johnson pleaded guilty to murder and testified at
Williams's trial. He said that the robbery was
Williams's idea and that Williams gave him one of the two
guns Williams had. They covered their faces with bandanas as
they entered the home. Williams went to Hayes's bedroom
while Johnson checked out the others. When Johnson entered
Hayes's bedroom, Williams had his gun to Hayes's
head. Hayes was asleep but woke up when Johnson came in.
Hayes grabbed Williams's arm, and Johnson started hitting
Hayes in the head to get him loose. But Hayes held on.
Williams and Hayes got into the hallway and were still
struggling with each other when Johnson got hold of the gun
they were fighting over. Williams called to Johnson to get
Hayes off him, which Johnson took as a directive to shoot
Hayes, which he did-twice in the leg. They both ran outside;
Johnson gave Williams his gun back, and they went their
separate ways. Johnson was later arrested on drug and firearm
charges and ultimately gave a statement concerning the Hayes
robbery and shooting.
At trial, other witnesses testified including Hayes's
wife, Jennifer; his son, Xavier; various law enforcement
personnel; and the chief medical examiner. Williams did not
testify, but the State introduced his 164-page interrogation
transcript into evidence. In that statement, after initially
denying any involvement in the incident, Williams confessed
that he and Johnson had gone to the Hayes home, both armed,
intending to scare Mr. Hayes into giving up his money. But
things went awry. He said that Johnson went in the house
first and down the hallway to Hayes's bedroom. Williams
followed. Hayes woke up, and Johnson and Williams demanded
his money. Hayes started to get out of bed, and Williams, who
had an unloaded gun, threatened Hayes not to move. Hayes
grabbed Williams's arm and started fighting him. The
fight moved into the hallway and then to the living room.
Hayes was trying to get the gun from Williams. Finally, it
came loose, and Williams slid it away from them and yelled
for Johnson to get Hayes off of him. Williams said he did not
know where Johnson was, but he (Williams) finally got Hayes
off, picked up the gun, and ran out the front door. As he was
running down the street, he heard gunshots.
Other evidence included texts from Williams's cell phone.
In response to a text from a friend called Ced who asked what
Williams and "Little Snow" (Johnson) had done,
Williams responded: "Home invasion gone wrong."
Referring to another person who had gone with them named
Cook, Williams went on to say "[I]dk if yu kno cook but
he took off running on us and he supposed to be a
gangsta." Ced replied "[I]dk him cuz. Y'all
straight though." Williams replied, "[Y]eah da
n---- dead though."
At the end of the trial, the jury found Williams guilty of
capital murder. The trial court denied Williams's
post-trial motions and sentenced Williams to life without
On appeal, Williams raises only two issues that he claims
merit reversal of his conviction: (1) whether the trial court
erred in preventing Williams from cross-examining Justin
Atkinson about what sentence Atkinson could have received on
another charge had he not cooperated with the district
attorney and testified in this case; and (2) whether the
trial court erred in not allowing Williams to call character
Limitations placed on cross-examination are reviewed using an
abuse-of-discretion standard. Johnson v. State, 242
So.3d 145, 153 (¶15) (Miss. Ct. App. 2017). "The
trial court's decision will stand unless the reviewing
court concludes that the decision was arbitrary and clearly
erroneous, amounting to an abuse of discretion."
Id. Reversal is proper only when the discretion of
the trial court as to relevancy and admissibility of evidence
has been abused and a substantial right of a defendant has
been affected. Timmons v. State, 44 So.3d 1021, 1024
(¶10) (Miss. Ct. App. 2010). The Court reviews de novo a
Confrontation Clause objection. Smith v. State, 986
So.2d 290, 296 (¶18) (Miss. 2008).
the trial court err in limiting Williams's
cross-examination of Justin Atkinson?
The State called Justin Atkinson to testify as to actions of
Williams and his alleged accomplice, Rashad "Snow"
Johnson, prior to the actual robbery. This included
statements they made about what they were planning to do
("hit a lick"), what they were wearing, and that
weapons Williams had. Atkinson also testified about
Williams's coming to his house the next day and telling
him what had happened.
At trial, Atkinson testified that he was currently serving a
twelve-year sentence for possession of marijuana with intent.
He recently had pleaded guilty to other charges: possession
of a firearm by a felon and transfer of a controlled
substance. He had not been sentenced on those charges, but
the State had recommended a three-year sentence, consecutive
to his twelve years. He was asked:
Q. Do you know what your potential sentence is total between
A. Fifteen years.
State had clearly brought out that it had recommended a
lesser sentence for the charges Atkinson was still facing,
with a reduction from fifteen to three years.
On cross-examination, Williams's attorney spent
considerable time questioning Atkinson about his latest
arrest and how Atkinson had spoken to the police about the
facts of this case with the hope that such cooperation would
positively affect the charges he was facing:
Q. Okay. All right. So it's true. You wanted to try and
tell them what they wanted to hear that would help you get
out of your trouble, right?
Q. You were trying to tell the officers things that you
thought would help you get them to help you get out of your
point, Williams's attorney went further, trying to
establish through Atkinson that because he was a repeat
offender, under the Uniform Controlled Substances Act, he was
subject to twice the sentence for the pending possession with
intent to transfer charge that he would normally get. Miss.
Code Ann. § 41-29-147(Rev. 2013). Williams's
Q. Okay. Now, let's start with you haven't been
sentenced on your felonies yet, have you?
A. No, sir.
Q. And you said today -- what did you say you pled guilty to?
A. Possession of a firearm and transfer.
Q. Possession of a firearm and transfer?
Q. And that transfer was selling ...