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Henderson v. State

Court of Appeals of Mississippi

May 21, 2019

PETER J. HENDERSON A/K/A PETER JULIUS HENDERSON APPELLANT
v.
STATE OF MISSISSIPPI APPELLEE

          DATE OF JUDGMENT: 12/12/2017

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

          ATTORNEY FOR APPELLANT: OFFICE OF STATE PUBLIC DEFENDER BY: MOLLIE MARIE MCMILLIN

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

          DISTRICT ATTORNEY: JOEL SMITH

          BEFORE CARLTON, P.J., TINDELL AND McDONALD, JJ.

          TINDELL, J.

         ¶1. A Harrison County jury convicted Peter Henderson of the first-degree (deliberate- design) murder of Chandler Pugh. Miss. Code Ann. § 97-3-19(1)(a) (Rev. 2014). The Harrison County Circuit Court, First Judicial District, sentenced Henderson to life imprisonment in the custody of the Mississippi Department of Corrections (MDOC). On appeal, Henderson argues that his trial attorneys rendered ineffective assistance and that the verdict was against the overwhelming weight of the evidence. Finding no error, we affirm Henderson's conviction and sentence.

         FACTS

         ¶2. At the time of Pugh's death, Henderson was dating Pugh's ex-girlfriend, Charlotte Guillotte. Henderson lived in Mobile, Alabama, and Guillotte lived in Gulfport, Mississippi. Guillotte testified that on the afternoon of August 10, 2016, Pugh forced his way into her apartment and assaulted and threatened her in front of the couple's youngest son.[1] Guillotte reported the incident to police. She also called Henderson and told him about the altercation. Henderson arrived in Gulfport that evening and met Guillotte at her apartment. He then accompanied Guillotte to the police station to pick up paperwork for a protective order against Pugh. Guillotte stated that she observed Henderson with his gun when they left her home. Both Guillotte and Henderson testified that Henderson always carried his gun because he worked as a security guard for several night clubs.

         ¶3. Guillotte texted Pugh and told him she planned to get the protective order against him. Pugh repeatedly tried to call Guillotte, but she refused to answer her phone. Pugh then tried to text Guillotte. By way of his text messages, Pugh apologized to Guillotte for his behavior earlier that day and told Guillotte that he would not come around again. Based on these statements, Guillotte felt that Pugh had dropped the matter.

         ¶4. After leaving the police station, Guillotte and Henderson stopped at a gas station so Guillotte could buy cigarettes. As Guillotte returned to her car and began to open her driver's side door, Pugh unexpectedly pulled up beside her. Although Pugh's sudden arrival startled her, Guillotte stated that she was not scared of Pugh due to his earlier apology. Guillotte testified, however, that she was startled enough that she jumped and ran around her car. Pugh exited his car and followed Guillotte until she stopped in front of her car. Guillotte testified that Pugh repeatedly asked her to drop Henderson off so that she and Pugh could talk privately. Guillotte replied that she did not want to talk to Pugh, and she asked him to leave.

         ¶5. Guillotte stated that she never saw a weapon in Pugh's hands while they were at the gas station. She also testified that, although Pugh spoke in a loud voice, that was just the way he acted, and she stated that he never verbally or physically threatened her during the conversation. While Guillotte and Pugh were talking in front of Guillotte's car, Henderson exited the passenger side of the car and approached them. Guillotte testified that Henderson told Pugh to leave Guillotte alone. Pugh responded that Henderson needed to "just step back" because his discussion with Guillotte did not involve Henderson. Guillotte further stated:

[A]t one point in time, I was going to try to get in my car, and I didn't see [Henderson] showing [Pugh] his gun, but I heard [Pugh] say, ["O]h, I see your gun, that's nice.["] And he [(Pugh)] told me, . . . ["B]ut Charlotte, you know I'm crazy. You know I'm not scared of no gun.["] I told [Pugh], ["]I don't want you to be scared, but can you just please go[?"]

         Guillotte testified that Pugh refused to leave, and he again urged her to drop off Henderson so she and Pugh could speak privately. During the confrontation, ...


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