ANGELIA BYRD A/K/A ANGELINA BYRD A/K/A ANGELIA MARIE BYRD APPELLANT
STATE OF MISSISSIPPI APPELLEE
OF JUDGMENT: 03/29/2018
COUNTY CIRCUIT COURT, FIRST JUDICIAL DISTRICT HON. WINSTON L.
KIDD TRIAL JUDGE
ATTORNEY FOR APPELLANT: OFFICE OF STATE PUBLIC DEFENDER BY:
GEORGE T. HOLMES
ATTORNEY FOR APPELLEE: OFFICE OF THE ATTORNEY GENERAL BY:
LISA L. BLOUNT
J. WILSON, P.J., WESTBROOKS AND McDONALD, JJ.
The Hinds County Circuit Court convicted Angelia Byrd on the
charge of murder and then denied her post-trial motion. She
appeals. Finding no error, we affirm.
On April 8, 2014, Angelia Byrd shot and killed her live-in
boyfriend, Aaron Harper. Byrd did not testify at her trial,
so her version of the facts is drawn from the testimonies of
law enforcement officers and other witnesses with whom she
Byrd, a fifty-year-old nurse, and Harper, a
thirty-three-year-old security guard, had lived together for
a little over a year in Byrd's home in Jackson. Byrd paid
all the living expenses and provided vehicles for both
herself and Harper. But the relationship was waning. Harper
had threatened her and her family on occasion, and Byrd had
written Harper a four-page letter saying that she thought
they should separate.
On the evening in question, Byrd came home from work and
grilled steaks for dinner. Byrd had either left the four-page
letter out, intending for Harper to see it later, or she gave
it to him and asked him to read it later. But he opened it,
read it, became angry, and started yelling. Byrd slapped the
letter out of his hands,  threw down a beer bottle she was
holding, and told him to leave. At some point, Byrd said that
Harper grabbed her but she had no bruises or scratches on
her. Byrd also said that Harper picked up a steak knife and
said he was going to get his gun. Byrd said she was afraid he
would shoot her, so she got her gun, a .38-caliber revolver.
Before Harper took any further action, Byrd shot him.
During the final moments of this confrontation, Byrd had
called her sister, Cynthia Thornton. Thornton testified that
she was on the phone with Byrd and heard Byrd and Harper
arguing. She did not hear any shots but she did hear Harper
say, "I don't believe you just did that," and
then Byrd told Thornton that she had shot Harper. Thornton
instructed Byrd to call an ambulance and the police.
After calling the police, Byrd went outside, taking the gun
and spent cartridges with her. When the police arrived, she
calmly, without emotion, voluntarily surrendered and told
them that she had shot Harper.
Inside the home, police found bullet holes in the living room
wall and blood on the floor along with a broken bottle. They
also found a pink holster. In the bedroom where Harper was on
the floor behind the door, they found Harper's duty-belt
but no gun in the holster. Police found no gun in the home,
but they did not search the vehicles outside.
Byrd was taken into custody, and Harper's body was taken
for an autopsy. The autopsy report showed that Harper had
gunshot wounds to the right abdomen, left chest, right back,
and right side. Two wounds were perforating, meaning that the
bullets created entry and exit wounds. Three of these wounds
During her interrogation Byrd told one investigator that
Harper had also threatened to report her to the nursing board
for violating HIPAA laws.
After her arrest, Byrd's adult son, Shane Byrd, posted
her bond. At that time Byrd told him she shot Harper in self
defense. But after her indictment, while awaiting her trial,
Byrd later told her son that Harper had asked her to stop
shooting him for the sake of his child. Despite this plea,
Byrd told her son that she shot Harper again. Shane also told
law enforcement that his mother had shot his father (her
ex-husband) in the past.
Byrd was indicted on July 22, 2014, for murder by
"shooting Aaron Harper two times in the stomach, one
time in the chest, one time in the left side and one time in
the back. . . ." After a number of continuances, the
case was tried in March 2018. Byrd was convicted and
sentenced to life in prison. Her motion for a new trial was
On appeal, Byrd raises three issues: (1) whether her trial
was unfair due the entry of evidence of other bad acts; (2)
whether her trial was unfair due to prosecutorial misconduct;
and (3) whether her trial attorney provided ineffective
assistance by failing to request a Castle Doctrine
The appellate court reviews the admission of evidence under
the abuse-of-discretion standard and evidentiary rulings are
affirmed unless they affect a substantial right of the
complaining party. Boggs v. State, 188 So.3d 515,
519 (¶9) (Miss. 2016). The standard of review this Court
applies to allegations of prosecutorial misconduct during
opening statements or closing arguments is "whether the
natural and probable effect of the improper argument is to
create unjust prejudice against the accused so as to result
in a decision influenced by the prejudice so created."
Fortenberry v. State, 191 So.3d 1245, 1251
(¶18) (Miss. Ct. App. 2015). Hannah v. State,
943 So.2d 20 (Miss. 2006), sets out the standard for
evaluating claims of ineffective assistance of counsel as set
out in Strickland v. Washington, 466 U.S. 668
(1984): (1) "the convicted defendant must show that
counsel's representation fell below an objective standard
of reasonableness," and (2) "the defendant must
show there is reasonable probability that but for
counsel's unprofessional errors, the result of the
proceeding would have been different." Hannah,
943 So.2d at 24 (¶6).
Whether Byrd was denied a fair trial because of
inconsistent court rulings that allowed the
jury to hear evidence of other bad acts.
When interviewed by the police after the shooting, Byrd said
that Harper had threatened to go to the hospital or nursing
board to report her for HIPAA violations. Before trial, the
defense had informed the court that seven years earlier, Byrd
had a problem with drugs and had an encounter with the
nursing board then. There was mutual agreement with the
court's approval that this old problem would not be
raised at trial. But the circuit court was not apprised
before trial about Harper's more recent threat to report
Byrd to her employer and that this may have been at least one
of the reasons for the argument that resulted in the
shooting. This issue came up in trial during questioning of
the investigating officers. The State called Detective Daryl
Owens and asked him:
Q. Okay. Now also during the course of your interview, Ms.
Byrd told you that Aaron Harper was threatening to go to the
nursing board on her; is that right?
MR. KNOTT: Objection, Your Honor. First of all, it's
beyond the scope.
THE COURT: All right. That's sustained.
MS. HARRIS: Judge, may we approach[?]
THE COURT: You can.
Q. (By Ms. Harris) Detective Owens, did Ms. Byrd tell you
that Aaron was threatening to go to the nursing board and
tell the nursing board that she had ...