OF JUDGMENT: 05/19/2016
LOWNDES COUNTY CIRCUIT COURT TRIAL JUDGE: HON. JAMES T.
COURT ATTORNEYS: ARMSTRONG WALTERS TRINA DAVIDSON-BROOKS
BRANDON LANGFORD DONNA SMITH
ATTORNEY FOR APPELLANT: J. MATTHEW EICHELBERGER
ATTORNEY FOR APPELLEE: OFFICE OF THE ATTORNEY GENERAL BY:
DISTRICT ATTORNEY: SCOTT WINSTON COLOM
Our review of this case arises from Derrick Nelson's
murder conviction in Lowndes County Circuit Court. The Court
of Appeals held that the trial court erred by refusing an
imperfect self-defense jury instruction; it reversed
Nelson's conviction and remanded for a new trial.
Nelson v. State, No. 2016-KA-00835-COA, 2018 WL
5603699, at *1 (Miss. Ct. App. Oct. 30, 2018). The State filed a
petition for a writ of certiorari, which we granted. Because
no evidentiary basis in the record supports the grant of an
imperfect self-defense jury instruction, we reverse the
judgment of the Court of Appeals. While the Court of Appeals
did not reach Nelson's argument that the State deprived
him of a fair trial, we review it and find no reversible
error. Thus, we affirm Nelson's murder conviction and
sentence of life imprisonment.
AND PROCEDURAL HISTORY
On the evening of May 4, 2013, Nelson was celebrating his
younger brother's graduation at his mother's house.
Nelson's mother, Chiquita Nelson, two sisters and his
mother's boyfriend, Willie Hood, Jr., also attended the
party. Everyone had been drinking at the party, including
Hood, who was intoxicated. The celebration, though, ended
tragically when Nelson shot Hood.
According to Nelson's statement to Officer George Harris,
Nelson and Hood had argued over the keys to Hood's car,
which was parked in the driveway. Nelson was attempting to
stop Hood from driving. Hood told Nelson that Nelson could
have Hood's car because he could get another one. Nelson
then took the keys to Hood's car out of the vehicle and
held them. Hood then started walking up the street. He
returned, though, "hipe[d] up and talking loud."
Nelson maintained that his sister Asia Nelson told him to
give Hood's keys back to Hood since Hood would not have
had the car if it had not been for her. Nelson stated that he
placed the keys in Hood's hand.
After talking with his mother and Asia about Hood, Nelson
walked to the mailbox and called his friend Smiley for a
ride. Soon, Smiley pulled up in a white Dodge Charger. Nelson
walked back to tell his mother that he was leaving; Asia,
Nelson's mother and Hood were arguing. Nelson claimed
that Hood was "jumping around talking loud" and
tried to break the driver's side window of his car with
his bare fist. Hood ended up breaking a wind guard on the
vehicle. He also grabbed a beer bottle and threw it in
Nelson's direction; the bottle glanced off Nelson's
shoulder and burst against the rear window of Hood's car.
Nelson's other sister, Kinuna Davis, later told Officer
L.C. Cockrell that Hood was hitting his car with a beer
bottle, that the beer bottle shattered on Hood's vehicle
and that "some of the glass got on" Nelson,
At that point, Nelson reached into the Charger, which was
parked on the street, and withdrew a black handgun from the
passenger seat. He held the gun in his right hand, fired two
shots into the air and told Hood to "chill
out" because he was not trying to hurt him.
According to Nelson, Hood then walked up to him, and they
began to wrestle. Nelson stated that they locked up and
wrestled from the back of Hood's vehicle to the front.
Nelson told officers that the "gun went off" when
they fell back onto the hood of the car. Dr. Brent Davis, a
forensic pathologist, later determined that the cause of
Hood's death was a gunshot wound to the head. Davis also
determined that Hood's death was a homicide.
Nelson recounted that he did not really remember what
happened after the shot. He stated that he was standing there
in shock and that he threw his hands into the air. When his
hands went up, Nelson stated that the gun left his hands.
Asia and Davis testified that Nelson threw the gun over a
fence. Officer Harris later recovered the gun on the other
side of the fence that bordered an adjacent lot.
After the shooting, Nelson got into the Charger and drove
away. Smiley dropped him at a friend's house. Later,
Nelson called Chief McQueen who went and picked Nelson up
from his friend's house.
At trial, Davis failed to recall portions of her statement to
Officer Cockrell on the night of the shooting. In her
statement that night, Davis had stated that "My brother
Derrick Nelson grabbed Willie Hood, Jr.[, ] from behind and
put his hands around his neck. Derrick place [sic] Willie
Hood, Jr.[, ] on the car and shot Willie Hood, Jr.[, ] in the
head." At trial, Davis testified that she remembered
having made a similar statement to Officer Cockrell but that
she did not remember its actually having happened that
Davis did testify, though, that Hood "always acts, you
know, crazy. We're used to that." She stated that
Hood's acting crazy meant that "he beats up on
things. Himself, you know, stuff like that. He does things
like that." Also, Davis testified that Hood "kind
of turned up a little bit after" Nelson fired the gun
into the air. Ultimately, though, Davis did not recall the
specifics of the actual fight. The following exchange took
place on cross-examination:
Counsel: But today as you sit in the stand, do you know how
the actual altercation that ended up with Willie Hood being
Counsel: Do you recall seeing exactly what ...