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Reid v. State

Court of Appeals of Mississippi

December 17, 2019


          DATE OF JUDGMENT: 10/24/2018






          CARLTON, P.J.

         ¶1. Richard May Jr. was shot and killed at a motel in Vicksburg, Mississippi. After a three-day trial, a Warren County Circuit Court jury convicted Jimmy Dale Reid of manslaughter for May's death, and the jury also convicted Reid of being a felon in possession of a firearm. Reid was sentenced to twenty years of incarceration for the manslaughter conviction and to serve a consecutive term of ten years for the firearm conviction. He is presently incarcerated with the Mississippi Department of Corrections (MDOC).

         ¶2. Reid appeals, asserting that the trial court erred by refusing his castle doctrine jury instruction, by mischaracterizing testimony as "hearsay" and issuing a limiting instruction with respect to that testimony, and by failing to exclude other-bad-act evidence under Rule 404(b) of the Mississippi Rules of Evidence. Reid also asserts that there was insufficient evidence to support the jury's manslaughter verdict against him and that the manslaughter verdict was contrary to the overwhelming weight of the evidence. For the reasons discussed below, we affirm Reid's convictions and sentences.


         ¶3. May was shot and killed at the Battlefield Inn motel in Vicksburg shortly after 9:00 p.m. on September 11, 2015. After the police responded to the "shots-fired" call and had been at the scene for several hours, they found Reid under a storage building behind the motel around 1:15 a.m. Reid was bleeding from three gunshot wounds. Reid was subsequently indicted in May 2016 for May's murder pursuant to Mississippi Code Annotated section 97-3-19 (Rev. 2014) (Count I) and for felon-in-possession-of-a-weapon pursuant to Mississippi Code Annotated section 97-37-5 (Rev. 2014) (Count II).

         ¶4. The case was tried before a Warren County Circuit Court jury on September 24-26, 2018. The State presented thirteen witnesses. The defense presented one witness, and Reid also testified on his own behalf. For clarity, we will set forth the facts primarily in the order in which the events occurred, which does not necessarily follow the order in which the witnesses were presented at trial.

         I. Background

         ¶5. The testimony and evidence at trial showed that Reid has a 2014 conviction in Warren County for felony fleeing-or-eluding-a-law-enforcement-officer. His sentence included suspended time and supervised release. Between July 2015 and September 7, 2015, Reid was incarcerated on a technical parole violation for a period of forty-five days. While Reid was incarcerated in an MDOC technical-violation facility, his girlfriend, Christina Cotter, who testified that she made her living selling drugs, exchanged $250 worth of methamphetamine for a stolen assault rifle. According to Cotter's testimony, that rifle, along with other firearms, had been recently stolen from May by a person named Chase Sherman. Cotter testified that Reid was not involved in her drug business or the assault-rifle transaction.

         ¶6. Before Reid's release, Cotter testified that there were communications between her and May about Cotter returning May's rifle to him in exchange for May reimbursing Cotter the cash equivalent of what she traded for the stolen rifle. She testified, however, that when they met for the exchange, May did not pay her. Instead, according to Cotter, May, and others that were with him, beat up Sherman and then left. Cotter testified that she did not return the rifle to May but later gave it to someone in Louisiana because, as a convicted felon, she was not supposed to have a weapon. She testified that she does not know where the gun is.

         ¶7. During this same time, the record reflects that May posted accusations and threats on Facebook and another Internet site, demanding that the persons involved in taking his weapons return them. He specifically mentioned Reid in his posted accusations and threats. Both Cotter and Reid testified that Cotter made Reid aware of May's postings while Reid was still incarcerated.

         ¶8. Reid testified that, while at the technical violation facility, he had Cotter call May on a three-way connection, and Reid tried to explain to May, without success, that he was not involved. According to Reid, May continued to insist that Reid should see that Cotter return the stolen firearms, and May said, "I ain't going to let nobody take anything from me. I don't know who you all, who the f- you all think I am."

         ¶9. Reid testified that when he was released from the technical-violation facility on September 7, 2015, Cotter showed him May's Facebook and other postings. Reid described another phone conversation between May and Reid on the day Reid was released from custody. Reid testified that although May did not specifically threaten to kill him, he did threaten him, telling Reid that "[y]ou better have my s- back as soon as I see you. When I see you, you better have my s-. I want it right then."

         ¶10. On September 10, Cotter and Reid went to the Battlefield Inn in Vicksburg where Cotter was sharing room number 135 with two other women. Reid testified that the next day, he rented another room, number 162, as evidenced by the room receipt, which was marked exhibit D-8 and admitted into evidence at trial. According to Reid, he rented room 162 so that he and Cotter could have more privacy. Reid also testified that when he was in the motel office, he saw an acquaintance, Tamarus Dillon (sometimes referred to as "B" or "Binky"), who asked Reid if he already had a room. When Reid told him that he did, Dillon asked if he could "put his stuff in Reid's room" until he (Dillon) figured out what he wanted to do. Reid testified that he told Dillon that he could do that but that he (Reid) "just wanted the room back for [the night]." According to the testimony of Dillon and his girlfriend, Anna Brown, however, Reid had called Dillon earlier that day to tell them to come over to the Battlefield Inn because he had a room for them. Reid, Cotter, Dillon, and Brown went to room 162. Later, the record reflects that a friend of Dillon's, Josh Rush, went to room 162. Numerous witnesses testified about the ensuing events as follows.

         II. The State's Case-in-Chief

         A. Peyton Lipe

         ¶11. The State's witness, Peyton Lipe, testified that he, his wife, and Josh Rush went to the Battlefield Inn during the evening of September 11. Lipe testified that he had talked to Dillon earlier that day. Dillon had called wanting something to eat, so they were taking food to Dillon in exchange for drugs. As they were pulling into the Battlefield Inn, Lipe testified that they saw May in his pick-up truck. Lipe testified that they were in a Chevrolet Z-71, and May was in "some sort of pick-up." May flashed his truck lights a couple of times, Lipe stopped in the front of the motel, and they had a short conversation about some money Lipe owed May. Because a car had pulled up behind them and needed to get through, they drove to the back parking lot.

         ¶12. Lipe testified that Joseph Acuff was May's passenger, although he did not know Acuff at the time. According to Lipe, after they parked, Rush exited Lipe's vehicle and went around the corner to room 162 where Dillon was. Acuff exited May's truck and went in the same direction. May came over to Lipe's truck and stood at the passenger door and they talked. May asked Lipe if he had seen Reid or knew where he was. Acuff then returned and also asked Lipe if he had seen Reid or knew where he was. Lipe testified that Acuff then went back around the corner of the building to room 162, and a few minutes later Cotter walked past them from the direction that Acuff had gone.

         ¶13. Lipe testified that "no sooner than it seemed like [Cotter] got out of sight, [he] heard one gun shot." Lipe testified that May then ran in the same direction as Acuff had gone, toward room 162. Lipe further testified that immediately after May got out of his sight, Lipe heard multiple gunshots and saw May fall at the corner of the building. Lipe then saw two men run past his truck, one chasing the other, and heard more gunfire. Lipe recognized Reid as the one being chased.

         ¶14. Lipe testified that his truck was struck by two bullets, and the record reflects that one projectile was recovered from Lipe's vehicle. Lipe testified that he did not see who was shooting, nor did he see any weapons, he only heard shooting. He further testified that he and his wife left immediately.

         ¶15. The record reflects that Lipe gave a statement to police the following day (September 12), and at that time he told police that May walked away toward the motel rooms before Cotter came walking by and was not by Lipe's truck when the shooting started. Lipe testified at trial, however, that this was not correct-May was still at Lipe's truck when Cotter walked by and when the first shot was heard. Lipe said he could see things "more clearly today" and that he was at a better point in his life, having been in a faith-based rehabilitation program for three months by the time he testified at trial.

         B. Eric Collins (the Battlefield Inn Desk Clerk)

         ¶16. The motel clerk on the evening of the shooting, Eric Collins, also testified for the State. He testified that, before the shooting, he saw two pick-up trucks pull up in front of the motel. After sitting in front of the motel for a short while, the trucks pulled around to the back side of the motel. Collins testified that the people in the trucks appeared to be having a conversation, and he did not see anyone get out of either truck.

         ¶17. The desk clerk further testified that shortly before 9:00 p.m., a man came to the back door of the office, which is kept locked, and tried to enter. As he was going to unlock the door, that man and another man entered the office. Collins testified the first man had a black pistol in his right hand. The second man, who the clerk said was unarmed but was chasing the first, came in and told the him, "[c]all the police this guy just killed someone." Collins testified that the other man (the one being chased) "[n]ever said anything." He testified that the men ran through the back of the building down a hallway, but they could not exit; so they ran back through the front. The clerk testified that, at some point, the men ran behind the front desk of the building into a small room and were scuffling. The clerk ran down the hallway, locked himself in a motel room, and called 911. The two men continued running throughout the building, and the desk clerk heard the chaser say, "[H]ey, you fin [sic] to die too, boy, they coming for you." Collins testified that he heard police sirens right after he heard that statement. He identified Reid at trial as the man that he saw running with the gun. Collins testified that he did not hear any gun shots.

         C. Tamarus Dillon ("B" or "Binky")

         ¶18. The State's witness Dillon, also known as "B" or "Binky" as noted above, testified that he and his girlfriend, Anna Brown, went to the Battlefield Inn on September 11 between 6:00 and 7:00 p.m. He testified that they went there because Reid had called him saying he had a room for him. When Dillon and Brown got to the Battlefield Inn, Reid let them use room 162 that Reid had rented. Dillon and Brown first went to room 135 to meet Reid and get the key, and then Dillon, Brown, and Reid went to room 162, and Cotter joined them. Dillon's friend Josh Rush, who had come with Lipe, arrived later.

         ¶19. Dillon testified that he had drugs and all the drugs that were in the room belonged to him. He also testified that he brought a .45-caliber handgun with him, but he did not bring any other guns. He testified that he saw other weapons in the room and that Reid had a .40-caliber handgun that he showed to Dillon before the shooting. Dillon testified that just before the shooting, he was in the bathroom-area of the room "messing with the drugs" when Reid said something to him about somebody being outside "messing with his girl." At trial the judge asked Dillon to clarify this statement. Dillon testified that what he believed Reid meant was that he (Reid) thought someone was outside having an altercation with his (Reid's) girlfriend.

         ¶20. Dillon testified that shortly after Reid made the remark to him, he heard "gun shot" or a "gun cock." Right after that he heard more gun shots-"a lot of shots." Dillon testified that when the shooting stopped, it was just him, Brown, and Rush in the room. He and Brown gathered up their belongings and left the room with Rush. Dillon testified that as they left, he cautiously peeked out of the room's door and saw May's body on the ground. Dillon testified that he did not see who was outside the door, he did not hear a knock, and did not hear the door open. He testified that Brown and Rush ran off. Dillon testified that he was standing outside of the room, and Joseph Acuff was also there and asked him for a gun. Dillon testified that he told him "no." Dillon testified that the police arrived, Acuff told them that May had been shot, and Dillon left.

         ¶21. Dillon also testified that the next day, he went to get the Jeep that he had purchased from May. May and Acuff were supposed to put a motor in it that day. Dillon testified that Acuff pulled up in a black SUV and said, "[A]in't nobody leaving in this truck," referring to the Jeep. The two men argued. According to Dillon, Acuff threatened Dillon with a knife. Dillon fatally shot Acuff. The matter was presented to a grand jury, but it was not tried.

         ¶22. Dillon was also questioned about his contact with May throughout the day and evening of September 11. He testified that he had been communicating with May, and phone records were admitted into evidence through another witness as exhibit D-11 that reflected numerous calls between May's and Dillon's phones. Dillon testified that the phone calls were about a Jeep he was buying from May. Dillon testified that he did not know of any plan that May was going to confront Reid. He testified that on September 11 he told May to come to the Battlefield Inn to pick him up and for them to go work on the Jeep. Dillon said he did not tell May he was in room 162. Dillon also testified that he was aware of "some problem" between Reid and May, but he did not think it was serious. He testified that he had been told about May's accusations concerning the stolen firearms, but he did not know anything firsthand or any details. He testified that he did not know that May had threatened Reid. Dillon denied helping May by setting Reid up on the night of the shooting.

         D. Anna Brown (Dillon's Girlfriend)

         ¶23. Anna Brown, Dillon's girlfriend, also testified for the State.[1] She testified that she went to the Battlefield Inn with Dillon on September 11, and, like Dillon, she also testified that they went there because Reid had called Dillon to tell him he had a room for him. She testified that during the evening, she, Cotter, Dillon, Reid, and Rush were in room 162. Cotter left before the shooting. Brown testified that she was sitting on the bed with a laptop. After Cotter left, Reid was on the phone. Brown testified that this might have been Cotter calling Reid. After this phone call, Brown testified that Reid said to Dillon, "[Y]ou better get your boy, . . . or I'm going to end this s- tonight."

         ¶24. According to Brown, drugs and guns were present in the room. She said everyone had a gun. Brown testified that Rush brought several guns to the room, and they were on a table that was near the door. She testified that Reid had a handgun. After further questioning, she testified that she could "kind of notice" it under his clothing and that she saw it when he pulled it out from under his clothing "[w]henever the hotel door opened, and the shooting occurred."

         ¶25. Brown also testified that he was aware that May had sold a Jeep to Dillon. She said May was supposed to take Dillon somewhere and that he kept calling Dillon's cell phone. She answered one call and talked to May on Dillon's phone just before the shooting. She testified that May asked her where Dillon was, and she told May that Dillon had stepped out for a minute; May said to tell Dillon he (May) was there. She told May she would tell Dillon to call him when he got back. When questioned about the shooting, Brown testified that it happened very fast, and that she did not hear anyone knock. She testified that Reid opened the door, and she saw Acuff from where she was sitting. She also testified that she was positive that May was also there because she saw him on the ground and not moving when she left the room. According to Brown, when Reid opened the door, Acuff said to Reid, "[D]o you think we give a f- about that pussy-a-" and then Reid "shot his bullet." She testified that Reid was inside the room when he shot. Brown testified that she and Rush then ran into bathroom, and Dillon was also in the bathroom. Brown further testified that when Reid opened the door, she was not sure whether he had his handgun pulled already or not. She did not know if May and Acuff had any weapons, and she did not see any.

         ¶26. Defense counsel brought out in cross-examination that in Brown's statement to the police, she said that she did not know who fired first, implying that someone else was firing a gun. She also told police that she could not see who was at the door. Additionally, Brown told police there were no firearms in the room or drug activity. Brown testified that at the time she gave her statement to the police she was on suicide watch and medication.

         ¶27. Brown testified that after the shooting, she gathered her belongings and left the room with Dillon and Rush. She saw May on the ground as they left the motel room. Brown testified that she ran "into the woods" and stayed there about four hours-she threw her belongings "in the bushes" but held onto her purse and cell phone. She did not know where Dillon went. She testified that Rush went into the woods separately. Brown testified that the small handgun found with her belongings that the police later found "could have" been put in her bag by her or someone else. Before entering the woods, Brown heard Acuff ask Dillon for a weapon. She said Dillon had a handgun but that he did not give it to Acuff.

         E.The Crime Scene and the Results of May's Autopsy and ...

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