56 So.3d 469 (Miss. 2010), 2008-DP-00181-SCT, Gillett v. State

Docket Nº:2008-DP-00181-SCT.
Citation:56 So.3d 469
Opinion Judge:GRAVES, Presiding Justice:
Party Name:Roger Lee GILLETT v. STATE of Mississippi.
Attorney:Office of Capital Defense Counsel by James Lappan, Jonathan M. Farris, attorneys for appellant. Office of the Attorney General by Patrick Joseph McNamara, Jr., attorney for appellee.
Judge Panel:WALLER, C.J., CARLSON, P.J., RANDOLPH AND PIERCE, JJ., CONCUR. CHANDLER, J., CONCURS IN PART AND IN RESULT WITH SEPARATE WRITTEN OPINION. KITCHENS, J., DISSENTS WITH SEPARATE WRITTEN OPINION; DICKINSON, J., JOINS PART II. LAMAR J., CONCURS IN PART AND DISSENTS IN PART WITH SEPARATE WRITTEN OPINIO...
Case Date:July 01, 2010
Court:Supreme Court of Mississippi
 
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Page 469

56 So.3d 469 (Miss. 2010)

Roger Lee GILLETT

v.

STATE of Mississippi.

No. 2008-DP-00181-SCT.

Supreme Court of Mississippi, En Banc.

July 1, 2010

Rehearing Denied March 31, 2011.

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Office of Capital Defense Counsel by James Lappan, Jonathan M. Farris, attorneys for appellant.

Office of the Attorney General by Patrick Joseph McNamara, Jr., attorney for appellee.

GRAVES, Presiding Justice:

¶ 1. Roger Gillett was convicted and sentenced to die by lethal injection for the capital murders of Linda Heintzelman and Vernon Hulett during the commission of a robbery. Aggrieved by these convictions and sentences, Gillett now brings his direct appeal to this Court. Finding no reversible error, we affirm his convictions and sentences.

FACTS

¶ 2. The investigation into the deaths of Linda Heintzelman and Vernon Hulett began in Russell, Kansas. On March 29, 2004, Debbie Milam, Roger Gillett's aunt, informed the Russell County, Kansas, Sheriff's Department that, on the previous day, Gillett had manufactured illegal narcotics at his grandfather's farm in rural Russell County (hereinafter " the Gillett farm" ) and also had stored at the farm a pickup truck he had stolen.1 The Sheriff's Department contacted Agent Matthew Lyon, a narcotics investigator with the Kansas Bureau of Investigation (KBI), for assistance. Based on information received from Milam, as well as other corroborating information, Lyon sought out and obtained two search warrants: one to search the residence where Gillett was staying, located at 606 North Ash Street, Russell, Kansas, and one to search the Gillett farm, located at 5482 190th Street in rural Russell County, Kansas.

¶ 3. Upon executing the search warrant on 606 North Ash Street and locating illegal narcotics at the residence— as well as having reason to believe that Gillett had been involved in an assault, the manufacture of illegal narcotics, and a robbery— officers from the Sheriff's Department located and arrested Gillett, along with his codefendant, Lisa Chamberlin ( see Chamberlin v. State, 989 So.2d 320 (Miss.2008)), at a local park. The officers transported Gillett to the Russell County Jail, where

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he was interviewed by Agent Lyon. Before commencing the interview, Lyon showed Gillett a copy of the search warrant for 606 North Ash Street and read Gillett his Miranda 2 rights. During the interview, Gillett told Lyon that he recently had hitchhiked back to Kansas from Hattiesburg, Mississippi, where he had been staying with his relative, Vernon Hulett, for one or two months. He also told Lyon that he had not been up to the Gillett farm in months. Then, upon Lyon telling Gillett that a white pickup truck with Mississippi tags had been reported stolen, Gillett stated that he needed to speak with an attorney. However, as Lyon was preparing to take Gillett back to jail because Gillett had invoked his right to an attorney, Lyon told Gillett what he was being charged with and " that there might be some more charges that come out of it." Curious, Gillett asked, " Like?" and then withdrew his request for an attorney in order to learn more about the information Lyon possessed. The interview then continued for a significant period of time until Gillett again invoked his right to an attorney.

¶ 4. That same day, March 29, 2004, the search warrant on the Gillett farm also was executed. In a metal shed at the farm, officers located a white pickup truck that was found to be registered to Linda Heintzelman (Vernon Hulett's live-in companion), as well as items consistent with the manufacture of methamphetamine. In a wooden shed at the farm, officers located a freezer that was bound shut with duct and electrical tape. When officers opened the freezer, they saw a dead body or bodies inside. The officers then temporarily stopped the search until they could obtain a homicide search warrant. Once they had secured a homicide search warrant on the farm, they removed from the freezer what turned out to be two bodies, a male and a female, and prepared them for transportation to the pathologist's facility.

¶ 5. Gillett was not interviewed further regarding the bodies found in the freezer; however, Chamberlin gave officers a statement and led them to a location in a local landfill where, according to her, she and Gillett had disposed of trash bags containing property associated with the murder victims. 3 The seven trash bags that the officers collected from the landfill contained, among other things, Vernon Hulett's and Linda Heintzelman's wallets containing their drivers licenses, Hulett's work shirt and work pants, both with his name printed on them, a crocheted pillow appearing to have blood on it (later found to match other pillows on Hulett's and Heintzelman's bed in their Hattiesburg home), a Hattiesburg phone book, and a pair of New Balance tennis shoes with blood-like stains on them.

¶ 6. Based on the evidence recovered, the Kansas officers contacted the Hattiesburg police and asked them to check the residence shared by Vernon Hulett and Linda Heintzelman, located at 908 South Gulfport Street, Hattiesburg, Mississippi. Hattiesburg officers subsequently searched the residence and found, among other things, carpeting removed from the floor and rolled up, multiple blood-like stains throughout the house, a pried-open safe, and a shoe print in a reddish stain. The Mississippi Crime Laboratory determined that one of the New Balance shoes recovered from the garbage bags at the Kansas landfill was the source of the shoe

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print found at the 908 South Gulfport Street residence. The Mississippi Crime Laboratory also determined that blood on the shoe was Linda Heintzelman's blood.

¶ 7. At trial, it was revealed that Gillett and Chamberlin had driven a blue Mitsubishi Eclipse from Kansas to Mississippi around the end of February 2004, and had been staying at the Hattiesburg home of Vernon Hulett, Gillett's cousin, and Linda Heintzelman, Hulett's companion. One day, while Gillett, Chamberlin, Hulett, and Heintzelman were on their way to the Mississippi Gulf Coast, with the couples driving their respective vehicles, Chamberlin's and Gillett's Mitsubishi was damaged in a wreck, allegedly caused by Heintzelman cutting them off and forcing them into a ditch. Gillett was very angry about the car wreck, even telling Hulett's mother after the wreck that he, Gillett, would like to take Heintzelman and push her through a plate-glass window.

¶ 8. The last time anyone saw Hulett and Heintzelman alive was on March 19, 2004. When Hulett's nephew came by Hulett's house on March 20, he found only Gillett and Chamberlin there. Gillett told the nephew that Hulett and Heintzelman had gone to the Coast with a friend. Similarly, when the nephew stopped by Hulett's house on March 21, he found only Gillett and Chamberlin there. While visiting with Gillett and Chamberlin that day (March 21), the nephew noticed that the carpeting had been ripped up, and when he inquired about it, Gillett told him that Hulett had asked him to rip it up because Hulett had come into some money and was bringing new carpeting back with him from the Coast. The nephew also saw Gillett and Chamberlin in Hattiesburg on March 23.

¶ 9. Shortly thereafter, Gillett and Chamberlin arrived in Kansas, driving Heintzelman's white pickup truck. In the bed of the truck, there was a rectangular object that looked like boxes, covered by a tarp. In Kansas, Gillett informed two of his friends that he had taken the truck from its owners, that he had killed the owners, and that the owners were in the back of the truck.4 One of the friends to whom Gillett confessed soon thereafter went to the Gillett farm and observed in one of the farm's sheds a freezer that, according to him, looked like what might have been under the tarp in the back of the white pickup truck that Gillett had been driving. At the trial, Hulett's mother identified the freezer found at the farm to be the freezer that belonged to Hulett and Heintzelman, and she stated that she had last seen the freezer at Hulett's and Heintzelman's residence in Hattiesburg. Further, a KBI forensic scientist found Gillett's fingerprints on the freezer, as well as on both the " sticky" and " shiny" sides of the tape that bound the freezer shut.

¶ 10. The pathologist who conducted the autopsies of Hulett and Heintzelman found Heintzelman to have suffered at least sixty-nine separate injuries prior to death, including injuries caused by blunt-force trauma, cutting, stabbing, and suffocation. The pathologist summarized:

Ms. Linda Heintzelman died from the multiple injuries that were inflicted upon her. Those included sharp-force injuries predominantly to the torso. Those included blunt-force injuries predominantly to the head. There were also sharp-force injuries to the neck. And there was also a component of asphyxiation or lack of oxygen getting into the airway.

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The pathologist found Hulett to have suffered numerous injuries as well, predominantly to his face and head. The pathologist concluded that Hulett's death was the result of " blows that went to the left side of the head [,] fractured the skull and then damaged the brain." Hulett was found in the freezer, and presented to the pathologist, with his arms severed at the shoulder joints and his head severed at the neck.

PROCEDURAL HISTORY

¶ 11. Gillett was indicted on two counts of capital murder in the deaths of Vernon Hulett and Linda Heintzelman. On October 15, 2004, in the Circuit...

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