669 So.2d 44 (Miss. 1996), 94-DP-00675, Williams v. State

Docket Nº94-DP-00675-SCT.
Citation669 So.2d 44
Party NameJessie Derrell WILLIAMS v. STATE of Mississippi.
Case DateFebruary 15, 1996
CourtSupreme Court of Mississippi

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669 So.2d 44 (Miss. 1996)

Jessie Derrell WILLIAMS

v.

STATE of Mississippi.

No. 94-DP-00675-SCT.

Supreme Court of Mississippi.

February 15, 1996

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Appeal No. 8310202 from Judgment dated Jan. 6, 1984, Robert T. Mills, Ruling Judge, Jackson County Circuit Court.

Thomas M. Fortner, Jackson, for Appellant.

Michael C. Moore, Attorney General, Marvin L. White, Jr., Assistant Attorney General, Jackson, for Appellee.

EN BANC.

SMITH, Justice, for the Court:

Jessie Derrell Williams was indicted by a Jackson County Grand Jury for the capital murder of Karen Ann Pierce, committed while he was engaged in the commission of the crime of kidnaping. Venue was transferred to Lauderdale County for trial. In December 1983, Williams was found guilty of the capital murder of Pierce and sentenced to death by virtue of the jury verdict. On January 25, 1984, Williams filed a motion for a new trial which raised inter alia this very issue we now consider. The court held an evidentiary hearing on February 2, 1984, and overruled Williams' post trial motions. On direct appeal, this Court affirmed the guilt-finding phase of Williams' bifurcated trial, but on petition for rehearing, reversed the sentence-determining phase and remanded the case for a new sentencing hearing. See Williams v. State, 544 So.2d 782 (Miss.1987).

Williams appealed under the Post-Conviction Collateral Relief Act, seeking to vacate his conviction of capital murder on the ground that the State violated discovery rules by withholding a leniency agreement consummated between co-indictee Thomas Terrell Evans and the prosecution, whereby Evans would plead guilty to accessory after the fact and receive five years imprisonment in exchange for turning State's evidence and testifying against Williams. Williams argues that this alleged plea bargain undermines the credibility of Evans to the extent that a new trial is required. Thus aggrieved, Williams presents as his sole issue for review.

WHETHER THE LOWER COURT ERRED IN DENYING HIS MOTION FOR POST-CONVICTION COLLATERAL RELIEF?

A thorough review of this issue leads this Court to conclude that the issue of the plea bargain raised in Williams' motion for a new trial was capable of determination at that point. In fact, the issue was litigated and adjudicated to be without merit, thus Williams is procedurally barred. Foster v. State, 639 So.2d 1263 (Miss.1994). Williams is not entitled to another evidentiary hearing on this issue. Alternatively, procedural bar notwithstanding, considering Williams' issue on its merit, we find no merit exists. There was no evidence of any "deal." This Court denies Williams' motion for post-conviction relief.

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STATEMENT OF THE FACTS--PROCEDURAL HISTORY

This Court, in Williams v. State, 544 So.2d 782 (Miss.1987), stated "The facts of this case are so bizarre and the methods used to bring about the death of Miss Pierce are so relentlessly savage that no purpose will be served by repeating them here, except where they are essential to the ends of justice in dealing with the issues raised by the appeal." Id. at 784.

Again we note that because of the limited nature of the sole issue presented by this appeal, a brief synopsis of the procedural history of the case and limited facts will suffice.

Williams was convicted of capital murder and sentenced to death on December 15, 1983. Thomas Terrell Evans is Williams' first cousin and co-indictee, and testified against Williams in the original trial in December 1983. During the trial, Evans denied the existence of any plea bargain agreement he had with the State. The prosecution also denied the same. Evans also stated, "I've told the truth all the time, yes sir." At the trial in 1983, Evans was represented by attorneys Fielding Wright and Richard Hamilton.

Following the trial, Williams soon filed a motion for a new trial on January 25, 1984, in the Lauderdale County Circuit Court. In this motion, Williams raised the thorny issue of whether the prosecution withheld the existence of an alleged plea bargain agreement it had struck with the co-defendant Evans. The Lauderdale County Circuit Court held an evidentiary hearing on February 2, 1984, and Williams called the Honorable Michael C. Moore, then the District Attorney for the 19th Circuit Court District, the Honorable Kathy H. King, then assistant district attorney, the Honorable Louis Guirola, Jr., then an assistant district attorney, and his co-indictee, Thomas Terrell Evans, to testify as to whether there had been a deal for Evans' testimony against petitioner. The testimony from all four parties was a resounding "no" to the existence of any deal. Thus, the motion for a new trial was overruled on February 2, 1984, and petitioner perfected an appeal to this Court on February 10, 1984. It is important to note the testimony which occurred during the evidentiary hearing on the motion for a new trial:

(A) District Attorney Michael C. Moore:

District Attorney Mike Moore testified that Fielding Wright, Evans' attorney, first approached the two assistant district attorneys and told them that they had the wrong man in regard to the crime against Karen Ann Pierce. He stated that Mr. Wright informed them that his client's culpability would be equal to one guilty of accessory after the fact only. Moore testified that he knew that Evans was already on probation, and that his probation would most certainly be revoked; however, he also stated that "I can say with certainty that nothing was ever said to Mr. Evans in that regard, or at least with my consent, that he would serve a certain period of time in the penitentiary, because we can't--there is no way we can tell." Moore further stated, "I've never discussed what we would recommend in return for his testimony with Mr. Evans. As a matter of fact, the only thing I've ever told Mr. Evans is that I don't have any recommendation." Prior to trial, there were no tentative agreements as to recommendations from the State if Evans were to plead guilty to a crime.

(B) Assistant District Attorney Kathy King:

Assistant District Attorney Kathy King's testimony echoed that of Moore's. She also stated that Fielding Wright approached them and stated that Evans could tell them who was the real killer of Pierce. Wright told her that based on what Evans had already told him, Evans was not guilty of anything more than accessory after the fact. King stated that she and Wright then discussed what kind of offer might be made for Evans since he was already on probation. However, she never promised Wright anything since the prosecution team had not yet spoken to Evans himself. She said that she made it clear to both Evans and Wright that there would be no deal if Evans' version of the story did not match up with all of the other evidence and testimony of the other co-indictees. Because there were many discrepancies

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between Evans' testimony and that of Williams and the other co-indictee, Norwood, King stated that a deal was "up in the air," and in her mind, "there was no deal," in light of the indictments handed down by the grand jury. The only discussion she had with Fielding Wright post-indictment was when Wright inquired as to what happened, and she responded, " 'Fielding, obviously the grand jury didn't believe all the facts as your man told them after they heard all the evidence, and they saw fit to indict him.' And that's all I ever said to Fielding after that." She further stated that "[t]he only other time I kn[e]w anything about any deals even being discussed was some time before the trial was set.... Terrell Evans was in our office and ... when Mike [Moore] told him there were no deals, there were not going to be any deals." "I don't remember Mike's exact words, but Mike said as far as he was concerned, he would go with the death penalty for him [Evans] too."

(C) Assistant District Attorney Louis Guirola, Jr.:

Mr. Louis Guirola, Jr. also corroborated his fellow prosecutors' testimonies, stating that "[t]he only thing [he] ever heard prior to the trial date and extending back was that Mr. Moore told Mr. Evans specifically that he did not have a deal, he did not have any recommendation and that as far as he was concerned, ... he [wa]s facing the death penalty too." He testified that Moore asked Evans' at least twice whether he understood that he had no deals, and both times, Evans responded, "Yes, I understand." He further noted that this "happened on more than one occasion, because it would go on at each individual interview so that he would understand at each interview that he did not have a plea negotiation."

Mr. Guirola gave the most detailed account of the exchanges between the district attorney's office and Fielding Wright, as follows:

[L]et me ... start[ ] at the beginning. When this investigation first took place, there were bits and pieces of information that would come into the Sheriff's Office and then they would make arrests based on these bits and pieces of information. During their investigation, they arrested two individuals, one I believe was John Paul Adams and the other one, ... Mitchell Byrd.... Sometime later during the investigation, Thomas Terrell Evans was arrested but he was not charged with capital murder at that time and we weren't even sure of what his involvement was.... I think it might have been the next day or next afternoon, Mr. Fielding Wright came into our office and announced...

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