702 P.2d 375 (Okla.Crim.App. 1985), F-83-540, Master v. State

Docket Nº:F-83-540.
Citation:702 P.2d 375
Party Name:Rodney Madson MASTER, Appellant, v. STATE of Oklahoma, Appellee.
Case Date:June 25, 1985
Court:Court of Appeals of Oklahoma, Court of Criminal Appeals of Oklahoma

Page 375

702 P.2d 375 (Okla.Crim.App. 1985)

Rodney Madson MASTER, Appellant,

v.

STATE of Oklahoma, Appellee.

No. F-83-540.

Court of Criminal Appeals of Oklahoma.

June 25, 1985.

Page 376

[Copyrighted Material Omitted]

Page 377

Jim Bland, Gotcher, Brown & Bland, McAlester, for appellant.

Michael C. Turpen, Atty. Gen., Tomilou Gentry Liddell, Asst. Atty. Gen., Oklahoma City, for appellee.

OPINION

BUSSEY, Judge:

The appellant, Rodney Madson Master, also known as William Wallace Troxell, was convicted in the District Court of Comanche County, Case No. CRF-82-812, of Murder in the First Degree for which he received a sentence of life imprisonment and he appeals.

Briefly stated, the facts are that on October 20, 1982, the appellant and Cornel Cooks, the co-defendant, broke into eighty-seven-year-old Jennie Ridling's mobile home some time after midnight. Discovering Ms. Ridling in her bedroom, Cooks struggled with her and sent the appellant to "get a towel or something to keep her from yelling." After returning with a towel which was too short, and failing the second time to find a longer one, the appellant held Ms. Ridling while Cooks searched for a gag. He returned with a strip of material torn off a curtain. After striking her in the head with his fist in order to force her to stop struggling, Cooks wrapped part of the curtain around her eyes and tied knots in it. In his second written statement, appellant stated that he held her head while Cooks wrapped the

Page 378

material around her face, contradicting his testimony during the trial where he stated that he left the room after Cooks returned with the material. The material was also placed tightly over her mouth. Cooks admitted in his statement that he later raped Ms. Ridling. The appellant and Cooks took several items and some cash and then left the trailer. Dr. Robert Dix, who performed the autopsy on Ms. Ridling, testified that she died of suffocation.

I

For his first assignment of error, the appellant alleges that the trial court erred in refusing to grant his motion for severance. The granting or denying of such a motion is discretionary with the trial court and its ruling will not be disturbed on appeal, absent a clear showing of abuse of discretion resulting in prejudice. Cooper v. State, 584 P.2d 234 (Okl.Cr.1978). Citing Murray v. State, 528 P.2d 739 (Okl.Cr.1974), the appellant argues that he was prejudiced because the defenses of the appellant and co-defendant were inconsistent, pitting them against each other; and citing Bruton v. United States, 391 U.S. 123, 88 S.Ct. 1620, 20 L.Ed.2d 476 (1968), he argues that he was further prejudiced by the admission into evidence of his co-defendant's confession which he alleges violated his right to confront the witnesses against him.

The appellant argues that the defenses were inconsistent because the out-of-court statements were in conflict with each other, the in-court testimony of the appellant conflicted with the co-defendant's out-of-court statements (the basic position of each was that the other was responsible for the actual application of the death producing gag), that there were a great number of objections at trial by one defense counsel against the other, and finally, during closing arguments accusatory remarks were made in attempts to show Cooks should have greater responsibility. The holding of Murray, supra, is that where the respective defenses of two defendants are mutually antagonistic in that the testimony and confession of each exculpated himself and inculpated the other, the effect of trying both together would be to try each on the confession of the other and serves to deny those defendants a fair trial. Therefore, the issue before us is not whether there are disagreements between defendants concerning the facts, nor whether one or the other should bear a greater responsibility for the crime, but whether the defenses are antagonistic in that each defendant is attempting to exculpate himself and inculpate his co-defendant. We find that these defenses were not antagonistic. The defendants were charged with first degree murder under the felony murder statute because the victim died as the result of acts committed to further the commission...

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