Ambrose v. State, 080218 MSSC, 2015-DP-01159-SCT
|Opinion Judge:||COLEMAN, JUSTICE.|
|Party Name:||ABDUR RAHIM AMBROSE a/k/a ABDUR AMBROSE v. STATE OF MISSISSIPPI|
|Attorney:||ATTORNEYS: CROSBY PARKER, LISA COLLUMS, CHARLIE STEWART, FRANK P. WITTMANN, IV, RICHARD JOEL SMITH, JR., ROBERT C. STEWART, GLENN F. RISHEL, JR., ANGELA BLACKWELL, DANA CHRISTENSEN, ALISON R. STEINER ATTORNEYS FOR APPELLANT: OFFICE OF THE STATE PUBLIC DEFENDER BY: ALISON R. STEINER ANGELA BLACKWE...|
|Judge Panel:||WALLER, C.J, RANDOLPH, PJ, MAXWELL, BEAM AND CHAMBERLIN, JJ, CONCUR. KITCHENS, PRESIDING JUSTICE, DISSENTING. KING AND ISHEE, JJ., JOIN THIS OPINION.|
|Case Date:||August 02, 2018|
|Court:||Supreme Court of Mississippi|
In 2013, Abdur Ambrose ("Ambrose"), Stevie Ambrose, and Orlander Dedeaux were indicted for capital murder of Robert Trosclair with the underlying felony being kidnapping. Ambrose alleged Trosclair had "stolen stuff our of his car." and confronted him late in the afternoon. Trosclair was later found tied up with a yellow ratchet strap, tightly tied around his wrists and loosely tired around his... (see full summary)
DATE OF JUDGMENT: 06/19/2015
HARRISON COUNTY CIRCUIT COURT HON. ROGER T. CLARK TRIAL JUDGE.
ATTORNEYS: CROSBY PARKER, LISA COLLUMS, CHARLIE STEWART, FRANK P. WITTMANN, IV, RICHARD JOEL SMITH, JR., ROBERT C. STEWART, GLENN F. RISHEL, JR., ANGELA BLACKWELL, DANA CHRISTENSEN, ALISON R. STEINER
ATTORNEYS FOR APPELLANT: OFFICE OF THE STATE PUBLIC DEFENDER BY: ALISON R. STEINER ANGELA BLACKWELL
ATTORNEYS FOR APPELLEE: OFFICE OF THE ATTORNEY GENERAL BY: LADONNA C. HOLLAND JASON L. DAVIS CAMERON BENTON
DISTRICT ATTORNEY: JOEL SMITH
¶1. On December 23, 2013, Abdur Rahim Ambrose, Stevie Ambrose, and Orlander Dedeaux were indicted for capital murder of Robert Trosclair with the underlying felony being kidnapping. The trial court severed the case for separate trials.1 Abdur Rahim Ambrose proceeded to trial, which commenced on June 15, 2015. Following the culpability phase of trial, a Harrison County jury found Abdur Rahim Ambrose guilty of capital murder. Following the penalty phase of trial, the jury imposed the death penalty. Ambrose appeals, raising the following twelve assignments of error verbatim: I. WHETHER THE TRIAL COURT VIOLATED AMBROSE'S SIXTH AND FOURTEENTH AMENDMENT RIGHTS TO CONFRONTATION AND TO PRESENT A DEFENSE BY PREVENTING HIM FROM IMPEACHING PROSECUTION WITNESS DEMETRIUS LEE WITH MATTERS CLEARLY PROBATIVE OF LEE'S BIAS IN FAVOR OF THE STATE AND INTEREST IN PROVIDING INCRIMINATING TESTIMONY AGAINST AMBROSE AND IN SUPPORT OF THE STATE'S THEORY OF PROSECUTION.
II. WHETHER AMBROSE'S DEATH SENTENCE MUST BE VACATED AND THIS MATTER REMANDED FOR ENTRY OF A SENTENCE LESS THAN DEATH BECAUSE THE ONLY § 99-19-101(7) SENTENCING ELIGIBILITY FACTOR FINDING BY THE JURY WAS THAT AMBROSE "CONTEMPLATED THAT LETHAL FORCE WOULD BE EMPLOYED."
III. WHETHER THE TRIAL COURT REVERSIBLY ERRED IN TWO MATTERS RELATING TO THE SEATING OR REMOVAL OF JURORS, AND IN DENYING A MISTRIAL IN LIEU OF REPLACING THE REMOVED JUROR WITH AN ALTERNATE.
IV. WHETHER THE JURY SELECTION PROCESS WAS ALSO CONSTITUTIONALLY INFIRM IN OTHER RESPECTS AND REQUIRES REVERSAL OF AMBROSE'S CONVICTION AND SENTENCE OF DEATH.
V. WHETHER AMBROSE'S SENTENCE MUST BE REVERSED BECAUSE OF THE PROSECUTOR'S MISCONDUCT IN MAKING CONSTITUTIONALLY IMPROPER AND PREJUDICIALLY INFLAMMATORY CLOSING ARGUMENTS AT THE PENALTY PHASE OF THE TRIAL.
VI. WHETHER THE TRIAL COURT COMMITTED REVERSIBLE EVIDENTIARY ERROR.
VII. WHETHER THE TRIAL COURT CONSTITUTIONALLY ERRED BY DENYING AMBROSE'S REQUESTS THAT EITHER THE INDICTMENT ITSELF OR A BILL OF PARTICULARS, DESCR[I]BE[S] THE ALLEGED CONDUCT BY THE DEFENDANT THAT CONSTITUTED THE KIDNAPPING ELEMENT OF THE CAPITAL MURDER AND/OR THE STATUTORY SENTENCING AGGRAVATOR ON WHICH THE JURY WAS INSTRUCTED AT THE PENALTY PHASE.
VIII. WHETHER THE TRIAL COURT ERRED IN GRANTING THE STATE'S REQUESTED ONE CONTINUOUS TRANSACTION INSTRUCTIONS AT BOTH THE CULPABILITY AND SENTENCING PHASES.
IX. WHETHER THE TRIAL COURT'S ERRONEOUS SENTENCING PHASE INSTRUCTIONS REQUIRE VACATION OF THE DEATH SENTENCE AND REMAND FOR A NEW SENTENCING PROCEEDING.
X. WHETHER THE DEATH SENTENCE WAS IMPOSED IN VIOLATION OF THE UNITED STATES CONSTITUTION.
XI. WHETHER THE DEATH SENTENCE IN THIS MATTER IS CONSTITUTIONALLY A ND ST ATU T ORILY DISPROPORTIONATE.
XII. WHETHER THE CUMULATIVE EFFECT OF THE ERRORS IN THE TRIAL COURT MANDATES REVERSAL OF THE VERDICT OF GUILT AND/OR THE SENTENCE OF DEATH ENTERED PURSUANT TO IT.
FACTUAL BACKGROUND AND PROCEDURAL HISTORY
Events at "the Hill"
¶2. On the afternoon of April 7, 2013, Demetrius Lee returned home from work between 3:00 and 4:00 p.m. Lee resided in the DeLisle community at 7486 Lobouy Road, which is part of a larger property commonly known as "the Hill." The Hill is comprised of two houses and a mobile home. While Lee was relaxing, someone knocked on his window, but he remained inside. Twenty to thirty minutes later, Lee went outside and saw Robert Trosclair, whom he knew from frequently being at the Hill.
¶3. Lee testified that Trosclair was running and looked like he had been in a fist fight, because he was shirtless and bloody. Trosclair had a busted lip, blood coming out of his nose, and blood on his chest. Ambrose, his brother Stevie Ambrose, 2 and Orlander Dedeaux were following behind Trosclair, taking turns hitting him. Stevie handed Lee a cell phone and told him to record. Lee testified that he videoed anywhere from a mere second to two minutes of the assault. Trosclair was trying to get away and was not fighting back. Ambrose kept asking Trosclair, "[W]here is my stuff, you got some explaining to do" to which Trosclair responded, "it was Terry." Ambrose, Stevie, and Dedeaux continued taking turns hitting, kicking, and knocking down Trosclair for thirty minutes to an hour.
¶4. Sometime during the assault, Donna Sims arrived at the Hill to return a book bag to her grandson, who had been staying with his mother Crystal Jameson at the Hill. When Sims arrived, she saw someone lying on the ground. Although Sims knew Trosclair, she was unable to recognize him because his head was bloody and swollen. Sims saw Ambrose, Stevie, Lee, and Dedeaux standing around Trosclair. Sims, whose grandson is also Ambrose's nephew, had known Ambrose for years.
¶5. Sims told Ambrose and Stevie to stop assaulting Trosclair and leave him alone. Ambrose responded that Trosclair had "stolen stuff out of his car." Sims grabbed, pushed, and pulled Ambrose and Stevie in an effort to stop them, but she was unsuccessful. Sims begged them to stop, but they continued hitting Trosclair. Lee also testified that Sims had yelled for them to stop assaulting Trosclair. Sims testified that Trosclair was not fighting back and was unable to stand up other than partially sitting up at one point. Sims testified that Lee was laughing and videoing the assault with a phone.
¶6. After the beating had subsided, Ambrose got into a white truck and told "them" to put Trosclair in the truck. Sims recognized the truck because it belonged to her daughter Crystal and her boyfriend Luke Turner, who is Ambrose's brother.3 Sims approached Ambrose while he was in the driver's seat of the truck. Sims spoke to Ambrose for about five minutes. Meanwhile, Sims testified that "they" had put Trosclair in the back of the truck because he could not get up from the ground. Sims testified that Lee helped load Trosclair into the back of the truck. Lee denied helping load Trosclair in the back of the truck at the Hill; rather, Lee testified that after the fighting had stopped, Trosclair attempted to roll in the back of the truck. Lee testified that someone then picked up his feet and pushed him in the back of the truck. Lee got into the passenger's seat of the truck and Ambrose drove away with Trosclair in the back of the truck. Lee was under the impression that Ambrose was going to take Trosclair home. Stevie got into his car with Dedeaux and they followed the truck.
¶7. Lee testified that, by the time Sims arrived at the Hill that afternoon, most of the assault had subsided. Lee testified that Sims was there about ten minutes before they left the scene; however, Sims testified that the incident at the Hill lasted thirty-five to forty-five minutes from the time she arrived at the Hill to the time they left the scene.
Events at Fire Tower Road
¶8. Upon leaving the Hill, Lee described Ambrose's demeanor as "mad, real mad." Lee soon realized Ambrose was not taking Trosclair home, but he was too scared to say anything. Instead, they went to an address about five minutes away on Fire Tower Road where Jimmy Lawton lived. Lawton, also known as "Turk," lived at 9042 Fire Tower Road at the end of a long dirt driveway. Ambrose drove the truck down the driveway and parked in front of a trailer next door to Lawton, where Lashonda Jacobs lived. Ambrose parked, got out of the truck, and went toward Lawton's house. Ambrose walked to Lawton and spoke to him.
¶9. Meanwhile, Stevie got out of his car and pushed Trosclair out of the back of the truck. Lee testified that Trosclair and Stevie "squared off" as if to fight. Trosclair "rushed" Stevie, pushing him away, and ran away toward the main road in an effort to "get away." Lee estimated that Trosclair made it about forty yards away. Lee testified that Ambrose ran after Trosclair and caught him. Ambrose grabbed Trosclair by the waistband of his shorts and said, "you got some more explaining to do." Trosclair responded, "man, I don't know what's going on. It wasn't me. It was Terry." Ambrose walked Trosclair back toward the truck.
¶10. Lee testified that the...
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