Billiot v. State, No. 54960

CourtUnited States State Supreme Court of Mississippi
Writing for the CourtSULLIVAN; PATTERSON
Citation454 So.2d 445
PartiesJames E. BILLIOT v. STATE of Mississippi.
Decision Date06 June 1984
Docket NumberNo. 54960

Page 445

454 So.2d 445
James E. BILLIOT
v.
STATE of Mississippi.
No. 54960.
Supreme Court of Mississippi.
June 6, 1984.
Rehearing Denied Aug. 22, 1984.

Page 451

Yvonne Chapman Sills, Nicholas M. Haas, Bay St. Louis, for appellant.

Edwin Lloyd Pittman, Atty. Gen. by Catherine Walker Underwood, Asst. Atty. Gen., Jackson, for appellee.

Before the court en banc.

SULLIVAN, Justice, for the Court:

James E. Billiot was indicted for the capital murder of Wallace J. Croll, Jr., by the grand jury of Hancock County, Mississippi. Billiot obtained a change of venue and was thereafter in a bifurcated trial found guilty and sentenced to death by a jury in the Circuit Court of Harrison County, Mississippi.

On Thanksgiving Day, November 26, 1981, Wallace Croll, Jr., Billiot's stepfather, was found bludgeoned to death in his home. Billiot's mother and Billiot's 14-year-old stepsister were also found in the home, killed in the same manner. The bodies were found by 12-year-old Stephen Croll, Chris Lee, and George Hebbler. Young Croll, Lee and Hebbler were returning from Picayune, Mississippi, on the morning of November 26, 1981, when they saw James Billiot driving Wallace Croll's car. They became suspicious and immediately went to Croll's Leetown community home. There they found the bodies, as well as an 8-pound sledge hammer lying near the deceased. On the floor, they also found Wallace Croll's wallet and several papers scattered about.

Bryan Strickland, a Leetown resident and acquaintance of Billiot's, testified that on November 7, 1981, while at the Living Waters Church of God in Picayune, Mississippi, James Billiot told Strickland that he was going to kill his mother and his stepfather. Leo Jones testified that on the morning of November 26, 1981, he saw Billiot hitchhiking and gave him a ride from Picayune to the Leetown community. Billiot did not want to be let out in front of the Croll house in Leetown but insisted on being let out by a field near the house.

When the bodies were found, an all-points bulletin was issued in Mississippi and Louisiana and two days later Billiot was arrested by the New Orleans police department. After a hearing he was extradited to Mississippi. On April 27, 1982, appellant filed the following motions: Motion to suppress evidence; motion to change venue; motion to conduct mental examination of defendant, and motion to conduct separate hearing on robbery charges.

During the July, 1982, term of the court a hearing was had on the motion for change of venue and the motion for psychiatric examination. The motion to change venue was denied and the motion for psychiatric examination was sustained.

In September, 1982, appellant filed several more motions including a motion to prohibit jury dispersal, motion to request special venire, notice of insanity defense, motion for omnibus hearing and motion to suppress evidence. In October, 1982, the

Page 452

motion to suppress was overruled, after a full hearing. The motion for change of venue was sustained from Hancock County to adjacent Harrison County. Appellant objected to Harrison County as the site of the new venue but this objection was overruled. On November 15, 1982, appellant filed a motion for continuance. This motion was overruled and on November 29 and 30, 1982, the trial court overruled the motion for individual voir dire of the jury and a renewal motion for change of venue. After Billiot had undergone mental examination at the State Hospital at Whitfield, Mississippi, and had been determined competent to stand trial, the trial was conducted from November 29--December 2, 1982. The sole defense was insanity.

With the exception of the expert testimony on the question of Billiot's sanity, the evidence adduced at the trial was largely uncontradicted.

Appellant's motions for judgment notwithstanding the verdict and for a new trial were denied and he perfected this appeal, and assigns as error the following, to-wit:

I. The court erred in denying appellant's attorneys a reasonable amount by way of expenses in order to conduct an investigation into the mood and attitude of the community toward appellant in furtherance of appellant's motion for change of venue.

II. The court erred in refusing the defendant a change of venue and/or a continuance.

III. The jury selection process under Section 97-3-19 (Capital murder statute) and Section 99-19-101 (Separate sentencing proceeding in capital cases) is unconstitutional.

IV. The state failed to provide the defendant a special venire.

V. Appellant's right to a fair and impartial trial was denied by the court by: (1) denying appellant's request for individual voir dire of the potential jurors; (2) limiting appellant's voir dire of potential jurors; (3) refusing to excuse jurors for cause upon appellant's motion; (4) denying appellant additional peremptory challenges.

VI. The court erred in overruling defendant's motion to suppress the statements of the defendant.

VII. The court erred in allowing Dr. Henry A. Maggio to testify on the issue of insanity.

VIII. The court erred in permitting the introduction of full color photographs of the victim and of the murder weapon as neither had any probative value but served only to inflame and prejudice the jury.

IX. The court erred in refusing defendant's instructions on the insanity issue.

X. The court erred in denying appellant's instruction D-9.

XI. The court failed to give clear instructions as to the state's burden of proof of the underlying felony and such error was fatal to the verdict.

XII. The court erred in overruling appellant's motion for a directed verdict at the close of the state's case and in overruling appellant's request for a peremptory instruction at the close of the trial.

XIII. The verdict of the jury was against the overwhelming weight of the evidence.

XIV. Verdict of the jury finding appellant guilty of capital murder was against the overwhelming weight of credible evidence.

XV. The imposition of the death penalty is cruel and unusual punishment per se.

XVI. Section 99-19-101(5)(h) is unconstitutionally vague, ambiguous and overbroad in violation of the due process clause of the fifth and fourteenth amendments of the United States Constitution and of Section Fourteen of the Mississippi Constitution and of the prohibition against cruel and inhuman punishment of the eighth and fourteenth amendments of the United States Constitution and of Section twenty-eight of the Mississippi Constitution.

XVII. Section 99-19-101(5)(b) is unconstitutional as it violates the due process clause of the fifth and fourteenth amendments

Page 453

of the United States Constitution and of Section fourteen of the Mississippi Constitution, the double jeopardy clause of the fifth and fourteenth amendments of the United States Constitution and of Section twenty-two of the Mississippi Constitution, and the prohibition against cruel and unusual punishment of the eighth and fourteenth amendment of the United States Constitution and of Section twenty-eight of the Mississippi Constitution.

XVIII. Sentencing instruction given by the court was improper by directing the jury to find as an aggravating circumstance that the murder was especially heinous, atrocious or cruel.

XIX. Sentencing instruction given by the court was misleading in that the jury believed it must impose death if any mitigating circumstances failed to outweigh the aggravating circumstances.

XX. The evidence does not support the jury's finding of a statutory aggravating circumstance which outweighed any mitigating circumstances.

I.

THE COURT ERRED IN DENYING APPELLANT'S ATTORNEYS A

REASONABLE AMOUNT BY WAY OF EXPENSES IN ORDER TO CONDUCT AN

INVESTIGATION INTO THE MOOD AND ATTITUDE OF THE COMMUNITY

TOWARD APPELLANT IN FURTHERANCE OF APPELLANT'S MOTION FOR

CHANGE OF VENUE.

Billiot, through his attorneys, requested the court to allow a reasonable expense for the retention of an investigator to interview citizens in order to ascertain the mood of the community and its predisposition of his case. This motion was denied by the court.

It is contended that the failure to allow such expenses violated Mississippi Code Annotated Sec. 99-15-17 as well as equal protection and effective assistance of counsel under United States Constitutional provisions.

Mississippi Code Annotated Sec. 99-15-15 (1972) requires the appointment of counsel for indigent defendants charged with certain crimes, and Mississippi Code Annotated Sec. 99-15-17 (Supp.1983), allows for reimbursement to counsel so appointed for "actual expenses". The statute does not define what "actual expenses" contemplates.

In Bright v. State, 293 So.2d 818 (Miss.1974), this Court held that the state was not required to furnish an indigent defendant expenses for an independent chemist and noted that the right to expert witnesses for defendant at the expense of the state has generally been denied. Id. at 822. In Davis v. State, 374 So.2d 1293 (Miss.1979), we concluded that the denial of an indigent defendant's request for expenses to hire a handwriting expert violated neither the United States nor the Mississippi Constitution, and we further said that the determination of whether to provide an expert shall be made on a case-by-case basis:

We do not enter this field of inquiry to make the determination that the state owes to the indigent the duty of providing an expert as a part of due process to which the defendant is entitled, for, as stated in the Watson case, supra, the decision should be on a case by case basis, and, unlike the Bradford case, supra, the guilt or innocence of the defendant was scarcely, if at all, dependent on the state's expert witness, and also for reasons next to be noticed.

Id. at 1297. And finally, in Bullock v. State, 391 So.2d 601 (Miss.1980), this Court denied funds to employ a criminal investigator where,

The appellant did not outline any specific costs for such an investigator, and did not indicate to the court in...

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327 practice notes
  • State v. Webb, No. 14409
    • United States
    • Supreme Court of Connecticut
    • July 30, 1996
    ...439, 447-66, 499 A.2d 1236 (1985), cert. denied, 478 U.S. 1010, 106 S.Ct. 3310, 92 [238 Conn. 467] L.Ed.2d 723 (1986); Billiot v. State, 454 So.2d 445, 455-56 (Miss.1984), cert. denied, 469 U.S. 1230, 105 S.Ct. 1232, 84 L.Ed.2d 369 (1985); State v. O'Neal, 718 S.W.2d 498, 502 (Mo.1986), cer......
  • Ballenger v. State, No. 93-DP-00081-SCT
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of Mississippi
    • September 21, 1995
    ...The combined failure to object or to request an appropriate instruction operates to waive any objection on this issue. Billiot v. State, 454 So.2d 445, 462 (Miss.1984); Gilliard v. State, 428 So.2d 576, 583 Gray, 472 So.2d at 416. Since instruction D-22 was never brought to the attention of......
  • Wilcher v. State, Nos. 03-DP-0032
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of Mississippi
    • October 7, 1993
    ...has approved an "especially heinous" finding in cases where the victim has suffered a painful, lingering death. See Billiot v. State, 454 So.2d 445 (Miss.1984) (victim found alive and gasping for air after skull had been bashed in twice with a blunt instrument); Bullock v. State, 391 So.2d ......
  • Flowers v. State, NO. 2010–DP–01348–SCT
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of Mississippi
    • November 2, 2017
    ...This threshold test is applicable in a capital murder case." Berry v. State , 575 So.2d 1, 9 (Miss. 1990) (citing Billiot v. State , 454 So.2d 445, 457 (Miss. 1984) ; Rush v. State , 278 So.2d 456, 458 (Miss. 1973) ). ¶ 156. Lastly, Flowers suggests that the trial court should have quashed ......
  • Request a trial to view additional results
327 cases
  • State v. Webb, No. 14409
    • United States
    • Supreme Court of Connecticut
    • July 30, 1996
    ...439, 447-66, 499 A.2d 1236 (1985), cert. denied, 478 U.S. 1010, 106 S.Ct. 3310, 92 [238 Conn. 467] L.Ed.2d 723 (1986); Billiot v. State, 454 So.2d 445, 455-56 (Miss.1984), cert. denied, 469 U.S. 1230, 105 S.Ct. 1232, 84 L.Ed.2d 369 (1985); State v. O'Neal, 718 S.W.2d 498, 502 (Mo.1986), cer......
  • Ballenger v. State, No. 93-DP-00081-SCT
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of Mississippi
    • September 21, 1995
    ...The combined failure to object or to request an appropriate instruction operates to waive any objection on this issue. Billiot v. State, 454 So.2d 445, 462 (Miss.1984); Gilliard v. State, 428 So.2d 576, 583 Gray, 472 So.2d at 416. Since instruction D-22 was never brought to the attention of......
  • Wilcher v. State, Nos. 03-DP-0032
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of Mississippi
    • October 7, 1993
    ...has approved an "especially heinous" finding in cases where the victim has suffered a painful, lingering death. See Billiot v. State, 454 So.2d 445 (Miss.1984) (victim found alive and gasping for air after skull had been bashed in twice with a blunt instrument); Bullock v. State, 391 So.2d ......
  • Flowers v. State, NO. 2010–DP–01348–SCT
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of Mississippi
    • November 2, 2017
    ...This threshold test is applicable in a capital murder case." Berry v. State , 575 So.2d 1, 9 (Miss. 1990) (citing Billiot v. State , 454 So.2d 445, 457 (Miss. 1984) ; Rush v. State , 278 So.2d 456, 458 (Miss. 1973) ). ¶ 156. Lastly, Flowers suggests that the trial court should have quashed ......
  • Request a trial to view additional results

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