Cannaday v. State

CourtUnited States State Supreme Court of Mississippi
Citation455 So.2d 713
Docket NumberNo. 54982,54982
PartiesAttina Marie CANNADAY v. STATE of Mississippi.
Decision Date16 May 1984

Evelyn Floyd, Shannon Waller, Jr., Gulfport, for appellant.

Bill Allain, Atty. Gen. by Marvin L. White, Jr., Sp. Asst. Atty. Gen., Jackson, Albert Necaise, Gulfport, for appellee.

En Banc.

PRATHER, Justice, for the Court:

This capital murder conviction presents for review two questions. The first is whether Attina Marie Cannaday's constitutional right to counsel at the time incriminating statements were obtained from her while in custody in the county jail was violated. The second question is, if her constitutional rights were violated, whether such violation requires reversal for the guilt and sentence phase of her conviction.

Attina Marie Cannaday, a sixteen year old divorcee, was convicted in Harrison County Circuit Court of the kidnap and murder of Air Force Sergeant Ronald Wojcik and was sentenced to death by the jury. Cannaday appeals asserting that the trial court committed errors as follows:

(1) In excluding prospective jurors in violation of the principles set forth in Witherspoon v. Illinois, 391 U.S. 510, 88 S.Ct. 1770, 20 L.Ed.2d 776 (1968) (1968);

(2) In restricting cross-examination as to the probationary status of the state's primary witness;

(3) In prohibiting relevant expert psychiatric testimony offered on behalf of appellant;

(4) In allowing incriminating statements of appellant elicited from her in violation of her rights guaranteed under Fifth and Sixth Amendments to the United States Constitution of right to counsel; and

(5) In failing to instruct the jury on lesser included offense of kidnapping violated appellant's rights to due process under the Fifth, Eighth and Fourteenth Amendments to the United States Constitution.

Additional errors from the sentence phase of the bifurcated trial assigned are:

(6) The death sentence in this case is unconstitutional because it was the result of an improperly and inadequately instructed jury.

(7) The imposition of the death penalty on a sixteen year old child at the time of the crime constitutes cruel and unusual punishment under the Eighth and Fourteenth Amendments.

(8) The execution of Attina Cannaday, in view of overwhelming mitigating circumstances, would be disproportionate under Mississippi law and the Eighth Amendment.

After conviction and perfection of an appeal to this Court, Cannaday filed a petition for writ of error coram nobis in the Harrison County Circuit Court. Upon conclusion of the hearing, the circuit judge concluded that the circuit court was without jurisdiction to entertain the petition for writ of error coram nobis pending appeal of the initial conviction to this Court. The denial of the writ of error coram nobis is also on appeal here for the trial court's failure to vacate the death sentence when the sentence was based on alleged perjurious, and subsequently recanted testimony, of the state's primary witness, the co-indictee in this crime.


In the early hours of June 3, 1982, twenty-six year old Ronald Wojcik was the victim of kidnapping and murder. His girlfriend, Sandra Sowash, was kidnapped with him and raped. The three principals were the defendant Attina Marie Cannaday, her friend David Gray, and another, Dawn Bushart.

Ms. Cannaday was an Alabama runaway child from a broken home at age thirteen who married and divorced at age fourteen. She worked in numerous bars in Gulfport and Biloxi as dancer and barmaid and supplemented her income by prostitution. Cannaday met Wojcik at the Sports Page Bar where he "moon-lighted" after his duties at Keesler Air Force Base.

Wojcik was divorced from his wife, but frequently kept his two children of his marriage. Cannaday began living with Wojcik, and they ostensibly conducted themselves as a married couple for several weeks until he learned her true age. Realizing that the military disapproved of this relationship, Wojcik required Cannaday to move. Shortly afterwards Wojcik found a new girlfriend, Sandra Sowash.

On May 22, 1982, Cannaday met with a man named John Cooper, who was an acquaintance of Wojcik. Cannaday told Cooper that she had caught Wojcik and Sowash in bed together and had threatened to kill Wojcik if she caught them again. Cannaday denied the threat, but admitted discussing the situation with Cooper. Cooper advised Wojcik of the threats, but he seemed not to be bothered. Wojcik did tell Cooper that on the night before (May 21) Cannaday showed up outside his apartment, yelling obscenities.

On June 1, 1982, Cannaday made a phone call to a friend, Gena Pecoul. During that conversation she expressed her love for Wojcik, but also expressed a desire to kill him.

Cannaday lived at several locations after her removal from Wojcik's apartment. She became a friend with David Gray, an unemployed young man who lived out of his automobile. They discussed Cannaday's feelings for Wojcik and her dislike for Sowash.

On the night of June 2, the date preceding this crime, Cannaday was at the Red Garter Lounge at the Buena Vista Hotel. She and David Gray drank and danced. Both were fairly intoxicated, and Gray had smoked some marijuana. Also at the lounge was Dawn Bushart, a girl Cannaday referred to as "the ugly fat girl." Her name was not known until after the crime. Bushart joined Cannaday and Gray. As the lounge was closing, Cannaday asked Gray if he would go with her to her "old man's apartment with her to get her van and some clothes." Gray's story was that Cannaday wanted him to beat Wojcik to scare him and further to kill Wojcik, to which he refused. Cannaday denied this and denied asking Gray if he had a gun. Gray did not have a gun, but took four knives from his car, as Cannaday put it, "in case we got picked up by a nut." Since Gray's car was not operative, the three--Cannaday, Gray and Bushart, hitchhiked westward. Someone picked them up and took them to a point near Wojcik's apartment.

Seeing Wojcik's white van, Cannaday knew he was home. They approached the apartment, and Gray gave Bushart a knife and gave Cannaday a black handled knife. Gray kept a butcher knife and a fourth knife which was strapped to his belt. Gray ordered Bushart to stand out on the front porch.

Cannaday and Gray entered the apartment. The testimony was disputed as to whether the door was unlocked or whether Cannaday had a key. Cannaday gave her knife to Gray and entered Wojcik's bedroom while Gray remained in the living room. Wojcik and Sandra Sowash were asleep in bed as Cannaday entered.

The scene that transpired at the apartment was destructive and forceful. The encounter ended with Wojcik and Sowash being forced at knifepoint to get in Wojcik's van. Wojcik's two children who were asleep in the other bedroom were left behind. As they were leaving the apartment, Cannaday picked up a wallet belonging to Wojcik. The first time that Bushart was seen by either of the victims was when they stepped outside to get into the van.

With Cannaday driving, they proceeded westward along U.S. 90 at a pretty fast rate of speed. After making a right turn off of U.S. 90, Cannaday attempted to race an approaching train, but moments before getting to the tracks, Wojcik grabbed the wheel and prevented the collision with the train. Gray told Bushart that if Wojcik moved again to cut him.

Both Gray and Sowash stated that Cannaday suggested that Gray have sex with Sowash. Gray forced Sowash to have sexual relations with him while Cannaday continued to drive. 1

After making several turns, Cannaday decided to stop on a gravel road known as Lampkin Road, somewhere north of Biloxi. Gray got out of the van and forced Wojcik out. Wojcik urged Cannaday to discuss the situation with him, but Cannaday refused. Gray had the butcher knife and another knife strapped to his belt. There was a conflict as to who had the black handle knife, Sowash saying that Cannaday had it, and Cannaday saying that Bushart had it.

Gray forced Wojcik into the woods; this was the last time Wojcik was seen alive.

At this point, the facts are in sharp dispute. David Gray's testimony denied any stabbing of Wojcik. His version of the events was that after entering the woods, Gray was distracted by Cannaday who had shouted his name. Wojcik took this opportunity to hit Gray, and a fight occurred. Gray over-powered Wojcik, but had dropped the knife during the fight. After hitting Wojcik until he was nearly unconscious, Gray began looking for his knife. As he was looking, Cannaday walked up and advised him that Sowash had run away and that she had thrown the knife at her. Gray found his knife, and Cannaday asked for it. Gray gave Cannaday the knife and left her in the woods as he walked back to the van. At the van, Gray smoked a Kool cigarette. A Kool cigarette butt was later found several feet from a place where the van was thought to have been. It was Gray's belief that when he left Wojcik in the woods, Wojcik was still alive. When Cannaday returned to the van, she did not have the knife. She said that nothing happened, and they left.

To the contrary, however, it was Cannaday's version that she never went into the woods, but stayed at the van with Sowash and Bushart the entire time. Also, it was Bushart who threw the knife at Sowash as Sowash was escaping. Cannaday testified that Gray had blood on his clothes and on the knife upon return to the van. She thought that he had killed Wojcik. Gray became upset when he discovered that Sowash had gotten away. The three left in the van and went to Slidell, Louisiana with Cannaday driving.

While traveling, Gray discarded his bloody tee-shirt. Upon arrival at a store near Slidell, Cannaday bought a black tee-shirt which she put over her red/pink jumpsuit.

Cannaday and Gray went to the residence of Mrs. Mildred Page Robinson and her son Timothy Page, acquaintances of Cannaday when Cannaday and her ex-husband lived in a...

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