Collins v. State, CR-14-0753

CourtAlabama Court of Criminal Appeals
Writing for the CourtWELCH, Judge.
PartiesSherman Collins v. State of Alabama
Decision Date13 October 2017
Docket NumberCR-14-0753

Sherman Collins
State of Alabama



OCTOBER TERM, 2017-2018
October 13, 2017

Notice: This opinion is subject to formal revision before publication in the advance sheets of Southern Reporter. Readers are requested to notify the Reporter of Decisions, Alabama Appellate Courts, 300 Dexter Avenue, Montgomery, Alabama 36104-3741 ((334) 229-0649), of any typographical or other errors, in order that corrections may be made before the opinion is printed in Southern Reporter.

Appeal from Sumter Circuit Court

WELCH, Judge.

The appellant, Sherman Collins, was convicted of murdering Detrick Bell1 for pecuniary gain, an offense defined

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as capital by § 13A-5-40(a)(7), Ala. Code 1975, and conspiracy to commit murder, a violation of 13A-4-3, Ala. Code 1975. The jury recommended, by a vote of 10 to 2, that Collins be sentenced to death. The circuit court sentenced Collins to death for the capital-murder conviction and to 120 months for the conspiracy conviction. (C. 407.) This appeal followed.

The State's evidence tended to show the following. At around midnight on June 17, 2012, 12 people telephoned emergency 911 to report a shooting at the Morning Star Community Center ("Center") in Cuba. Law-enforcement personnel were dispatched to the Center and discovered the body of Detrick "Speedy" Bell in the parking lot near the door. Dr. Steven Dunton, a pathologist with the Alabama Department of Forensic Sciences, testified that Bell died as a result of a gunshot wound to his head. The bullet, Dr. Dunton said, was so large a caliber that, when it exited Bell's skull, it removed one-third of his brain.

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Angela Jackson,2 Collins's girlfriend at the time of the shooting, testified that in June 2012 she and Collins were living in New Orleans and that her twin sister, Keon Jackson, was dating Kelvin Wrenn and was living at Wrenn's house in Sumter County.3 Angela testified that Keon asked Angela to come for Father's Day weekend in June 2012, that she had visited her sister at Wrenn's house about five times, that the last time she came to visit Collins was with her, and that her mother, her daughter, her son, her niece, and Collins drove to Sumter County and arrived at Wrenn's house on June 15 at around midnight the Friday before Father's Day. Wrenn arrived home late that night and was angry with Keon and asked them to leave his house. They all went to Meridian, Mississippi, and obtained a room at the Ramada Inn motel. The next day, on

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Saturday afternoon, Angela said, she and Collins went to Wrenn's house for a barbecue. Wrenn got mad at Keon, she said, and told them all to go back to New Orleans and to take Keon with them. Later on Saturday night, Angela said, Collins and Wrenn went to a rap concert at the Center while she and Keon packed Keon's things. Angela testified that she heard a gunshot while Collins was at the Center and she and Keon tried to get to the Center to see what had happened. When the traffic prevented them from getting to the Center they went back to Wrenn's house and found Collins waiting for them. They returned to the motel in Mississippi and the next morning returned to New Orleans. Angela said that she had borrowed Keon's cellular telephone and that when they reached New Orleans Wrenn called and talked to Collins. Angela said that Collins was wearing a rust-colored shirt or burnt-orange shirt and blue jeans on the evening of the shooting.

Martez Rodgers testified that he was at the Center at the time of the shooting and that about 40 or 50 people were present. Near the end of the concert he left the Center and walked outside toward Bell and Terrod Sturdivant and heard a gunshot. He testified that he could not see who shot Bell

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because it was too dark, but, he said, he did see that the gunman was wearing an orange shirt and jeans and that he walked away up a hill as everyone was running around him. He said that no one had been arguing, that there had been no altercation, and that the shooting was not provoked. (R. 461.)

Terrod Sturdivant testified that Bell was one of his closest friends and that they went to the Center together that night. Sturdivant said that his cellular telephone rang at the end of the concert, that he walked outside to answer it, and that Bell was behind him. Grant Kimbrough4 came outside after he finished performing and Bell and Kimbrough talked about Kimbrough's performance. Sturdivant testified: "Sherman [Collins] walked out in the group where we was. Bam [Kimbrough] stopped him. Introduced us. Said this is his cousin Speedy [Bell]. Said this is his little homeboy Terrod. Speedy shook his hand. I told him 'what up.' I turned around to go answer my phone. A couple of steps, gunshot." (R. 483.) After he turned to answer his phone, he said, the shot happened "fast." (R. 487.) He did not see the shooter, he

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said, but he did see Collins walking away from the Center. Collins was wearing an orange shirt with a "Reese's" brand name and blue jeans. He stayed with Bell until he died and then he and several others went to find Kimbrough. He said that on the day of the shooting he had been in jail for a charge of unlawful distribution and had been released at around 4:30 p.m.

Rodriguez Brunson testified that Wrenn was his brother and that Bell was his friend and that he was at the Center at the time of the shooting. Brunson testified that he was in charge of security for the concert and that he had also rented the venue for the concert. He said that he saw Collins at Wrenn's house earlier that day at a barbecue, that he lived next door to his brother Wrenn, and that his house is about one mile or a mile and a half from the Center. He said that Collins came to the Center with Wrenn and that Collins was wearing an orange shirt with "Reese's" on it. Brunson said that he asked Collins to work security after Wrenn asked him if Collins could work security. (R. 558.) He said that he was inside the building when the shooting occurred but that he

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heard the shot and ran outside. When he got to the parking lot, he said, he saw Bell on the ground.

Tommy Nixon testified that he was at the Center when the shooting occurred because his nephew, James Brunson, contacted him and asked him to help with security for the concert. Nixon said that he arrived at the Center at about 8:00 p.m. and that he was carrying mace, a baton, and a .40 caliber Ruger brand handgun. Everything had been going okay, he said, until he heard the gunshot. There had been no arguments, no disagreement, and no fights. He was close to the main highway, he said, when he heard the shot, and he ran back toward the crowd. Nixon said that he saw a man wearing an orange shirt pass him walking in the opposite direction. When he got near the door of the Center, he saw a young man lying by the doorway, and he telephoned emergency 911. The crowd, he said, was chaotic, and he tried to get everyone to go inside. No one listened, he said, so he pulled his pistol and shot into the air about five or six times.

Ronny Willingham, owner of Willingham Sports in Demopolis testified that on July 22, 2011, he sold a .22 caliber revolver to Kelvin Wrenn and that on August 6, 2011, he sold

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a .454 "Raging Bull" handgun to Wrenn. (R. 869.) The "Raging Bull" gun, he said, was rare and "was the largest handgun ever made. It's a -- it's a revolver. Weighs about four pounds. It's got two latches. It's made by Taurus. The bullets are even like four dollars a piece. It's a very large handgun." (R. 869.)

Investigator Luther Davis with the Sumter County Sheriff's Office testified that he was assigned to investigate the shooting at the Center. He said that police discovered Wrenn's vehicle in a ditch near the Center and that he interviewed Wrenn. Davis testified that, when he interviewed Wrenn on June 18, Wrenn said that he had conspired with Collins to kill Bell. Davis also testified that Collins confessed to him that Wrenn had told him that a man named "Speedy" had robbed his brother and that if he would kill "Speedy" he would give him $2,000. Collins confessed that he shot "Speedy" in the head and walked away after the shooting. Collins made the following statement to police:

"We arrived at [Keon Jackson's] house Friday night and woke up around 8 a.m. Saturday morning. Keon's boyfriend, Kelvin Wrenn, had made it home from driving his truck. Kevin got into an argument with Angela about her son on the last visit in Alabama where a gun came up missing. Kelvin was

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really mad so we left and got a hotel in Meridian, Mississippi.

"Angela and I came back to the house and Kelvin was having a BBQ. A couple of guys came over to the BBQ and we drank liquor but I didn't know their names.

"Kelvin and I was getting ready to go to a rap concert and he was telling me about a man named Speedy that robbed his brother. Kelvin told me that he would give me $2,000 dollars to kill Speedy. Kevin gave me a small gun and he had a big Magnum pistol.

"When we pulled up to the center, Kevin gave me the Magnum pistol and he kept the smaller pistol. There was a man at the door named Bam who knew we had the guns on us. Bam told the security guard that we were security guards so he didn't pat us down when we walked in the center.

"We sat around and drank liquor for about an hour and a half. A few minutes later, Speedy came in the Center. Kelvin asked someone that was sitting beside him was that Speedy. The guy said yes. Kelvin then said, '[T]hat's the nigger that robbed my brother. Take care of him when we get outside.'

"Speedy walked outside and we went behind him. Speedy was talking to a group of guys and Kelvin said,'[T]hat's the nigger right there, two grand.' I shot Speedy in the head and walked away. I threw the gun in the woods next to the Center.

"I walked to the road and called my girlfriend to come pick me up. My girlfriend and I rode to Meridian, Mississippi. I talked to Kelvin on the phone and I

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