Dickerson v. State, No. 2012–DP–01500–SCT.

CourtMississippi Supreme Court
Writing for the CourtCOLEMAN, Justice, for the Court
Citation175 So.3d 8
Docket NumberNo. 2012–DP–01500–SCT.
Decision Date18 June 2015
PartiesDavid DICKERSON v. STATE of Mississippi.

175 So.3d 8

David DICKERSON
v.
STATE of Mississippi.

No. 2012–DP–01500–SCT.

Supreme Court of Mississippi.

June 18, 2015.


175 So.3d 12

Office of State Public Defender by Alison R. Steiner, Andre De Gruy, attorneys for appellant.

Office of the Attorney General by Brad Alan Smith, Jason L. Davis, attorneys for appellee.

EN BANC.

Opinion

COLEMAN, Justice, for the Court:

¶ 1. The Circuit Court of Copiah County convicted David Dickerson of capital murder, arson, and armed robbery. The jury sentenced him to death for the capital murder conviction; he was sentenced to twenty years for arson and forty years for armed robbery, to run consecutively. Dickerson appeals his convictions and death sentence. Finding no error, we affirm.

Facts and Procedural History

¶ 2. David Dickerson and Paula Herrington Hamilton were in a relationship in the mid–1990s, and they had a child, Courtney Dickerson. When the relationship ended, Dickerson had little contact with Paula and Courtney, unless it was negative. Paula later married Allen Hamilton. She had two children in addition to Courtney. Paula and her family lived on property near Wesson, Mississippi. Paula's sister, Robin Herrington, lived with them. Several other family members lived on the property as well, including an aunt, Linda Austin, who lived in a trailer behind Paula's house.

¶ 3. 2010, Paula sought a protective order against Dickerson, claiming that he was stalking her and then-sixteen-year-old Courtney. She also filed a criminal affidavit alleging stalking. A protective order was entered, and a hearing was set for January 25, 2011, on the related criminal allegations. On the morning of January 25, 2011, Robin was outside Paula's house around 6:30 a.m. when she saw a man on the property. She told Paula, who went outside to investigate. Robin heard a gunshot, and Paula yelled for her to call 911. Robin testified that Paula came back to the house, covered with blood, and the man was following her and demanding keys to a van. Robin recognized the man as David Dickerson.

¶ 4. Paula's younger daughter, then-thirteen-year-old Kayla Herrington, was getting ready for school when her aunt Robin said a man was outside the house. Kayla testified that Paula went outside, then Kayla heard screaming, so Kayla went outside as well. Kayla saw a man “messing with a gun.” She went back inside to get her little brother, then she heard two gunshots. Kayla took her little brother into the bathroom and locked the door behind them. Kayla testified that Robin joined the children in the bathroom, and Kayla called 911. Kayla then looked out the window and saw the man pouring gas on the camper, then he took the gas can and ran off. Kayla testified that she heard her sister, Courtney, say that the man was David Dickerson.

¶ 5. Courtney also was getting ready for school when her aunt Robin saw a man outside. Courtney testified that Paula went outside, then Courtney heard screaming and they all ran outside. She saw her father, David Dickerson, holding a gun to her mother's head. Courtney testified that Dickerson was demanding keys. Courtney tried to push Dickerson away

175 So.3d 13

from her mother, but Dickerson punched Courtney in the face. Paula told Courtney to go to her Aunt Linda's, so Courtney ran to Linda's trailer. A few moments later, Paula came to the trailer, drenched in blood. They let her in and locked the door behind her. Dickerson kicked the door in, and Linda pointed a gun at him. Dickerson pointed his gun at Courtney and threatened to shoot her if Linda did not put her gun down. Paula told Courtney to leave, so she and Linda fled the trailer. Courtney testified that Dickerson was holding a gas can, and she saw him pour gasoline on Paula and throughout the trailer. Linda ran to a neighbor's house, and Courtney ran back to Paula's house. Courtney then saw the trailer on fire.

¶ 6. Reverend Thomas McCormick and Reverend Ken Hedgepeth were driving past Paula's house when they saw the trailer explode. They pulled into the driveway and ran toward the burning trailer. Reverends McCormick and Hedgepeth saw a man standing near the trailer. They found Paula, alive and on fire, trapped under the trailer. They testified that they pulled her away and that she smelled of gasoline. The men tried to help Paula, but she died before police arrived. She had sustained gunshots to the head and back, stab wounds to the neck and trunk, and first-degree burns.

¶ 7. Police officers arrived and searched the area. After speaking with Paula's family members, Dickerson was named as a suspect and a be-on-the-lookout notice was issued. Kristina Stewart lived near Paula. She was driving home around 8:00 a.m., after taking her children to school, when she saw an unknown man emerge from the woods wet and covered in mud. She later identified Dickerson in a photographic lineup. Glenn and Betty Sue McInnis lived about a mile down the road. Around 9:30 a.m., Dickerson arrived at the McInnises' home and asked for gasoline. By that time, the McInnises knew about the situation and had been advised to be on alert for a suspicious person in the area. Glenn led Dickerson to his shop, intending to lead Dickerson away from his wife and home. Sheriff's deputies arrived and arrested Dickerson.

¶ 8. Investigators found Dickerson's motorcycle three-tenths of a mile from Paula's house. Officers found recently discarded clothing in an abandoned house not far from the scene. The clothing matched a description of Dickerson's clothing that day. A t-shirt with blood on it was later matched to Paula. A twenty-two-caliber pistol was discovered in a water well near the abandoned house. Ballistics determined that the pistol matched rounds found outside Linda's trailer as well as the bullet that was removed from Paula.

¶ 9. A grand jury indicted Dickerson for capital murder of Paula Hamilton, arson of Linda Austin's trailer, and armed robbery of Paula Hamilton. Dickerson maintained that he did not kill Paula and denied any involvement in the crimes. Before trial, Dickerson moved for a determination of his competency to stand trial and a determination as to whether he was intellectually disabled. The court appointed forensic psychologist Dr. Criss Lott to evaluate Dickerson. Dr. Lott determined that Dickerson was not mentally retarded, but he was not able to determine whether Dickerson was competent to stand trial.

¶ 10. On Dr. Lott's recommendation, the court ordered further evaluation by the State Hospital at Whitfield to determine competency and intellectual disability. Dickerson was observed at the State Hospital for two months. Dr. Robert Storer, a forensic psychologist, and Dr. Reb McMichael, a forensic psychiatrist, concluded that Dickerson was mentally competent to stand trial and that he had no credible

175 So.3d 14

symptoms of mental illness. They found that Dickerson was uncooperative, malingering, and fabricating psychiatric symptoms. The doctors also concluded that Dickerson was not mentally retarded. The circuit court held a competency hearing, and all three doctors testified that Dickerson had the capacity to confer with counsel and that he was mentally competent to stand trial. Dickerson did not put on any evidence in the alternative. The trial court held Dickerson competent to stand trial.

¶ 11. Trial was held in July 2012. The jury heard testimony from several members of Paula's family who were eyewitnesses to the attack, the two pastors who stopped to help, Kristina Stewart, Glenn McInnis, several deputies who responded to the scene, the investigator from the State Fire Marshall's Office, and multiple forensic scientists from the Mississippi Crime Laboratory. Dickerson did not call any witnesses or put on any evidence. The jury returned guilty verdicts on all three counts.

¶ 12. During the sentencing phrase, several of Dickerson's family members and two former employees of the Department of Human Services (DHS) testified about Dickerson's home life as a child. Several former coworkers and employers testified about Dickerson's work abilities. Dr. Lott testified as to his findings after evaluating Dickerson. Dr. Lott opined that Dickerson was not mentally retarded and that he thought Dickerson was exaggerating his psychological problems. Dr. Julie Schroeder, a social work professor, also testified. Dr. Schroeder had met with Dickerson and reviewed his school records, mental health records, test scores, and case file. She opined as to how Dickerson's personality disorders and borderline executive functioning deficit could have affected his behavior.

¶ 13. The jury returned a unanimous verdict recommending the death penalty. However, the sentencing verdict failed to include any statutory aggravating factors. The circuit judge ordered the jury to review the jury instructions and return a verdict consistent with the requirements set forth therein. The jury returned with the verdict in proper form, recommending the death penalty and finding that the murder was committed while Dickerson was engaged in the commission of a burglary and that the offense was especially heinous, atrocious, and cruel. Dickerson filed a motion for a new trial, which the trial court denied. Dickerson...

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28 practice notes
  • Flowers v. State, NO. 2010–DP–01348–SCT
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of Mississippi
    • November 2, 2017
    ...963, 2014–DP–00177–SCT, 2017 WL 2001157 (Miss. May 11, 2017). David Cox v. State , 183 So.3d 36 (Miss. 2015). David Dickerson v. State , 175 So.3d 8 (Miss. 2015). Timothy Robert Ronk v. State , 172 So.3d 1112 (Miss. 2015). Curtis Giovanni Flowers v. State , 158 So.3d 1009 (Miss. 2014). *fol......
  • Hutto v. State, NO. 2014-DP-00177-SCT.
    • United States
    • Mississippi Supreme Court
    • May 11, 2017
    ...competent to stand trial will be reversed only if it is "manifestly against the overwhelming weight of the evidence." Dickerson v. State, 175 So.3d 8, 15 (Miss. 2015) (citing Hearn v. State, 3 So.3d 722, 728 (Miss. 2008) ). It is well-settled that the standard to determine whether a defenda......
  • Thomas v. State, NO. 2016–KA–01146–SCT
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of Mississippi
    • June 14, 2018
    ...trial court's competency determination only if it is ‘manifestly against the overwhelming weight of the evidence.’ " Dickerson v. State , 175 So.3d 8, 15 (Miss. 2015) (quoting Hearn v. State , 3 So.3d 722, 728 (Miss. 2008) ). The standard for competence to stand trial as defined by the Unit......
  • Ambrose v. State, NO. 2015-DP-01159-SCT
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of Mississippi
    • August 2, 2018
    ...in order to return and impose a sentence of death. Ch. 429, Senate Bill No. 2699, 1983 General Laws of Mississippi." Dickerson v. State , 175 So.3d 8, 32 (¶ 79) (Miss. 2015) (citing Miss. Code Ann. § 99-19-101(7) ).¶ 76. In Tison , the Supreme Court held "that major participation in the fel......
  • Request a trial to view additional results
28 cases
  • Flowers v. State, NO. 2010–DP–01348–SCT
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of Mississippi
    • November 2, 2017
    ...963, 2014–DP–00177–SCT, 2017 WL 2001157 (Miss. May 11, 2017). David Cox v. State , 183 So.3d 36 (Miss. 2015). David Dickerson v. State , 175 So.3d 8 (Miss. 2015). Timothy Robert Ronk v. State , 172 So.3d 1112 (Miss. 2015). Curtis Giovanni Flowers v. State , 158 So.3d 1009 (Miss. 2014). *fol......
  • Hutto v. State, NO. 2014-DP-00177-SCT.
    • United States
    • Mississippi Supreme Court
    • May 11, 2017
    ...competent to stand trial will be reversed only if it is "manifestly against the overwhelming weight of the evidence." Dickerson v. State, 175 So.3d 8, 15 (Miss. 2015) (citing Hearn v. State, 3 So.3d 722, 728 (Miss. 2008) ). It is well-settled that the standard to determine whether a defenda......
  • Thomas v. State, NO. 2016–KA–01146–SCT
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of Mississippi
    • June 14, 2018
    ...trial court's competency determination only if it is ‘manifestly against the overwhelming weight of the evidence.’ " Dickerson v. State , 175 So.3d 8, 15 (Miss. 2015) (quoting Hearn v. State , 3 So.3d 722, 728 (Miss. 2008) ). The standard for competence to stand trial as defined by the Unit......
  • Ambrose v. State, NO. 2015-DP-01159-SCT
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of Mississippi
    • August 2, 2018
    ...in order to return and impose a sentence of death. Ch. 429, Senate Bill No. 2699, 1983 General Laws of Mississippi." Dickerson v. State , 175 So.3d 8, 32 (¶ 79) (Miss. 2015) (citing Miss. Code Ann. § 99-19-101(7) ).¶ 76. In Tison , the Supreme Court held "that major participation in the fel......
  • Request a trial to view additional results

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