Dinkins v. State

Citation894 S.W.2d 330
Decision Date01 February 1995
Docket NumberNo. 71409,71409
PartiesRichard Eugene DINKINS, Appellant, v. The STATE of Texas, Appellee.
CourtCourt of Appeals of Texas. Court of Criminal Appeals of Texas
OPINION

BAIRD, Judge.

Appellant was convicted of capital murder pursuant to Tex.Penal Code Ann § 19.03(a)(6). The jury affirmatively answered the punishment issues submitted pursuant to Tex.Code Crim.Proc.Ann. art. 37.071(b). 1 Punishment was assessed at death. Id., at (e). Appeal to this Court is automatic. Id., at (h). Appellant raises twenty-one points of error. We will affirm.

I.

On September 12, 1990, at approximately 8:00 p.m., members of the Beaumont Fire Department responded to a fire alarm in a building located at 3420 Fannin Street in Beaumont. John Showman, a Captain with the Beaumont Fire Department, entered the building and located the alarm in the waiting room of a massage therapy office belonging to one of the victims. Showman noticed the air in the room appeared hazy and furniture was strewn around the room as if there had been a struggle. He also noticed a blood-stained, partially broken window opening into another room. He then observed one of the victims, Katherine Thompson, lying injured on the waiting room floor and called to other fire fighters for assistance. 2 As fire fighters rendered medical aid to Thompson, another fire fighter, Mike Randall, peered through the broken window and observed the second victim, Shelly Cutler, sitting on the floor in the second room, injured. Finding the door to the room locked, Randall climbed through the broken window and assessed Cutler's condition. He observed Cutler had been shot in the head. Both victims were transported to a local hospital and shortly thereafter died of their injuries.

While investigating the crime scene, police recovered Thompson's appointment book and a patient application form. The appointment book indicated Thompson had a 7:30 appointment with Cutler and a 6:30 appointment with a Ricky Dennis. The book also contained a Lumberton telephone number for Dennis. The patient application form listed a Ricky Dinkins along with a different telephone number and a place of employment at the American Valve and Hydrant Company. Because of the similarity of the names, the police attempted to contact the parties listed but discovered both telephone numbers were out of order.

The next day, September 13, Mike Sheffield, a Beaumont police investigator, and Robert Hobbs, a Jefferson County District Attorney investigator, went to appellant's place of employment, American Valve and Hydrant Company, in Beaumont and questioned appellant. In the course of the questioning, the detectives sought consent to search appellant's car but appellant refused. Appellant denied knowing Thompson and denied being in Beaumont the night of the offense. At some point, appellant mentioned he "wanted to talk to someone" and the detectives ceased their questioning. They then arrested appellant on an outstanding misdemeanor warrant and transported him to the Jefferson County Jail.

Later that afternoon, while the detectives were attempting to obtain a search warrant for appellant's car, appellant contacted Sheffield and gave his written consent to search. Appellant also stated that the detectives would find a .357 revolver in the trunk. A search of the car uncovered various items, including a .357 revolver and two boxes of ammunition.

During the morning of September 14, Sheffield and Hobbs interrogated appellant in the Jefferson County District Attorney's Office. During the interrogation, appellant admitted being at the crime scene on the night of the offense. Appellant stated he had attempted to meet with Thompson to discuss some bad checks appellant had written, but was unable to do so because the building was locked. He then heard a fire alarm and observed a black male exit the building and run away. Appellant also stated he had purchased a .357 revolver from Leger's Pistol and Rifle Range in Beaumont. The detectives then obtained appellant's written consent to search various locations, including his locker at work and his home in Sour Lake. Appellant accompanied the detectives as they executed the searches. While searching appellant's home the detectives seized a pair of appellant's blue jeans which appeared to have blood stains on the legs and cuffs. Before returning to Beaumont, the detectives escorted appellant to his grandmother's house where appellant spoke with his grandmother.

Upon returning to Beaumont, the detectives again interrogated appellant. During the interrogation, appellant asked to call his mother in Atlanta, Georgia and the officers complied with the request. After appellant finished speaking with his mother, the detectives appraised him of the evidence linking him to the offense. At this point, appellant agreed to provide a written statement on the condition he could explain the stresses he was under.

In his statement, appellant stated he was twenty-seven years of age and worked as an assembly specialist at American Valve and Hydrant. He professed that he was under considerable stress because of the recent break up of a personal relationship as well as a shoulder injury from work which required frequent medication. Because of his injury, appellant believed his employer was harassing him in an attempt to fire him. He further stated he was having severe financial difficulties and had bounced many checks. On the day of the offense, appellant left work around 1:15 p.m. to go to therapy. He left the doctor's office around 3:00 p.m. or 3:30 p.m. and called his grandmother. After that, appellant went to his step-sister's home to help her move. At 6:00 p.m., appellant left to go to Thompson's office for a 6:30 p.m. appointment which he had made under the name Ricky Dennis. Appellant arrived around 6:45 p.m. or 7:00 p.m. Before entering the building, appellant placed a .25 caliber automatic and a .357 revolver inside a sling he wore for his injured shoulder. Appellant entered the building and met with Thompson in her office. After talking for a while, the two began to argue. As the argument progressed, Thompson pushed appellant towards the door into the waiting room where another woman sat. During the altercation, Thompson struck appellant's injured arm, hurting him. At one point during the altercation, the .25 caliber automatic fell out of appellant's sling. Appellant retrieved the gun, fired a shot, and the gun jammed. The .357 also fell out of appellant's sling and hit the floor. Appellant retrieved the .357 from the floor but maintained he did not remember any other events except for a fire alarm sounding as he ran out the doorway leading into the hall. In the parking lot, appellant's car would not start and appellant had to raise the hood and hit a reset button on the steering column. He then proceeded to drive to his grandmother's house in Sour Lake. At one point, appellant noticed he was no longer wearing his sling. While driving along the highway, he emptied the bullets from the .357 and threw them out the window. Appellant remained at his grandmother's house until 10:00 p.m. or 10:15 p.m. and then drove to his step-sister's house where he remained until 11:00 p.m. Upon arriving home, appellant walked to a pond behind his house and attempted to unjam the .25 caliber automatic. The gun came apart and appellant threw it into the pond. He then went to his room, took some pain medicine, and fell asleep. The next day, before work, appellant drove to his grandmother's house for coffee and took more pain medication. He then went to work where he was later met by Sheffield and Hobbs and subsequently arrested on a hot check warrant. Appellant was indicted for capital murder pursuant to Tex.Penal

Code Ann. § 19.03(a)(6)(A). 3

At trial, the State presented testimony by William Fincher, the owner of a janitorial service who was at 3420 Fannin Street around 7:30 p.m. on September 12, looking for an employee. Fincher testified he saw appellant looking under the hood of an old model yellow Chevrolet. Shortly thereafter, appellant started the car and drove away.

Louis Leger owner of Leger's Pistol and Rifle Range testified that on September 11, he sold appellant a .357 revolver and two boxes of ammunition, one of .38 caliber bullets and the other of .357 caliber. Matching the serial number on the .357 with the notation in his records, Leger identified the .357 seized in the search of appellant's car as the weapon sold to appellant.

William Showman and Mike Randall testified concerning the circumstances in which they discovered the victims while answering a fire alarm.

Dr. Thomas J. Molina, the pathologist who performed the autopsies, testified Thompson suffered two gunshot wounds, one to her head and the other to her abdomen. Both were fatal. Molina further testified that the stippling on the body indicated that both shots were fired at extremely close range, the abdomen wound resulting from a contact shot. The autopsy of Cutler indicated she died of a single gunshot wound to the head.

William Tatum, a sergent in the identification section of Beaumont Police Department, testified the police recovered an arm sling from the crime scene as well as an appointment book and a client information sheet with appellant's name and place of employment. The police also recovered four lead slugs, either .38 or .357 caliber, and a number of shell casings and lead bullet fragments. 4 Also recovered was a .25 caliber bullet. Tatum further testified that based on the entry point in the wall made by one of the slugs, he surmised Thompson had been either kneeling or sitting when she had been shot in the head. He also testified that a lead slug was recovered from the doorknob of the door to the room where...

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