Gray v. State

Decision Date05 June 1985
Docket NumberNo. 55738,55738
Citation472 So.2d 409
PartiesDavid Randolph GRAY v. STATE of Mississippi.
CourtMississippi Supreme Court

Earl B. Stegall, Otto A. Wusnack, Gulfport, for appellant.

Edwin Lloyd Pittman, Atty. Gen. by Marvin L. White, Jr. and William S. Boyd, III, Sp. Asst. Attys. Gen., Jackson, for appellee.

En Banc.

David Randolph Gray was indicted, along with Attina Marie Cannaday and Dawn Bushart, for capital murder for the kidnapping and homicide of one Ronald Wojcik, but tried separately. Gray's trial preceded Cannaday's, but her appeal was heard first. Cannaday v. State, 455 So.2d 713 (Miss.1984). Gray's trial resulted in a guilty verdict and imposition of the death penalty. On appeal, he asserts that the trial court erred during the guilt phase in:

1. denying his motion for the return of two prisoners from Parchman to testify on his behalf;

2. overruling objections to the prosecutor using a prior inconsistent statement to impeach its own witness;

3. overruling a motion for mistrial after a state witness commented on Gray's right to remain silent;

4. failing to instruct the jury as to the elements of the underlying felony of kidnapping;

5. failing to grant a lesser included offense instruction on simple murder;

6. refusing to grant lesser included offense instructions on manslaughter and kidnapping; and

7. refusing certain circumstantial evidence instructions.

Gray asserts that the trial court erred in the sentencing phase in:

8. overruling his objection to admission into evidence of copies of an arrest warrant and revocation of probation form;

9. including in the sentencing instruction the aggravating circumstance of whether the murder was committed for pecuniary gain, and

10. failing to charge the jury to make the findings required by Enmund v. Florida.

Finally, Gray contends that our Supreme Court proportionality review:

11. is inadequate under the express terms of Mississippi Code Annotated Sec. 99-19-105 (Supp.1984), and, in any event, his death sentence is disproportionate with other comparable cases.

Part I of the Court's opinion, authored by Justice Sullivan, will discuss these assignments of error.

Part II, authored by Justice Dan Lee, will address Gray's assertion that the trial court erred in:

12. excluding a prospective juror for cause in violation of his right to trial by an impartial jury.

FACTS

Some time after midnight on June 3, 1982, Ronald Wojcik and Sandra Sowash were awakened and forced by knifepoint from Wojcik's Biloxi apartment by Attina Cannaday, David Gray, and Dawn Bushart. All five got into Wojcik's van and Cannaday drove to a remote wooded area north of Gulfport.

On the way, Gray raped Sowash at knifepoint in the rear of the van.

After the van stopped, Cannaday told Wojcik to get out. When he hesitated, Gray pulled him out. Holding a butcher knife to Wojcik's back, Gray marched him 50 to 60 feet into the woods. Cannaday yelled "Kill him", and Gray yelled back for Cannaday to bring Sowash into the woods to him.

Sowash turned and ran down the road. Cannaday threw her knife at Sowash but the handle hit her in the back. Sowash hid at a nearby house, while Cannaday, Gray and Bushart fled to Slidell, Louisiana. At sunrise, the body of Ronald Wojcik was found with 19 stab wounds to the head, hands, upper body, and back.

Gray stated that after he yelled for Sowash to be brought out, Wojcik hit him. Dropping the knife, Gray had a fist fight with Wojcik in which Gray knocked him to the ground, breathless. Picking up the knife, Gray suddenly saw Cannaday who asked for the knife and said she wanted to talk to Wojcik. Gray did so, telling her to say what she had to, but to make it fast. Gray then returned to the road. About five minutes later, Cannaday returned. He asked her what happened, and she replied, "Nothing, he got up and ran off." Gray denied using the butcher knife against Wojcik at any time during or after the fight. He said Cannaday did not return with the butcher knife. He likewise denied ever using either of the folding knives in his possession against Wojcik.

Sowash gave the police a detailed description of Wojcik's white van, as well as the name of Tina as a participant. Sheriff's deputies knew that Cannaday had connections in Slidell, Louisiana, and informed the Louisiana authorities to be on the lookout for the white van and occupants. Wojcik's wallet was found on the highway near Slidell.

Wojcik's van was sighted near Slidell, and Gray and one Timmy Page were arrested. Cannaday was arrested at Page's residence.

LAW

SULLIVAN, Justice, for the Court:

A. GUILT PHASE

1. REFUSAL TO SUMMON PRISONERS

Gray argues that the trial court's refusal to order the return of prisoners Halbert and Breland from Parchman to testify in his behalf violated his right under Mississippi Constitution Article 3, Sec. 26, and United States Constitution Amendment VI, that in all criminal prosecutions the accused shall have the right "... to have compulsory process for obtaining witnesses in his favor...." See United States v. Agurs, 427 U.S. 97, 96 S.Ct. 2392, 49 L.Ed.2d 342 (1976); Washington v. Texas, 388 U.S. 14, 87 S.Ct. 1920, 18 L.Ed.2d 1019 (1967). Gray filed a motion three days prior to trial requesting an order to return the two prisoners. The morning of trial, he offered in support of his motion a letter from Halbert stating that a prisoner (identified by defense counsel as Breland) was told by Cannaday while they were in the Biloxi jail that she had tried to cut off Wojcik's head. Gray argues that the sole basis for the trial judge's refusal was the expense of transporting the prisoners from Parchmen to the Gulf Coast.

The trial judge did refer to the expense of transferring prisoners in ruling on this motion, but the primary basis for overruling Gray's request was that the testimony of Breland as to what Cannaday told him would be inadmissible hearsay if offered to prove the truth of the fact asserted. Murphy v. State, 453 So.2d 1290, 1293-94 (Miss.1984). Also, any testimony by Halbert as to what Cannaday told Breland would be double hearsay, unless each link fits under an exception to the hearsay rule. Id. at 1294.

The judge recognized that if Cannaday took the stand as a witness, waived her Fifth Amendment right to remain silent, and denied that she took part in the murder, then Breland's testimony that she said she cut off Wojcik's head might have been admissible to impeach her testimony as a prior inconsistent statement. Therefore, the trial judge ruled that, if the proper predicate were laid for impeaching Cannaday, he would reconsider his ruling on the motion to transfer. The trial judge also was made aware that Breland had discussed the matter with defense counsel and said that, if brought back, he would not testify. At trial, Cannaday was called by Gray to testify but she invoked the Fifth Amendment right to remain silent on all matters concerning the murder.

The trial judge's refusal to order the attendance of the two prisoners was based on the lack of a colorable need for them to be summoned. The court correctly foresaw the fact that Cannaday, whose trial followed Gray's, would choose to remain silent, so that no basis arose for Halbert and Breland to be summoned to give their otherwise inadmissible testimony. Even so, the trial court left its ruling open for reconsideration in the event that Cannaday's testimony allowed for impeachment. It has been observed that the accused's right to compulsory process is not absolute and the state may require a showing of some colorable need for persons to be summoned lest the right be abused. Passman v. Blackburn, 652 F.2d 559, 566 (5th Cir.1981). The motion to return Halbert and Breland from Parchman was addressed to the trial court's sound discretion, and we cannot conclude that Gray has demonstrated that the court's ruling was so fundamentally unfair as to deprive him of due process of law. See United States v. Wilson, 732 F.2d 404, 412 (5th Cir.1984).

Gray's reliance on Gradsky v. State, 243 Miss. 379, 137 So.2d 820 (1962), is misplaced. In that case we held that a defendant may summon his own attorney to give evidence vital to his defense, even though it may cause the lawyer embarrassment or raise the appearance of an ethical violation. Unlike Gradsky, supra, the admissibility of evidence which Gray sought to introduce through the prisoners was contingent upon the laying of a proper predicate which failed to materialize. This assignment of error is without merit.

2. STATE IMPEACHING ITS OWN WITNESS

Gray argues that the state's use of prior statements to impeach its own witness, Timothy Page, was improper because it was not shown that Page's testimony took the state by surprise nor that Page was unexpectedly hostile. Moffett v. State, 456 So.2d 714 (Miss.1984). In Moffett, we affirmed that a party is prohibited from impeaching his own witness with a prior statement when he knows reasonably well in advance that the witness has repudiated the statement. Id. at 718-19. Applying the standard in Hall v. State, 250 Miss. 253, 165 So.2d 345 (1964), we concluded that the state was not genuinely taken by surprise by witness Johnson's repudiation of his prior statement nor was Johnson unexpectedly hostile. Id.

In this case, Timothy Page was summoned from Louisiana by the state to testify against Gray about the events from the time of the arrival of the three suspects at Page's Slidell home until his arrest while riding with Gray in Wojcik's white van.

On direct examination, Page testified that he noticed Gray had a skinned place on his hand, some "bad things on his knuckles" and a little blood on his elbow. Gray told Page that he got in a fight with a couple of men in a bar in Mississippi. Toward the end of direct examination, the state asked Page numerous leading questions, to which Page gave unresponsive answers. The state persisted, and Gray's objection to...

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