Hagood v. State

Decision Date14 August 1998
Citation777 So.2d 162
PartiesRayford HAGOOD v. STATE.
CourtAlabama Court of Criminal Appeals

William Keith Bradford, Birmingham; and Donald L. Colee, Jr., Birmingham, for appellant.

Bill Pryor, atty. gen., and Paul H. Black-well, Jr., asst. atty. gen., for appellee.

BROWN, Judge.

The appellant, Rayford Hagood, was convicted of the capital offense of murder during a kidnapping in the first degree, a violation of § 13A-5-40(a)(1), Code of Alabama 1975. By a vote of 12-0, the jury recommended that the appellant be sentenced to death. The trial court followed the jury's recommendation and sentenced the appellant to death.

On February 14, 1994, between 7:00 a.m. and 7:30 a.m., Clarence Watkins arrived at the fork of the Sipsey River and the Mulberry River to fish. When Watkins got out of his truck and looked down the bank of the river, he saw a human body floating face-down in the water, near the bank of the Mulberry River. Watkins saw that the legs and head of the body were taped. A blanket was draped over the body. Watkins saw vehicle tracks and what appeared to be footprints and drag marks leading to the body. Watkins strung a line around the area and notified the authorities.

John Mark Tirey, who was at that time an investigator for the Walker County Sheriff's Department, arrived at the scene. Tirey retrieved the body by boat so as not to disturb the tracks, the footprints, or the drag marks. Tirey observed that the victim's ankles, knees, hands, wrists, and forearms were bound with duct tape. The victim's head was almost completely covered with the duct tape. The victim did not have a shirt on. A driver's license found in the wallet recovered from the victim identified him as Jessie Price.

Frank Cole, an investigator with the Walker County district attorney's office, interviewed the victim's wife, Mildred Patricia Price, at his office on the day the body was found. Cole took several statements from Mildred. As a result of those statements, Cole requested that Mildred telephone the appellant from his office, and she agreed to do so. Unknown to the appellant, the telephone conversation was recorded. In the telephone conversation, Mildred and the appellant agreed to adhere to their concocted story that on the night of the victim's death, she saw him leave their home with two men.

Later that afternoon, Investigator Cole and Investigator Tirey went to the mobile home where the appellant lived. The appellant agreed to accompany the investigators to the police station. The appellant initially denied involvement with the murder; however, when he was confronted with his tape-recorded conversation with Mildred Price, he confessed.

In his statement, the appellant told the investigators that he and Mildred Price had been involved in a relationship. The appellant claimed to be the father of Mildred's young son, Marlon Ray Price ("Little Ray"). The appellant said that in the months before the incident, Mildred had contacted him several times and had told him the victim was mistreating her children, including Little Ray. He stated that Jessie Price was not supporting Mildred and the children. The appellant told the investigators that what Mildred had told him bothered him a great deal.

The appellant stated that on the afternoon of the incident, Mildred telephoned him and told him Jessie had kicked Little Ray. The appellant told Mildred to leave the back door to her home unlocked and he would "put a stop to it." (R. 781.) Around 11:00 p.m., the appellant parked his car nearby and went to the Price house. He entered the house through the back door, which was unlocked. The appellant stated that he hid in the back bedroom. He said that Jessie Price got out of bed, went to the bathroom, and then returned to his bed. The appellant told the investigators that he was waiting for Price to go to sleep, and that he planned to then "bind" him and take him out of the house. (R. 784.) The appellant stated that Price got out of bed and came into the room where he was hiding, and a scuffle ensued. He claimed that he managed to wrestle Price to the floor, and that someone then threw or rolled him some duct tape, which he used to bind Price's legs, feet, hands, and mouth. The appellant denied that he hit Price with anything, other than his fists. The appellant admitted that he took a pistol which, he claimed, fell from Jessie Price's pocket during the scuffle. The appellant told the investigators that the pistol could be found at his brother's mobile home, where he had been living.

According to the appellant, Mildred gave him the keys to Price's truck. He told the investigators that he put Price in the cab of the truck. The appellant claimed that Price was dressed in jeans and a shirt, and he said that he put a jacket over him. He stated that he brought a blanket from the house to put around Price so that he would not get cold. The appellant told the investigators that he drove to the fork of the Sipsey and Mulberry Rivers, and that he then took Price out of the truck and put him on the riverbank. He denied that Price fell into the river while he was with him, or that he put him in the river. The appellant maintained that when he left, Jessie Price was on the riverbank and that he was still breathing.

After leaving the area, the appellant returned to the Price house. He told Mildred where he had taken Price, and told her that Price would not bother her anymore. The investigators asked the appellant how he could have been confident of that because, according to his version of the story, the victim was alive when he left him. The appellant responded that as he was placing the tape around Price's hands, Price promised that he would leave if the appellant would not hurt him. The appellant maintained that other than binding Price, he did not hurt him. The appellant and Mildred agreed that if anyone questioned Mildred about Price's whereabouts, she would tell them that Price left with two men around midnight. After leaving the Price house, the appellant went to his brother's mobile home and watched television.

Mildred Price's 17-year-old daughter, Tammy Day, and her three younger siblings were present when the appellant attacked Jessie Price. From her bedroom, Tammy saw the appellant in the back room of the house. He had something in his hand and he did not make any noise. Tammy testified that Jessie Price got out of his bed, went into the bathroom, and then returned to bed. Price got out of bed a second time to use the bathroom. As Price was returning from the bathroom, the appellant attacked him, and started beating him. Tammy testified that Price yelled for help and begged for his life. She said that she heard a "hard hit." (R. 1127.)

Tammy testified that when the beating began, she and her three younger siblings went into their mother's bedroom. She said that she, her siblings, and her mother cried as the beating continued. She also heard Jessie Price crying. At some point, she no longer heard Price. Tammy then heard what sounded like duct tape being unrolled. She did not see the appellant carry Price to the truck. Tammy did not see the appellant again that night.

She and her siblings slept in their mother's bedroom. The next morning, Mildred told her children to remain in the bedroom until she got the kitchen cleaned.

Several witnesses testified that during the weeks preceding the incident, they had heard the appellant state that he was going to kill Jessie Price. Two witnesses testified that the appellant told them that he was going to kill Jessie Price and dump his body in the river.

Dr. Kenneth Warner performed the autopsy on Jessie Price. Dr. Warner testified that when he received the body of Jessie Price, Price was clad only in blue jeans and underwear. Price had duct tape on his upper and lower legs, and his hands were taped tightly across his chest. Price also had tape around his head. Because the duct tape was so tightly wound, Dr. Warner had to remove the tape by cutting it, in order not to damage Price's skin. Although Price had some visible injuries, most of the injuries he sustained were covered by the duct tape.

Dr. Warner testified that Price had numerous bruises and lacerations on his head; one laceration was so deep that it went to the bone. The lacerations on Price's head were lineal lacerations, meaning that the lacerations were long and that the skin had been torn with something long and blunt. The lacerations were consistent with a wound caused by being stuck with an object such as a pipe. Price also had lacerations and bruises on his right arm, as well as bruises and lacerations on the back of the left hand. These injuries were consistent with defensive wounds. Dr. Warner testified that the injuries occurred before the victim's death. In his opinion, the cause of death was drowning; however, Dr. Warner indicated that Price would have died from the injuries he received, if he received no medical attention. He further testified that if Price remained conscious, the injuries would have been extremely painful.

Impressions made from the tire tracks at the scene were consistent with impressions from the tires on Price's truck. A pistol belonging to Price was found in the appellant's residence. An iron pipe found in the victim's truck had a hair fragment attached to it consistent with a hair taken from the victim. Fibers found in the bed of the victim's pickup truck were consistent with fibers from the blanket the victim was wrapped in when found. A hair that was consistent with a known hair from Mildred Price was found in the victim's hand. A cast of the footprint made at the scene bore similar characteristics to a shoe found in the mobile home where the appellant had been living.


The appellant contends that the trial court erred in granting the prosecution's challenges for cause of three prospective jurors, based on their opposition to the death...

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