Hansen v. State, 89-DP-0823

CourtUnited States State Supreme Court of Mississippi
Citation592 So.2d 114
Docket NumberNo. 89-DP-0823,89-DP-0823
PartiesTracy Alan HANSEN v. STATE of Mississippi.
Decision Date18 December 1991

Page 114

592 So.2d 114
Tracy Alan HANSEN
STATE of Mississippi.
No. 89-DP-0823.
Supreme Court of Mississippi.
Dec. 18, 1991.

Page 120

Dale Robinson, Gulfport, for appellant.

Mike C. Moore, Atty. Gen., Marvin L. White, Jr., Asst. Atty. Gen., Charlene R. Pierce, Sp. Asst. Atty. Gen., Jackson, for appellee.

En Banc.


ROBERTSON, Justice, for the Court:


We are confronted today with the senseless slaying of a veteran state trooper, to which the jury responded by sentencing the killer to die. What stands out on review is how few of the hundreds of rulings the trial judge made from beginning to end are open to credible question. At only two or three points are we seriously troubled that the defendant's substantial right to a fair trial may have been compromised, this though defense counsel has persistently put us through our paces. In this world where there are no perfect trials but where, when life is at stake, we seek trials as fair as is humanly possible--to the prosecution and the defense, the trial judge did about as well as may be done.

For the reasons set forth below, we affirm.



Tracy Alan Hansen was born in Florida on May 25, 1963, and then began the rest of his troubles. These included substantial abuse through a troubled childhood, frequent encounters with Florida's juvenile justice system and, between July, 1981, and October, 1984, at least ten felony convictions--eight property crimes and two escapes.

In the Spring of 1987, Hansen hooked up with Anita Louise Krecic, four years and a day his senior. On Friday, April 10, 1987, the two left Florida in a dark blue Lincoln Continental, and by approximately 6:30 p.m. they had made Mississippi and were traveling westward on Interstate Highway 10, Hansen driving, approaching the western boundary of Harrison County. This was the first week of Daylight Savings Time. The sun was shining.

David Bruce Ladner, eighteen years an officer of the Mississippi Highway Safety Patrol (MHSP), was assigned to the Gulfport Substation. On this Friday afternoon, he was patrolling I-10 in Harrison County when he encountered the dark blue Lincoln Continental and observed erratic driving and speeding. Trooper Ladner pulled in behind the vehicle and signaled to the driver to pull over, which he did. Apparently at the time, Trooper Ladner foresaw nothing more serious than a traffic offense, at worst a driving-while-intoxicated. Once he had the vehicle stopped--on the north side of the road for westbound traffic--Trooper

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Ladner began to suspect more and asked permission to search the car. Hansen and Krecic signed a Consent to Search form, giving fictitious names, Christopher Larcinesse and Barbara Gilbert. In the process, Ladner took the keys to the Continental and placed them in his pocket.

It is unclear exactly what happened next, but, at some point, Hansen drew a .38 caliber pistol and shot at Trooper Ladner. To avoid the fire, Ladner ran around the car and dropped to the ground, in an apparent attempt to roll underneath. Hansen managed to get off two shots at close range, each striking Ladner in the back. Still, Ladner managed to get up and make it to the median strip, where Charles Shirley, fortuitously driving through at the moment, picked him up and took him to the hospital. Ladner died some thirty-one (31) hours later--on early Sunday morning, April 12, 1987--still in the hospital.

A number of motorists passing by the area observed bits and pieces of what happened. These included William Forrest Runnels, a sales representative from Sims, Alabama; Paul Tibbetts, a pharmacist from Baton Rouge, Louisiana; Donald Ray Meche, district manager for Seacorp. Industries from Mobile; Steve Diaz, a Gulf Coast resident; Sonya Burt, a seventeen-year old traveling with her parents, Janet and Frank Burt; Marla Kelly, another seventeen-year old; Jack Briar; Charles E. Childress; Debbie Butler, a legal secretary in Biloxi; Amanda Davis, another seventeen-year old; Laura Migues; her traveling companion, Jack McDermott; and, of course, Charles Shirley. Kathy Ann Romany, a resident of Marguerite, Florida, had been traveling west on I-10 at about the same time and had noticed the blue towncar from about Pensacola on and identified Hansen as the driver. Tibbets, Meche, and Diaz identified Hansen as the man they had seen on the side of the road on Friday evening, April 10, and Tibbetts and Meche said they saw Hansen shoot Trooper Ladner.

Hansen and Krecic, having been relieved of the keys to their car, fled the scene in Ladner's Highway Patrol car. They took the first exit north off I-10 and immediately pulled over a 1984 silver metallic Ford Ranger driven by Daisy Morgan, a deaf-mute. Hansen and Krecic stole Morgan's vehicle, leaving Morgan and the Patrol car on the side of the road. Morgan, who could see quite well, later identified Hansen as the man who stole her Ranger.

Over the next several hours, Hansen and Krecic sought assistance from various Hancock County residents, presenting assorted tales of woe, the bottom line in each instance being that they wanted transportation to New Orleans. After midnight, Hansen and Krecic were still in Hancock County and made their way to the home of Pat Ladner and his family on Rocky Hill Road, in the apparent company of the Ladners' brother-in-law, Jody Wade, and Charlie Williams. Some thirty minutes later, Wade and Williams agreed to take Hansen and Krecic to Waveland to find a motel room. En route they were stopped by State Troopers Freddie Keel and Darryl Deschamp, and Hansen and Krecic were taken into custody.

Hansen and Krecic were initially charged with two counts of grand larceny, no doubt referring to the two vehicles they had stolen, and Hansen was charged with aggravated assault on a law enforcement officer. When Trooper Ladner died the next day, these charges were elevated to capital murder.


On May 28, 1987, the grand jury of Harrison County, Mississippi, returned an indictment charging Tracy Alan Hansen with the capital murder of David Bruce Ladner, a peace officer with the Mississippi Highway Safety Patrol who was acting in his official capacity and that the killing occurred at a time when Hansen knew of that capacity. Miss.Code Ann. Sec. 97-3-19(2)(a) (Supp.1987). The indictment charged as well that Hansen was an habitual offender. Miss.Code Ann. Sec. 99-19-81 (Supp.1987). Extensive pre-trial proceedings followed, and the Circuit Court, by reason of pre-trial publicity, ordered venue changed to Hinds County.

Page 122

On October 26, 1987, the Court called the case for trial sitting in Jackson, Mississippi. In due course, the jury returned a verdict that Hansen was guilty as charged. Thereafter, the trial entered the penalty phase, and, in the end, the jury returned a verdict providing, inter alia,

We, the jury, unanimously find that the aggravating circumstances of:

1. The capital offense was especially heinous, atrocious or cruel, and

2. The capital offense was committed for the purpose of avoiding or preventing lawful arrest, or effecting an escape from custody[,]

are sufficient to impose the death penalty, and we unanimously find beyond a reasonable doubt, that the aggravating circumstances outweigh the mitigating circumstances and we unanimously find beyond a reasonable doubt that the defendant should suffer the penalty of death.

See Miss.Code Ann. Sec. 99-19-101 (Supp.1987).

The Circuit Court thereupon sentenced Hansen to death by lethal injection. Miss.Code Ann. Sec. 99-19-51(1) (Supp.1987). This appeal has followed.


III. Preliminary Hearing

Hansen argues that the Circuit Court erred when it denied his motion for a preliminary hearing. The record reflects Hansen filed his motion on June 16, 1987. This was almost three weeks after the grand jury had indicted Hansen. The Circuit Court originally took the matter under advisement. After four days of pre-trial hearings during the course of which most of the witnesses who later appeared at the trial were produced, examined and cross-examined, the Circuit Court denied the motion saying:

I'm not granting a preliminary--because as I say, you've got all of the D.A.'s files, all of the investigative work that's been done on this case and certainly as I say, you have had a prima facie case presented here with the exception of venue and a pathologist. There's just no need for it, and I take it as part of the investigative files, you have whatever medical records the D.A.'s office has[,] is that correct?

On October 6, 1987, the Court entered a formal order denying Hansen a preliminary hearing.

The Mississippi Uniform Criminal Rules of Circuit Court Practice have for over ten years mandated preliminary hearings for those accused of crimes. Rule 1.04(3) directs the judicial officer who handles the initial appearance 1 to advise the accused of his right to a preliminary hearing and to set a date for such "within a reasonable time." Rule 1.07 then mandates that the "preliminary hearing shall be heard by a judicial officer on the date set for such hearing at the defendant's initial appearance." The hearing, of course, may be held before any judicial officer, including a justice court judge or a municipal court judge. In Avery v. State, 555 So.2d 1039 (Miss.1990), we held that Rules 1.04 and 1.07 mean what they say--nothing more, nothing less.

Rule 1.04(3) provides that the accused may waive preliminary hearing in writing or in open court upon the advice of counsel. Avery held as well that the right the Rule confers is subject to a harmless error analysis. In that case, complaint of denial of a preliminary hearing was raised on the appeal of defendant's conviction following a second trial, a setting in which he had the benefit of one complete trial (which had resulted in a hung jury and access to all "discovery" that first trial may have afforded). In consequence we held the error

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in denying defendant's...

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