Hill v. State, No. 53795

CourtUnited States State Supreme Court of Mississippi
Writing for the CourtBROOM; ROBERTSON, J., and PATTERSON; ROBERTSON; PATTERSON; HAWKINS; PATTERSON; ROBERTSON; BRENNAN; STEWART; MARSHALL; BURGER; BLACKMUN; POWELL; REHNQUIST
Citation432 So.2d 427
PartiesAlvin HILL, v. STATE of Mississippi.
Docket NumberNo. 53795
Decision Date04 May 1983

Page 427

432 So.2d 427
Alvin HILL,
v.
STATE of Mississippi.
No. 53795.
Supreme Court of Mississippi.
May 4, 1983.
Rehearing Denied May 25, 1983.

Page 429

Suggs & Anderson, Alvin Suggs, Wallace Anderson, Olive Branch, for appellant.

Bill Allain, Atty. Gen. by Billy L. Gore, Asst. Atty. Gen., Jackson, for appellee.

En Banc.

HAWKINS, Justice, for the Court on Parts I, II, and III; BROOM, Presiding Justice, for the Court on Part IV.

Alvin Hill appeals from his conviction of capital murder and sentence of death in the Circuit Court of DeSoto County. We affirm.

The two most serious questions on this appeal concern the admission of the murder weapon into evidence as being violative of the "fruit of the poisonous tree" doctrine and the refusal of the trial judge to grant instructions requested by the defense in the sentencing phase. The former is discussed in Part II of this opinion, the latter in Part IV.

The remaining assignments of error are addressed in Part III.

Page 430

I.

FACTS

On Friday, August 17, 1979, at approximately 6:30 p.m., reserve deputy sheriffs Donald Sutton and Mike Madden were patrolling Stateline Road in DeSoto County. They observed a disturbance at a car parked in a driveway and stopped to investigate. The problem was nothing more than a family quarrel, but while they were quieting the disturbance, they detected a foul odor. They walked towards the woods north of the road, from whence the odor came, and just inside the woods found the decomposed body of Robert Lee Watkins, whose truck had been hijacked. Watkins had been robbed and murdered on July 12, 1979.

At the time of his death Watkins was employed as a truck driver for American Freight Lines Trucking Company in Memphis.

Upon seeing the decomposed body, other law enforcement officers were summoned, and an investigation continued well into the night. Beside the remains Watkins' wallet was found, containing his Tennessee driver's license, his social security card, and a credit card bearing his name. The remains were identified by experts, and there is no question but that the human bones and remnants of rotting flesh the officers found were what was left of Watkins' corpse.

On July 16, 1979, after the Watkins murder but prior to discovery of Watkins' body, in Tunica County, Alvin Hill and one Sammy Lee Hampton hijacked and robbed a truck driver employed by the Nat Buring Packing Company. Hill was arrested and taken into custody for this crime by Tunica County Sheriff Hugh Monteith on July 20. The record does not reflect precisely when Hampton was arrested, but no doubt his arrest also took place on or about July 20.

FBI Agent Bobby G. Shanks questioned Hill in a Memphis police station on July 19 and 20 about the hijacking of the American Freight Lines truck. He testified he questioned Hill again July 25 in the DeSoto County jail. Present at these interrogations, in addition to Agent Shanks and Hill, were A.D. Gatewood of the Mississippi Highway Safety Patrol and Sheriff Monteith. According to Agent Shanks, he informed Hill on July 25 that Hampton had told him the previous day that Hill was involved in the hijacking of the American Freight Lines truck and the disappearance of the driver. According to Shanks, when he made this statement to Hill, he replied, "Sammy will get his." 1

Ricky Wayne Ward was chief investigator for the DeSoto County sheriff's office on August 17, 1979, and some time that night informed Hill the body of Watkins had been found.

Ward next questioned Hill on the morning of August 18 in the Tunica County jail.

Page 431

Shortly after 5:00 o'clock that afternoon, in the presence of Sheriff Monteith, DeSoto County Sheriff Denver Sowell, deputy Bobby Gene Biffle, and Ward, Hill confessed the robbery and murder of Watkins. The confession was made in the sheriff's office in Tunica County.

According to Hill's confession, one Gregory Tucker and another black male whose name he did not know participated in the hijacking and robbery, but Hill stated he was the person who shot Watkins. He stated Watkins was on his knees at the time, and the first shot was into the back of Watkins' head. He believed he shot three times. (R. 175). When asked what he did with the murder weapon, Hill stated it was thrown into the Coldwater River from a highway bridge south of Hernando.

Two aspects of the confession need now be noted. First, it was later ruled an involuntary confession on a pre-trial motion to suppress, and was therefore inadmissible at trial. Second, Hill's statement in the confession that the gun was thrown into the river was false. Later in the evening of Saturday, August 18, around 8:00 to 8:30, Ward returned to Hill's jail cell, and Hill told him "Mr. Carter" of Memphis had the gun. 2

On Sunday, August 19, Sheriff Monteith telephoned the Memphis Police Department and informed officer Bobby S. Rust that a black male named Robert Carter had the pistol, and that he worked for either a Goodyear or B.F. Goodrich store on Union Avenue.

On Monday morning, August 20, officer Rust and Sergeant Priddy of the Memphis Police Department questioned Carter at a B.F. Goodrich store on Union Avenue; Carter told them he had loaned his pistol to a black male he knew only as "Rusty" (and who in fact was Hill). Carter took the officers to his apartment in Memphis and delivered the pistol to them. Carter was not implicated in either of Hill's robberies, and never was charged with any offense. He testified as a witness for the state at Hill's trial.

After recovering the weapon, the Memphis Police Department delivered it to Ward.

On October 5, 1979, the grand jury of DeSoto County indicted Hill, Tucker, and one Laverne Milam for capital murder of Watkins, in the commission of the crime of robbery, in violation of section 97-3-19(2)(e) of the Mississippi Code. Milam did not testify and the record does not reveal anything about him other than the fact that he was arrested in Flagstaff, Arizona, and returned to Memphis by the Memphis Police Department. Tucker pleaded guilty to manslaughter and testified as a witness for the state.

The circuit judge conducted a hearing on November 4, 1980, on the motion to suppress the confession, and ruled the confession had been given as a result of inducements by Ward, and was therefore inadmissible.

A bifurcated trial of Hill for capital murder was begun November 17, 1980, and concluded November 21.

Clarity of this opinion does not require a detail of the trial evidence. When necessary or appropriate, we will discuss relevant portions of the record under the various assignments of error.

One part of the trial proceedings, however, does deserve our scrutiny at this time. This involves the admission into evidence of the murder weapon, the pistol recovered from Carter.

When Sheriff Monteith was called as a witness by the state, the record reveals the following testimony relative to the source of his information about the murder weapon:

Page 432

Q. Sheriff Monteith, in the course of your investigation, did you have occasion to interview Sammy Hampton?

A. I did.

Q. As a result of those interviews, did you at anytime inform officers of the Memphis Police Department where a possible gun could be found?

A. I did.

* * *

Q. Do you recall, Sheriff Monteith, who you gave that information to?

A. I gave it to a Sgt. Priddy of Major Crimes in Memphis, Tennessee. Sgt. Priddy.

Q. As a result of that information being given to Sgt. Priddy, do you know whether or not any weapon was recovered?

A. No, sir, I do not know whether--I passed the information on, and I do not know the results of that--what the outcome of that was.

(R. 818-819) (emphasis added).

The above testimony of Sheriff Monteith was admitted in open court without objection by defense counsel.

Later in the trial, the trial judge conducted a hearing in chambers prior to the introduction of the murder weapon before the jury. During that hearing, officer Rust related the receipt of the information about the pistol from Sheriff Monteith on Sunday, August 19, as above noted; that Sheriff Monteith did not give the source of the information; and that Rust did not know from whom Sheriff Monteith got his information. Rust then testified to obtaining a .357 Magnum (Ruger) revolver pistol from Carter the next day, also as above noted.

Officer J.E. Anderson and Sergeant R.E. Priddy of the Memphis Police Department corroborated the testimony of Rust as to the recovery of the weapon from Carter. Priddy further testified that Hampton had been previously arrested for the Tunica County robbery and that Hampton had supplied no information about the American Freight Lines hijacking. Priddy also testified that in their questioning of Milam, he had no knowledge of where the pistol came from.

Ward then testified he had received the pistol from the Memphis Police Department. Ward was not asked on direct examination and did not testify whether he had received any information about this gun from Hill.

On cross-examination of Ward, the following appears in the record:

Q. Rick, you did not participate in the recovery of this weapon?

A. No, I was contacted by the Memphis Police Department that they had custody of the weapon.

* * *

Q. Did they ever tell you how they got information in reference to the recovery of this gun, what their source of information was?

A. No, sir.

* * *

Q. Rick, what information did you receive on this gun?

A. Rust or Priddy one called me and told me that they had picked somebody up who had the gun that was used in the murder, and that the person had told them that they had loaned Hill this gun, and they wanted to know if we needed it in our case. I told them yes, and I asked them to return it--you know, give it to us for they (sic) trial, and they said yes. So, I went up and they took me over to the property room and assigned it over to me.

(R. 925-927).

Following the above testimony, the trial judge made a ruling. In...

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107 practice notes
  • Shell v. State, No. 03-DP-0087
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of Mississippi
    • November 29, 1989
    ...(Miss.1985), cert. denied, 476 U.S. 1109, 106 S.Ct. 1958, 90 L.Ed.2d 366 (1986); In re Hill, 460 So.2d 792 (Miss.1984); Hill v. State, 432 So.2d 427 (Miss.1983), cert. denied, 464 U.S. 977, 104 S.Ct. 414, 78 L.Ed.2d 352 Cole v. State, 525 So.2d at 369; See also, Pinkney v. State, 538 So.2d ......
  • Holly v. State, No. 93-DP-00263-SCT
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of Mississippi
    • February 8, 1996
    ...was then carried over to the sentencing phase pursuant to motions from both sides who stipulated to its use. See Hill v. State, 432 So.2d 427, 441 (Miss.1983) (there is no error in permitting jury to consider during sentencing phase all previous evidence introduced at guilt phase). "Th......
  • Cox v. State, No. 2013–DP–00087–SCT.
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of Mississippi
    • June 25, 2015
    ...441 So.2d 846 (Miss.1983).Tokman v. State, 435 So.2d 664 (Miss.1983).Leatherwood v. State, 435 So.2d 645 (Miss.1983).Hill v. State, 432 So.2d 427 (Miss.1983).Pruett v. State, 431 So.2d 1101 (Miss.1983).Gilliard v. State, 428 So.2d 576 (Miss.1983).Evans v. State, 422 So.2d 737 (Miss.1982).18......
  • Keller v. State, NO. 2010-DP-00425-SCT
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of Mississippi
    • February 6, 2014
    ...So. 2d 846 (Miss. 1983). Tokman v. State, 435 So. 2d 664 (Miss. 1983). Leatherwood v. State, 435 So. 2d 645 (Miss. 1983). Hill v. State, 432 So. 2d 427 (Miss. 1983). Pruett v. State, 431 So. 2d 1101 (Miss. 1983). Gilliard v. State, 428 So. 2d 576 (Miss. 1983). Evans v. State, 422 So. 2d 737......
  • Request a trial to view additional results
107 cases
  • Shell v. State, No. 03-DP-0087
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of Mississippi
    • November 29, 1989
    ...(Miss.1985), cert. denied, 476 U.S. 1109, 106 S.Ct. 1958, 90 L.Ed.2d 366 (1986); In re Hill, 460 So.2d 792 (Miss.1984); Hill v. State, 432 So.2d 427 (Miss.1983), cert. denied, 464 U.S. 977, 104 S.Ct. 414, 78 L.Ed.2d 352 Cole v. State, 525 So.2d at 369; See also, Pinkney v. State, 538 So.2d ......
  • Holly v. State, No. 93-DP-00263-SCT
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of Mississippi
    • February 8, 1996
    ...was then carried over to the sentencing phase pursuant to motions from both sides who stipulated to its use. See Hill v. State, 432 So.2d 427, 441 (Miss.1983) (there is no error in permitting jury to consider during sentencing phase all previous evidence introduced at guilt phase). "Th......
  • Cox v. State, No. 2013–DP–00087–SCT.
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of Mississippi
    • June 25, 2015
    ...441 So.2d 846 (Miss.1983).Tokman v. State, 435 So.2d 664 (Miss.1983).Leatherwood v. State, 435 So.2d 645 (Miss.1983).Hill v. State, 432 So.2d 427 (Miss.1983).Pruett v. State, 431 So.2d 1101 (Miss.1983).Gilliard v. State, 428 So.2d 576 (Miss.1983).Evans v. State, 422 So.2d 737 (Miss.1982).18......
  • Keller v. State, NO. 2010-DP-00425-SCT
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of Mississippi
    • February 6, 2014
    ...So. 2d 846 (Miss. 1983). Tokman v. State, 435 So. 2d 664 (Miss. 1983). Leatherwood v. State, 435 So. 2d 645 (Miss. 1983). Hill v. State, 432 So. 2d 427 (Miss. 1983). Pruett v. State, 431 So. 2d 1101 (Miss. 1983). Gilliard v. State, 428 So. 2d 576 (Miss. 1983). Evans v. State, 422 So. 2d 737......
  • Request a trial to view additional results

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