Jackson v. State, 57904

CourtUnited States State Supreme Court of Mississippi
Citation551 So.2d 132
Decision Date06 July 1989
Docket NumberNo. 57904,57904
PartiesJames T. JACKSON v. STATE of Mississippi.

Page 132

551 So.2d 132
STATE of Mississippi.
No. 57904.
Supreme Court of Mississippi.
July 6, 1989.
Rehearing Denied Sept. 20, 1989.

Page 134

Jim Kitchens, Constance L. Johnson, Dowdy, Kitchens, Whittington & Burkhalter, Jackson, for appellant.

Mike Moore, Atty. Gen. by DeWitt Allred, Sp. Asst. Atty. Gen., Jackson, for appellee.

En Banc.

Page 135

ROBERTSON, Justice, for the Court:


Today's appellant presses a plethora of points seeking relief from a manslaughter conviction and twenty year sentence. Some of these are less than free from doubt. All have been considered with care and are discussed below. What is most troublesome of all is that nothing in the record before us makes clear, how and why appellant, a successful middle aged businessman, a pillar of his South Mississippi community, and active in his church, could kill his wife.

In the end, we are satisfied that faithful application of the law to the facts and the course of proceedings before us requires affirmance.


On the night of March 12, 1985, Mary Nell Jackson was assaulted and seriously injured while on the premises of Red Carpet Motors in Columbia, Mississippi. The following day she died of the injuries sustained in the assault. Her approximately fifty-year-old husband, James T. Jackson, the defendant below and appellant here, was with her that night and much of our understanding of events prior to the arrival of police and emergency medical personnel are the result of his voluntary statements.

Red Carpet Motors is designed like the many automobile dealerships. A showroom extends across the entire front of the building. The business and sales offices are located behind the showroom. A central hallway runs from the showroom to the "shop" and "parts department" at the rear of the building. The shop doors are located on the same side of the building as the showroom doors.

According to Jackson, he and his wife arrived at the dealership at approximately 8:00 p.m. He worked on his tax return. Mary Nell telephoned a friend, Merle Bass, who testified that this call ended at approximately 8:35 p.m. At 8:56 p.m., James Jackson telephoned the Columbia Police Department and reported a robbery. Jackson requested an ambulance for his injured wife.

Within two minutes of Jackson's call, Sergeant Richard Stringer arrived at Red Carpet Motors. Jackson told him that an armed robbery had occurred and that his wife had been assaulted by someone while he, Jackson, was in another part of the building being forced at gunpoint to open the safe.

According to Jackson's statement, he and Mary Nell heard a noise at the shop door. He went through the showroom to investigate. He opened the showroom door and looked outside toward the shop door. A masked gunman confronted Jackson and forced him to open the outside shop door. Jackson and the robber walked through the shop to the central hallway. Jackson unlocked the hall door and the two went up the hall to the showroom where the safe was located. While stalling in opening the safe, Jackson says he heard a noise in the shop that sounded like boxes falling. He responded but the robber hit him and told him to hurry up and open the safe.

After opening the safe, Jackson says he gave the robber a blue bank bag containing the receipts of March 12. The robber then demanded Jackson's jewelry and money. He purportedly ripped the watch off of Jackson's wrist. The robber started up the hall. Jackson followed. The robber turned at the hallway door that opens into the shop and told Jackson not to follow him. Jackson stopped for a moment and then followed. He saw someone leaving by the shop door. Then he saw his wife lying on the floor face down, with blood running from beneath her. He immediately called 911.

Jackson gave statements detailing his version of these events on more than one occasion. He first related the sequence to Sgt. Stringer on Tuesday, March 12. He then prepared a typed statement which he delivered to the Columbia Police Department on Monday, March 18. Jackson was interviewed by the investigating officers, and on April 12 he assisted in staging a reenactment of the robbery.

Page 136

These various statements contain inconsistencies in the description of the robber's clothing, the duration of the robbery, and the kind of "noise" Jackson heard while opening the safe. These discrepancies aroused the suspicion of investigating officers, who, after a two month investigation failed to unearth any evidence that anyone else was at Red Carpet Motors on the evening in question, decided ultimately that Jackson had fabricated the robbery story.

This criminal prosecution formally commenced some four months later, on July 16, 1985, to be exact. On that date the Marion County Grand Jury returned an indictment charging James Jackson with the murder of his wife, Mary Nell. On his motion venue was changed to Rankin County, where he was ultimately found guilty of manslaughter. The Circuit Court, in response to the jury verdict, sentenced Jackson to serve a term of twenty years in the custody of the Mississippi Department of Corrections. Miss.Code Ann. Sec. 97-3-25 (1972).

From that conviction and sentence Jackson now appeals, assigning ten (10) errors.


Jackson first argues that the Circuit Court erred when it refused to enter judgment of acquittal notwithstanding the verdict of the jury. Jackson's specific point is that the evidence is legally insufficient to sustain a verdict of either murder or manslaughter. While conceding that the rather critical scrutiny his account of the events of the evening of March 12, 1985, received was "a legitimate inquiry," Jackson argues that the prosecution's case "was almost entirely negative in nature, and the prosecution relied heavily on persuading the jury not to believe appellant's account...."

Our scope of review of such points is as familiar as it is limited. All of the evidence must be considered in the light most favorable to the prosecution. McCurdy v. State, 511 So.2d 148, 150 (Miss.1987); Winston v. State, 479 So.2d 1093, 1095 (Miss.1985); May v. State, 460 So.2d 778, 781 (Miss.1984). The prosecution must be given the benefit of all favorable inferences that may reasonably be drawn from the credible evidence. Harris v. State, 532 So.2d 602, 603 (Miss.1988); Burge v. State, 472 So.2d 392, 396 (Miss.1985).

If the facts and inferences so considered point in favor of the defendant with sufficient force that reasonable men could not have found beyond a reasonable doubt that the defendant was guilty, the assignment of error should be sustained. On the other hand, if there is substantial evidence in the record of such quality and weight that having in mind the beyond-a-reasonable-doubt burden-of-proof standard, reasonable fair minded men in the exercise of impartial judgment might reach different conclusions regarding the guilt of the defendant, we have no authority to disturb the jury's verdict.

Weeks v. State, 493 So.2d 1280, 1282 (Miss.1986); Gray v. State, 487 So.2d 1304, 1310 (Miss.1986); Parker v. State, 484 So.2d 1033, 1036 (Miss.1986).

Jackson invokes Weathersby v. State, 165 Miss. 207, 209, 147 So. 481, 482 (1933), the general rule of which is that, if the defendant and his witnesses are the only eyewitnesses to a homicide and if their version of what happened is both reasonable and consistent with innocence and if, further, there is no contradiction of that version in the physical facts, facts of common knowledge or other credible evidence, then the accused is entitled to a directed verdict of acquittal. Weathersby, of course, is nothing more than a particularized version of our general standards according to which courts must decide whether in a criminal prosecution the accused is entitled to a judgment of acquittal as a matter of law. Lanier v. State, 533 So.2d 473, 490 (Miss.1988); Shaw v. State, 521 So.2d 1278, 1282 (Miss.1987); Wetz v. State, 503 So.2d 803, 809 (Miss.1987); Harveston v. State, 493 So.2d 365, 371 (Miss.1986).

Using these standards we examine the evidence of record in this case. Mary Nell Jackson was brutally attacked sometime between 8:35 and 8:56 p.m. When the Emergency Medical Technicians arrived at 9:01 the blood from her injuries had begun

Page 137

to clot on the concrete floor. Although blood was spattered on the walls of the dealership, none of the victim's blood was found on Jackson or his clothes. No weapon was ever identified as the murder weapon. A shattered Coke bottle was found near the victim's body, which could have been the murder weapon. Jackson's demeanor was described as unusually calm and unconcerned by some witnesses.

Jackson's inconsistent descriptions of the assailant, and the noise during the "robbery" were presented to the jury. Quite significantly, a bank bag containing the receipts of March 12, which Jackson claimed had been stolen, was found in a file cabinet in the dealership. An employee who was also Jackson's brother-in-law, however, testified that the bank bag itself was not the same one which was in the safe prior to the robbery, although the receipts were the ones which had been in the safe. One witness, an employee who was passing by, testified that the shop door was closed at 8:45, another testified that she saw the door opening at 8:55. The evidence reflects no motive for murder.

James Jackson did not claim to know how Mary Nell Jackson was assaulted. The prosecution argued that Jackson attacked his wife, then fabricated the story to cover his crime. The evidence, as presented to the jury is full of inconsistencies, time discrepancies, and improbable physical feats by the "robber". This became apparent in the "reenactment" to be discussed below. That the bank bag with the "stolen" receipts of March 12 was found in the office may reasonably be said to suggest that Jackson was lying about the robbery.

We regard the evidence as legally sufficient to establish beyond a...

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