Jenkins v. State

Decision Date29 June 2016
Docket NumberNO. AP-77,022.,AP-77,022.
Citation493 S.W.3d 583
PartiesWillie Roy Jenkins, Appellant v. The State of Texas
CourtTexas Court of Criminal Appeals

Kerri K. Anderson–Donica, Corsicana, Angela Moore, San Antonio, for appellant.

Katherine D. Hayes, Lisa C. McMinn, State's Attorney, Austin, for the State.

OPINION

Richardson, J., delivered the opinion of the Court in which Keller, P.J., Meyers, Johnson, Keasler, Hervey, and Yeary, JJ., joined.

In June 2013, a jury convicted appellant of capital murder for committing the offense of murder in the course of aggravated rape in November 1975.1 Based upon the jury's answers to the special issues set forth in Texas Code of Criminal Procedure Article 37.0711, sections 3(b) and 3(e), the trial judge sentenced appellant to death.2 Direct appeal to this Court is automatic.3 Appellant raises nineteen points of error. After reviewing appellant's points of error, this Court finds them to be without merit. Consequently, we affirm the trial court's judgment.

STATEMENT OF FACTS

The trial record reflects that the victim, Sheryl Norris, moved to San Marcos, Texas, from Florida in late August or early September of 1975. Her boyfriend, Charles Wayne Andrus, had moved to San Marcos earlier in the summer to attend Southwest Texas State University. Their mutual friend, Joe Sewell, shared an apartment with Andrus during the summer, but after Norris arrived, Sewell moved out, and Norris moved into the apartment. Norris found employment as a secretary at the Crime Prevention Institute, which was part of Southwest Texas State University's Department of Law Enforcement.

On November 24, 1975, the Monday before Thanksgiving, Norris arrived at work around 8:00 a.m. She planned to travel to Florida later that week to spend Thanksgiving with her family. She requested and received permission from her supervisor, Fred Stansbury, to take the afternoon off to pack for her trip. The office routinely closed at noon, and the employees would leave the premises until the office reopened at 1:00 p.m. At noon, Norris went home for lunch, as she did on most days. Andrus, who was studying on campus, telephoned Norris at their apartment two times between noon and 1:00 p.m. because he and Norris usually talked over the phone during Norris' lunch break, but no one answered.

When Norris did not return to work in the afternoon, Stansbury assumed that she had stayed home to pack for her trip. Andrus returned home around 5:05 p.m. to find the front door ajar and the music on the stereo turned up to an “almost deafening level.” As he entered the apartment, he noticed that a throw rug by the front door was crumpled. He turned down the stereo and walked through the apartment, calling for Norris. He saw her when he turned on the bathroom light. At first he thought she had fallen, and he grabbed her arm to help her. He felt that her arm was stiff and cold, and then he saw that her pants were down. He believed that she was dead. Afraid that Norris' killer was still in the apartment, Andrus ran to a neighbor's apartment and telephoned the police.

Around 6:00 p.m., Norris' supervisor Stansbury received a call at home from the San Marcos Police Department, requesting that he identify one of his employees in a homicide they were investigating. When he arrived at Norris' apartment, police investigators and a Texas Ranger were already inside. He identified Norris' body and then answered the Ranger's questions about Norris' schedule and plans for that day.

The Texas Department of Public Safety (“DPS”) assisted with the investigation. Three specialists from the DPS lab in Austin—a serology trace evidence analyst, a fingerprint examiner, and a photographer —arrived at Norris' apartment around 8:00 p.m. Ron Urbanovsky, the serology trace evidence analyst, observed that the apartment was generally tidy, but the throw rug by the front door was crumpled. He saw coins scattered on the floor near the front door and elsewhere in the apartment, and a folded dollar bill on the floor near the foot of the bed in the master bedroom. Urbanovsky believed that the placement of these items could indicate that a struggle had occurred. In the master bedroom, Urbanovsky observed fecal material on a green blanket on the bed. He also saw feces on the side of the bed and on the floor leading from the bed to the adjoining bathroom. He noted that the bed was a “strange place to find fecal material,” and that it suggested that “somebody was losing control.” There was a dent in the sheet rock next to a light switch. Urbanovsky later determined that the damaged sheet rock material was consistent with white powdered material on the toe of one of Norris' boots, which suggested that Norris had kicked the wall during a struggle.

Urbanovsky observed blood on the bathroom door and the doorjamb. Inside the bathroom, Norris' body was “bent over backward.” Her head and shoulders were under water in the bathtub, and her back was arched over the side of the bathtub. Her arms were bent at the elbow so that her wrists and hands were in the water. The rest of her body was outside of the bathtub, with her buttocks and feet propped on the floor.

Norris was wearing a wristwatch, which was submerged. It had stopped at 12:31. The water was almost to the top of the bathtub and it was discolored. Two scarves or ties were knotted tightly around Norris' neck. Norris was wearing knee-high boots and a long-sleeved white blouse. Her trousers had been pushed down around one of her boots.

As responders lifted Norris' body onto a gurney, Urbanovsky observed “a lot of blood” and fecal material in the area of Norris' genitals and buttocks. There was also fecal material on the bathroom floor underneath Norris' body. Based on his observations, Urbanovsky “thought [they] were looking at a rape/murder.”

Norris' body was transported to a local funeral home. Dr. Charles Bell conducted an autopsy that night, with Urbanovsky and the DPS photographer in attendance. In the area where the ligatures were tied around Norris' neck, Bell and Urbanovsky observed abrasions that suggested strangulation. Bell noted the presence of water in Norris' lungs. He collected blood, fingernail clippings, and hair samples from Norris' body. He swabbed Norris' vagina and smeared the vaginal sample onto a slide, which he viewed under a microscope. Bell identified intact spermatozoa in the vaginal sample and placed the slide into a glass jar, which he gave to Urbanovsky. After the autopsy, Urbanovsky and the other DPS specialists drove to the DPS lab in Austin, where they logged and stored the materials they had collected. Urbanovsky placed the jar containing the slide into the freezer.

Urbanovsky later viewed the slide through a microscope and confirmed the presence of spermatozoa. He created a second slide from the vaginal sample so that he could analyze the material while preserving most of the original sample. Urbanovsky analyzed a small part of the sample to obtain an ABO blood grouping of potential contributors. He also obtained Norris', Andrus', and Sewell's ABO blood groupings and compared them to the ABO blood grouping he obtained from the sample.

Urbanovsky testified at trial that: Norris had type B blood and was a secreter, meaning that her blood group substances included B and H; Andrus had type O blood and was a secreter, meaning his blood group substances included O and H; and Sewell had type A blood and was a secreter, meaning his blood group substances included A and H. The ABO blood grouping obtained from the vaginal sample included blood group substances B and H. This result included Norris as a contributor and excluded Sewell. Urbanovsky noted that his conclusion concerning Andrus was less certain; if a contributor to the sample had been a secreter with type O blood (like Andrus), the analysis would not detect the blood group substance O, but one would still expect it to detect the H. Further, the ABO blood grouping analysis would not detect the blood group substances of a non-secreter, and therefore Urbanovsky could not draw any conclusions concerning the possibility of an unknown contributor who was a non-secreter.

Urbanovsky also used a microscope to examine a hair fragment found under Norris' fingernails. He determined that the hair fragment did not belong to Norris, Andrus, or Sewell. He also examined hairs that he had collected from the crime scene. Some were consistent with Andrus and Sewell, but since both men had lived in the apartment, Urbanovsky could not draw any conclusions from this finding. These results were all that Urbanovsky could obtain from available forensic testing in 1975.

Law enforcement officers investigated several potential suspects, but by the late 1970s, the case was inactive.4 In April 1996, Norris' sister, Terry Ehart, called the San Marcos Police Department to inquire about the status of the case. Her call prompted police investigators to re-examine the file. After reviewing the case file with other investigators, Sergeant Penny Dunn consulted Javier Flores, a DNA analyst at the DPS lab in Austin, about conducting DNA analysis on some of the materials that had been collected in 1975.5 Flores conducted the analysis. He took two swabs from the original vaginal smear and froze them. He preserved one swab, which was still in the lab's freezer at the time of the trial. He extracted a liquid from the second swab for further testing. Flores and later DNA analysts used this liquid extract in their analyses of the vaginal sample. Flores analyzed a small part of the extract in 1997, using PCR technology.6 With the results of this DNA analysis, Flores was able to exclude Andrus as a contributor, but he was not able to obtain a DNA profile that was sufficient to help identify other potential contributors.

In 1999, Cassie Carradine, another DNA analyst at the DPS lab, conducted STR testing on a portion of the extract and obtained a partial DNA profile.7 This profile provided more information than the ...

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