Loden v. State, No. 2002-DP-00282-SCT.

CourtMississippi Supreme Court
Writing for the CourtRandolph, Justice
Citation971 So.2d 548
PartiesThomas Edwin LODEN, Jr. v. STATE of Mississippi. Thomas Edwin Loden, Jr. v. State of Mississippi.
Decision Date04 October 2007
Docket NumberNo. 2006-CA-00432-SCT.,No. 2002-DP-00282-SCT.
971 So.2d 548
Thomas Edwin LODEN, Jr.
v.
STATE of Mississippi.
Thomas Edwin Loden, Jr.
v.
State of Mississippi.
No. 2002-DP-00282-SCT.
No. 2006-CA-00432-SCT.
Supreme Court of Mississippi.
October 4, 2007.
Rehearing Denied January 17, 2008.

[971 So.2d 551]

Office of Capital Defense Counsel by Andre De Gruy, Stacy P. Ferraro, attorneys for appellant.

Office of the Attorney General by Marvin L. White, Jr., Jason Lewis Davis, attorneys for appellee.

Thomas Edwin Loden, Jr., pro se.

EN BANC.

RANDOLPH, Justice, for the Court.


¶ 1. Late in the evening on June 22, 2000, Thomas E. Loden, Jr. ("Loden") kidnapped sixteen-year-old Leesa Marie Gray ("Leesa"). Over the next four hours, Loden repeatedly raped and sexually battered Leesa, videotaping portions of the sadistic acts, before murdering her by way of suffocation and manual strangulation. Following his arrest, Loden was indicted for capital murder, rape, and four counts of sexual battery. On September 21, 2001, Loden waived his right to a jury for trial and sentencing, and pleaded guilty to all

971 So.2d 552

six counts in the indictment. The Circuit Court of Itawamba County, Mississippi, accepted those pleas and adjudged Loden guilty on each count. At the sentencing hearing, Loden elected to waive cross-examination of all of the State's witnesses, to waive objection to all exhibits presented by the State, and not to offer any mitigation evidence on his own behalf. During the proceeding, Loden addressed the court and apologized to the friends and family of Leesa, by stating "I hope you may have some sense of justice when you leave here today." The circuit court found all four factors required by Mississippi Code Annotated Section 99-19-101(7) (Rev.2007) were satisfied, that sufficient aggravating circumstances existed, and "that the mitigating circumstances do not outweigh the aggravating circumstances and that the death penalty should be imposed." Subsequently, Loden filed notice of appeal.

¶ 2. In July 2003, the Office of Capital Defense Counsel filed a "Motion to Vacate Guilty Plea" alleging that Loden's plea was involuntary because his "decision to plead guilty was based on inaccurate legal advice given by his trial attorneys." Specifically, Loden claimed that his guilty plea was made in reliance upon "trial counsel's erroneous advice that he could still appeal adverse rulings on pre-trial motions after entering the guilty plea." After testimony and exhibits were received, an "Order and Opinion" of the circuit court dismissed Loden's motion for post-conviction relief, finding that Loden knowingly and voluntarily entered his guilty plea, and that Loden cognizantly waived his right to appeal. Thereafter, Loden filed notice of appeal on dismissal of his motion for post-conviction relief. This Court entered an order consolidating the appeals.

FACTS

¶ 3. Loden admitted that, at approximately 10:45 p.m. on June 22, 2000, he kidnapped sixteen-year-old Leesa. According to an interview of Loden, after discovering Leesa's car on the side of the road, he:

asked her what was wrong. She said she had a flat. And I told her that . . . `Don't worry. I'm a Marine.[1] We do this kind of stuff.' And . . . she got out . . . looked at the tire, and while I was bent down looking at the tire, off-handedly [I] asked her . . . `Have you ever thought about being a Marine?' And she goes, `No, that'd be the last thing I want to do with my life.' And that made me very upset. . . . From the back of my memory, what she said pissed me off so violently, I told her to get in the van.

From approximately 10:45 p.m. until 2:30 a.m. on June 23, 2000, Loden admitted he committed repeated acts of rape and sexual battery on Leesa, before murdering her by suffocation and manual strangulation.2 Loden videotaped portions of the perverted and heinous crimes. Late that afternoon, Loden was discovered lying by the side of a road with the words "I'm sorry" carved into his chest and apparent self-inflicted lacerations on his wrists. Soon thereafter, Leesa's nude body, with her hands and feet bound, was found in Loden's van, pushed under a folded-down seat.

¶ 4. Loden was indicted for capital murder,3 rape, and four counts of sexual battery.

971 So.2d 553

That same day, the circuit court entered an order appointing James P. Johnstone to represent Loden. At his arraignment, Loden pleaded not guilty to all charges. Subsequently, the circuit court entered an order appointing David Lee Daniels as additional counsel for Loden.

¶ 5. Loden filed a number of pretrial motions, including: "Motion for Change of Venue"; "Motion for Appointment of Investigator for the Defense"; "Motion for Psychiatric Examination"; "Ex Parte Motion for Funds for Expert Assistance in the Field of Mitigation Investigation"; and "Motion to Declare Miss.Code Ann. § 97-3-19(2) Unconstitutional; or, In the Alternative, to Preclude the Prosecution From Relying on Miss.Code Ann. § 99-19-101(5)(d) as an Aggravating Circumstance at Defendant's Capital Resentencing Trial."

¶ 6. Loden's motion for change of venue argued extensive local media coverage as its basis. At the conclusion of the hearing, Circuit Judge Gardner stated that "it is my intention to move this case to Brandon, Rankin County, Mississippi for trial[,] for selection of a jury and for trial of the case." An order to that effect was entered by the circuit court.

¶ 7. Loden's "Motion for Appointment of Investigator for the Defense" claimed that "the investigator will locate and interview potential mitigating witnesses and assist in locating [Loden's] school and medical records." Furthermore, Loden pleaded that:

[d]efense counsel is unable without the assistance of an investigator to interview and prepare all witnesses; adequately develop the full range of mitigating circumstances that exist in this case; rebut the State's evidence compiled by several investigators and detectives from several government agencies; and insure [Loden] receives as fair a trial as possible.

(Emphasis added). Loden proposed Herb Wells as a qualified investigator. The circuit court entered an order "authoriz[ing] the appointment of Herb Wells, as the Criminal Defense Investigator." Loden later filed a "Motion for Additional Funds for Investigator for the Defense." The circuit court likewise granted that motion.

¶ 8. Loden then filed a nearly identical motion styled "Ex Parte Motion for Funds for Expert Assistance in the Field of Mitigation Investigation" asserting "[d]efense counsel is unable without the assistance of an investigator to interview and prepare all mitigation witnesses[,]" and that "[o]nly through the use of an investigator can I adequately develop the full range of mitigating circumstances that exist in this case." (Emphasis added). The second motion proposed Dr. Gary Mooers as a mitigation specialist. At the hearing, the State argued that Herb Wells had already been appointed as Criminal Defense Investigator and, therefore, Loden did not "need additional expert witnesses to go out and investigate the case for them." In response, Loden conceded that Mooers's services "would be some of the same as a typical investigator, but we would submit that [Mooers's] expertise and his Ph.D. from the University of Pittsburgh would

971 So.2d 554

make him an additional expert that would be necessary and vital to [Loden] and especially in the penalty phase. . . ." (Emphasis added). Prior to ruling, the circuit court noted that "I have already authorized your employing an investigator." The court found:

[Mooers] proposes . . . to investigate, develop information, which all seems to be either something that the investigator, the attorneys or psychiatrists, psychologists would be involved in in developing the case. I don't know of any particular specialty within the law or a scientific basis for the kind of thing he proposes to do.

An order denying Loden's motion was entered by the circuit court.

¶ 9. Loden's "Motion for Psychiatric Examination" was:

for the purpose of determining whether, by reason of some defect, disease, or condition of the mind or memory (1) the defendant is able to comprehend the nature of the charges against him and rationally aid in his defense; (2) at the time of the commission of the crime herein charged, the defendant was of such mental capacity as to distinguish between right and wrong.

Loden pleaded that it was "necessary for the State to examine the capacity of [Loden] at the Mississippi State Hospital at Whitfield in order to properly try this cause." The circuit court found that "[a] psychological evaluation will be required by the [c]ourt at the Mississippi State Hospital." An order granting Loden's request was granted by the circuit court.

¶ 10. Later, Loden filed an "Ex Parte Motion for Funds to Secure Expert Assistance in the Field of Psychology." Specifically, Loden claimed that he "requires expert assistance to present to the jury the full array of mitigating circumstances that exist in this case and to rebut any State's evidence tending to show aggravating circumstances." (Emphasis added). Once more, the circuit court entered an order granting Loden the relief sought and making funds available for a psychological evaluation to be performed by Dr. C. Gerald O'Brien. Finally, the circuit court granted Loden's "Ex Parte Motion for Funds to Secure Expert Assistance in the Field of DNA Analysis[,]" by "authoriz[ing] the appointment of George Schiro, as the DNA Expert for the Defense."

¶ 11. In August 2001, Loden wrote a letter to Johnstone and requested that Johnstone:

make the motion for a re-visit of the original warrant. I'd like that at least for the record. Would you do your best at trying to convince the judge to hear this. Then immediately following his ruling on that, if against, I'd like to speak to you of the appeal process, and go ahead and enter a plead [sic].

(Emphasis added). Regarding the appeal process, Loden asked "(1) I'm...

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72 practice notes
  • Flowers v. State, NO. 2010–DP–01348–SCT
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of Mississippi
    • November 2, 2017
    ...So.3d 625 (Miss. 2009). Wilson v. State , 21 So.3d 572 (Miss. 2009). Chamberlin v. State , 989 So.2d 320 (Miss. 2008). Loden v. State , 971 So.2d 548 (Miss. 2007). King v. State, 960 So.2d 413 (Miss. 2007). Bennett v. State , 933 So.2d 930 (Miss. 2006). Havard v. State , 928 So.2d 771 (Miss......
  • Hutto v. State, NO. 2014-DP-00177-SCT.
    • United States
    • Mississippi Supreme Court
    • May 11, 2017
    ...(Miss. 2009).227 So.3d 1002 Wilson v. State, 21 So.3d 572 (Miss. 2009). Chamberlin v. State, 989 So.2d 320 (Miss. 2008). Loden v. State, 971 So.2d 548 (Miss. 2007). King v. State, 960 So.2d 413 (Miss. 2007). Bennett v. State, 933 So.2d 930 (Miss. 2006). Havard v. State, 928 So.2d 771 (Miss.......
  • Havard v. State, No. 2006-DR-01161-SCT.
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of Mississippi
    • May 22, 2008
    ...between Havard and Chloe's mother or Chloe's age. Havard, 928 So.2d at 802-03 (emphasis added). Additionally, in Loden v. State, 971 So.2d 548, 570 (Miss.2007), this Court held that "[t]he fact that aggravating circumstances share relevant evidence does not make them duplicative. See Jones ......
  • Dickerson v. State, NO. 2012-DP-01500-SCT
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of Mississippi
    • June 18, 2015
    ...So. 3d 625 (Miss. 2009). Wilson v. State, 21 So. 3d 572 (Miss. 2009). Chamberlin v. State, 989 So. 2d 320 (Miss. 2008). Loden v. State, 971 So. 2d 548 (Miss. 2007). King v. State, 960 So. 2d 413 (Miss. 2007). Bennett v. State, 933 So. 2d 930 (Miss. 2006). Havard v. State, 928 So. 2d 771 (Mi......
  • Request a trial to view additional results
72 cases
  • Flowers v. State, NO. 2010–DP–01348–SCT
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of Mississippi
    • November 2, 2017
    ...So.3d 625 (Miss. 2009). Wilson v. State , 21 So.3d 572 (Miss. 2009). Chamberlin v. State , 989 So.2d 320 (Miss. 2008). Loden v. State , 971 So.2d 548 (Miss. 2007). King v. State, 960 So.2d 413 (Miss. 2007). Bennett v. State , 933 So.2d 930 (Miss. 2006). Havard v. State , 928 So.2d 771 (Miss......
  • Hutto v. State, NO. 2014-DP-00177-SCT.
    • United States
    • Mississippi Supreme Court
    • May 11, 2017
    ...(Miss. 2009).227 So.3d 1002 Wilson v. State, 21 So.3d 572 (Miss. 2009). Chamberlin v. State, 989 So.2d 320 (Miss. 2008). Loden v. State, 971 So.2d 548 (Miss. 2007). King v. State, 960 So.2d 413 (Miss. 2007). Bennett v. State, 933 So.2d 930 (Miss. 2006). Havard v. State, 928 So.2d 771 (Miss.......
  • Havard v. State, No. 2006-DR-01161-SCT.
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of Mississippi
    • May 22, 2008
    ...between Havard and Chloe's mother or Chloe's age. Havard, 928 So.2d at 802-03 (emphasis added). Additionally, in Loden v. State, 971 So.2d 548, 570 (Miss.2007), this Court held that "[t]he fact that aggravating circumstances share relevant evidence does not make them duplicative. See Jones ......
  • Dickerson v. State, NO. 2012-DP-01500-SCT
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of Mississippi
    • June 18, 2015
    ...So. 3d 625 (Miss. 2009). Wilson v. State, 21 So. 3d 572 (Miss. 2009). Chamberlin v. State, 989 So. 2d 320 (Miss. 2008). Loden v. State, 971 So. 2d 548 (Miss. 2007). King v. State, 960 So. 2d 413 (Miss. 2007). Bennett v. State, 933 So. 2d 930 (Miss. 2006). Havard v. State, 928 So. 2d 771 (Mi......
  • Request a trial to view additional results

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