Randolph v. State

Decision Date10 January 2002
Docket NumberNo. 1999-KA-02119-SCT.,1999-KA-02119-SCT.
Citation852 So.2d 547
PartiesJamie RANDOLPH a/k/a Jamie Estus Randolph v. STATE of Mississippi.
CourtMississippi Supreme Court

Clifton S. Gaddis, Jeffrey Loewer Hall, Hattiesburg, Attorneys for Appellant.

Office of the Attorney General by: Jean Smith Vaughan, Attorneys for Appellee.

EN BANC.

EASLEY, J., for the Court.

¶ 1. Jamie Randolph ("Randolph") was tried and convicted in the Forrest County Circuit Court of two counts of capital murder with the underlying offense of robbery of Ezra Keyes and Marques Williams. Randolph was sentenced to two consecutive life imprisonments without the possibility of parole for both counts. Following the denial of his motion for JNOV or in the alternative for a new trial, Randolph appealed to this Court.

FACTS

¶ 2. Randolph did not testify at trial. Beau Christopher Bates ("Bates") was indicted with Randolph as a co-defendant. Bates did testify at trial. According to Bates's testimony, on April 10, 1998, Randolph called and asked Bates to pick him up at his grandmother's house. Bates borrowed his girlfriend's, Yana Bowden ("Bowden"), car to get Randolph. While in the car, Randolph allegedly told Bates he wanted to rob Ezra Keyes ("Keyes"), a.k.a. "Two-Tone", and asked to borrow Bates's gun. Randolph had mentioned robbing either Keyes or Tim Coleman ("Coleman") a few weeks earlier. When they arrived at Randolph's house, he went inside and paged Keyes. Randolph told Bates that he was going to page Keyes and ask for some "weed." When Keyes arrived with another person, Randolph allegedly got into Keyes car. A few minutes later, Randolph got out of the car, went into the house, returned, and got back into Keyes's car again. Then Bates heard two gunshots. Randolph told Bates to drive Keyes's car because he was too nervous. Bates looked into the car and saw two people. The people were not alive. Keyes was in the driver seat, and Marques Williams, as Bates later learned, was in the passenger seat. Bates drove the car with the two bodies in it. At one point they stopped the cars, and Bates thought he saw something move out of the corner of his eye. Bates told Randolph that Keyes was scaring him. Randolph told Bates to get the gun out of the backseat and shoot Keyes. Bates shot Keyes in the chest.

¶ 3. Bates testified that he and Randolph took the car to an area where they parked and smoked. Then, Randolph started a fire in the car. Bates tried to extinguish the fire. Randolph told Bates that he was starting the fire to destroy all of the evidence. They burned some of their clothing, a tee-shirt and a jacket, in the fire.

¶ 4. Randolph and Bates left the area in Bowden's car and returned to Carlo Bowden's house. When they arrived at the house, Bates asked Randolph for a wet wash cloth to clean himself; some of the blood was on him. Bates, also, had a shower and took off the pants he was wearing. Randolph stated that he had to leave Hattiesburg. The next morning, Randolph jumped into Bryan Croom's car and that was the last time that Bates saw him. Bates later burned the rest of his clothes under a bridge.

¶ 5. Bryan Croom ("Croom") testified that he and Coleman took Randolph to the bus station in New Orleans. Randolph borrowed money from Coleman. Then Coleman and Croom left and returned to the coast. Croom testified that on April 10 he passed Randolph's house. He saw Randolph and Bates in Yana Bowden's car. Croom did not stop. As Croom left Rawls Springs, he saw Keyes's car; the vehicle was going towards Rawls Springs.

¶ 6. Mrs. Geraldine Lorch Bates ("Geraldine") is Bates's aunt. On Sunday April, 11, 1998, she discovered a burnt vehicle in an abandoned driveway on Lee Road in Forrest County. Jeff Byrd ("Byrd"), a crime scene technician, went to the crime scene and saw two burnt bodies in a car. One body was lying between the two front seats, and the second body was on its side leaning out the passenger door. The gas tank lid was open. A burnt .45 caliber semi-automatic Remington hand gun and some shell cases were found on the passenger side of the car.

¶ 7. The issues presented by Randolph overlap in certain instances and can be addressed more efficiently by combining some issues as follows:

I. Whether the verdict of the jury was against the overwhelming weight of the evidence.
II. Whether the trial court erred in denying defendant's Motion for Directed Verdict at the close of the State's case. Whether the trial court erred in failing to grant the defendant's peremptory instruction that the jury must find the defendant not guilty. Whether the trial court erred in sentencing the defendant to the crime of capital murder, where defendant alleges he should have been sentenced to murder for the reason that there was insufficient proof of the underlying crime of robbery.
III. Whether the trial court erred when it overruled defendant's objection to Motion to suppress statement of the defendant made by Eddie Clark, for the reason that said statement was admitted in violation of the Fifth and Sixth Amendment Right to Counsel of the United States' Constitution and the Fourteenth Amendment to the Constitution of the United States of America and to the Constitution of the State of Mississippi.
IV. Whether the trial court erred in sustaining each and every objection of the State and in overruling each and every objection by the defendant.
V. Whether the trial court erred in refusing and/or amending defendant's proposed jury instructions.
VI. Whether the trial court erred in allowing the prosecution to make prejudicial and inflammatory statements in closing arguments.
VII. Whether the trial court erred in the selection of the jury and in the State's use of peremptory challenges.
VIII. Whether the trial court erred in the admission of testimony by Bryan Croom.
IX. Whether the trial court erred in admitting evidence of flight and granting a flight instruction.
X. Whether the trial court erred in admitting photographs of the crime scene and the victims.

ANALYSIS

I. Whether the verdict of the jury was against the overwhelming weight of the evidence.

¶ 8. Randolph asserts that the jury verdict was against the overwhelming weight of the evidence. He maintains that his conviction was based solely on unsubstantiated testimony of Bates, the co-defendant. Bates testified to killing Williams. Randolph also asserts no physical evidence substantiates Bates's testimony or ties Randolph to the crime scenes. Further, Randolph distinguishes his case from Holmes v. State, 660 So.2d 1225 (Miss.1995), which holds that the testimony from a single credible witness is sufficient to sustain a conviction. He claims that the motives of a co-defendant to testify untruthfully is stronger than a victim to testify untruthfully.

¶ 9. A motion for new trial challenges the weight of the evidence. Sheffield v. State, 749 So.2d 123, 127 (Miss. 1999). A reversal is warranted only if the lower court abused its discretion in denying a motion for new trial. Id. (citing Gleeton v. State, 716 So.2d 1083, 1088 (Miss.1998)). This Court held in McFee v. State, 511 So.2d 130, 133 (Miss.1987), that it has limited authority to interfere with a jury verdict. The court looks at all the evidence in the light that is most consistent with the jury verdict. Id. The prosecution is given "the benefit of all favorable inferences that may reasonably be drawn from the evidence." Id.

[I]f there is in the record substantial evidence of such quality and weight that, having in mind the beyond a reasonable doubt burden of proof standard, reasonable and fair-minded jurors in the exercise of impartial judgment might have reached different conclusions, the verdict of guilty is thus placed beyond our authority to disturb.

Id. at 133-34. See also May v. State, 460 So.2d 778, 781 (Miss.1984)

. This Court has held that a new trial will not be given unless the verdict is so contrary to the overwhelming weight of the evidence that an unconscionable injustice would occur by allowing the verdict to stand. Groseclose v. State, 440 So.2d 297, 300 (Miss.1983).

¶ 10. As to the credibility of witnesses, this Court in Gathright v. State, 380 So.2d 1276 (Miss.1980), has held that "in a criminal prosecution the jury may accept the testimony of some witnesses and reject that of others, and that they may accept in part and reject in part the evidence on behalf of the state or on behalf of the accused. In other words, the credibility of witnesses is not for the reviewing court." Gathright, 380 So.2d at 1277 (citing Davis v. State, 320 So.2d 789 (Miss. 1975)).

¶ 11. In the case sub judice, the testimony at trial was that a few weeks prior to the crime, Randolph mentioned wanting to rob either Keyes or Coleman. On the night in question, Randolph allegedly told Bates he wanted to rob Keyes and asked to borrow Bates's gun. Randolph told Bates that he was going to page Keyes and ask for some "weed." Keyes arrived with another person, and Randolph got into Keyes's car. Randolph got out of the car, went into the house, returned, and got back into Keyes's car again. Bates heard two gunshots. Randolph told Bates to drive Keyes's car because he was too nervous to drive. Keyes was in the driver's seat, and Marques Williams was in the passenger seat. Bates drove the car with the bodies of Keyes and Marques Williams in it. They stopped the cars, and Bates thought he saw something move out of the corner of his eye. Randolph allegedly told Bates to get the gun out of the backseat and shoot Keyes. Bates shot Keyes in the chest, and they took the car to an area where they parked and smoked. Then, Randolph started a fire in the car to destroy all of the evidence. ¶ 12. Randolph and Bates went to Carlos Bowden's (brother of Yana Bowden) house to wash themselves. Randolph stated that he had to leave Hattiesburg, and the next morning, he left with Croom. Croom and Coleman took Randolph to the bus station in New...

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