State v. Hipps, 272A96.

CourtUnited States State Supreme Court of North Carolina
Citation501 S.E.2d 625
Docket NumberNo. 272A96.,272A96.
PartiesSTATE of North Carolina v. Anthony Jerome HIPPS.
Decision Date09 July 1998

501 S.E.2d 625

STATE of North Carolina
Anthony Jerome HIPPS

No. 272A96.

Supreme Court of North Carolina.

July 9, 1998.

501 S.E.2d 629
Michael F. Easley, Attorney General by Tiare B. Smiley, Special Deputy Attorney General, for the State

Lisa S. Costner, Winston-Salem, for defendant-appellant.

PARKER, Justice.

Defendant was indicted 4 December 1995 for the first-degree murder of Shelia Dianne Wall1 on 3 November 1995. In May 1996 he was tried capitally and found guilty of first-degree murder. Following a capital sentencing proceeding, the jury recommended a sentence of death; and the trial court entered judgment accordingly. For the reasons discussed herein, we conclude that the jury selection, the guilt-innocence phase, and the capital sentencing proceeding of defendant's trial were free from prejudicial error and that the death sentence is not disproportionate.

The State's evidence at trial tended to show that the victim, Shelia Dianne Wall, met defendant, Anthony Jerome Hipps, in December of 1994 after which the two began seeing each other and spending time together. The victim would frequently spend the

501 S.E.2d 630
night with defendant in the front room of the apartment he shared with his nephew, Rock Sturdivant. Various witnesses testified that they began to notice bruises on the victim and knots and bumps on her head beginning in the summer of 1995 and continuing from that time until the time of her death. Defendant drank frequently and physically abused the victim. The victim confided to a friend in August that she was afraid of defendant, that things were getting worse, and that she was afraid defendant might kill her

On Thursday, 2 November 1995, at around 9:00 p.m., defendant and the victim were seen arguing loudly outside the Spencer Country Cupboard. The last time the victim was seen alive by her family she and defendant were walking down the road with defendant walking behind the victim.

The next day, Friday, 3 November 1995, defendant's nephew, Sturdivant, ran into defendant in East Spencer. Defendant was acting wildly and grabbed Sturdivant and told him that he had killed his girlfriend, offering to show Sturdivant the body as proof that he was not lying to him. They were near the railroad tracks by Burdette Bridge, and defendant told Sturdivant that the body was nearby. Sturdivant got upset and frightened and left after telling defendant he did not want to see the body.

On Saturday, 4 November 1995, Sturdivant went to see the victim's family to tell them that someone told him that defendant had killed the victim. The family did not know whether to believe him. They filed a missing-person report, and the police began a search for the victim.

The next day, Sunday, 5 November 1995, fearful that his relationship with defendant would cause him to be linked to the killing, Sturdivant, on his sister's advice, went to the Spencer Police Department. Sturdivant told the police what defendant had told him about killing the victim. The police then began looking for defendant and put the word out to his friends that they wanted to talk to him.

On Wednesday, 8 November 1995, defendant went to the Spencer Police Department to be interviewed. Defendant was not under arrest at this time, but he was read his rights and signed a waiver. He gave a statement to the officers that he did not know where the victim was and that he had last seen her on Friday, 3 November 1995. Defendant was then released.

The police continued searching for the victim in the woods north of Burdette Bridge. While searching on Friday, 10 November 1995, Officer G.S. Henline saw defendant standing beside the railroad tracks near the bridge. Defendant was drinking beer and looking at Henline and laughing. Henline approached defendant to find out what was funny. Henline explained to defendant that they were searching for Shelia Wall and that if he knew something, he should let them know, but that if he did not, he should not get in the way. Defendant responded, "Yes, sir"; and after some more words were exchanged, Sergeant Henline walked away. Later, Officer George Wilhelm saw defendant by the tracks and spoke with him, telling him they were searching for Shelia Wall and asking defendant if he had seen her. Defendant responded that he had not seen her since Friday the week before, just as he had stated in his earlier statement to police on 8 November. Wilhelm told defendant that they had information that Ms. Wall had been killed and that defendant was the one who killed her. Wilhelm further told defendant that if the police found her body, they had enough evidence to arrest him for her murder; so if she was alive, defendant needed to let them know. Defendant responded that if he saw her, he would bring her to the police. Wilhelm then left defendant and continued searching.

Later that same day while on a break from the search, the officers received a call about a disturbance nearby at Real's Variety store. When Sergeant Henline arrived at the store, he saw defendant standing outside and asked him what was going on. Defendant immediately said, "Go ahead and take me. I did it," and came up and put both hands on the hood of the police car. Henline asked defendant what he was talking about; and defendant said, "I did it. Me and Rock." Henline again asked what he was talking about, and defendant responded that he and Sturdivant

501 S.E.2d 631
had killed Shelia Wall and that her body was under the bridge

Henline was not sure whether to believe defendant but radioed Sergeant Wilhelm to meet them at Burdette Bridge. Henline and defendant then got in the front seat of the police car and drove to the bridge. Defendant had not been placed under arrest and was not handcuffed. Defendant told Henline the victim was not under the bridge itself, but under some trees. They got out of the car and were joined by Sergeant Wilhelm. Defendant met Wilhelm in front of the car and said, "I wanted to tell you [a] while ago, but I couldn't. I want to take you where Shelia is." Wilhelm put his hand up and reminded defendant of the rights he had read him on the previous Wednesday, 8 November, and told him he did not have to tell them anything. Defendant replied that he knew his rights and wanted to show them where the victim's body was. Defendant then took Wilhelm by the hand and walked him over to a brush pile and pointed and said, "There she is, there's Shelia." The victim's body was hidden with leaves and branches broken from nearby trees. Wilhelm then told defendant not to tell him anything until he could inform him of his rights again; he took defendant back to his patrol car where he kept a rights card and read defendant his rights. Defendant said he understood and waived his rights. Defendant then gave a statement in which he said that Sturdivant attacked the victim with a knife while the three of them were walking on the path and that when the victim ran to defendant for help, defendant saw the blood and panicked and started hitting her in the head with a stick. Defendant then took the officers back and showed them the location on the path where the incident took place, about two hundred yards from where he had dragged the body to hide it. He pointed out the piece of lumber with which he had struck the victim.

Defendant was then taken to the Spencer Police Department, where he was advised of his rights again and given a written waiver to sign. He repeated his statement confessing to the murder and implicating Sturdivant. Sergeant Wilhelm wrote the statement down line by line, reading it back to defendant after each line; and defendant signed it. Defendant and Sturdivant were then arrested for murder.

Sturdivant allowed the police to search his apartment and told the police that all he knew about the killing was what defendant had told him when he ran into defendant on 3 November, namely, that defendant had killed the victim and that her body was somewhere around the bridge.

On Sunday, 12 November 1995, Sergeant Wilhelm was puzzled by the details of defendant's 10 November statements about how the crime occurred. He reinterviewed defendant, again advising him of his rights. Defendant acknowledged he understood his rights and signed a waiver. Wilhelm again wrote out defendant's statement line by line, and defendant signed it. In this statement defendant confessed that he alone killed the victim after they had gotten into an argument behind the Country Cupboard on Thursday, 2 November 1995. Defendant stated that he and the victim were on the path and began to argue and fight and that he hit her and began to stab her. He covered up her body and then went to the nearby Food Lion where he bought a jug of Clorox which he poured on the body to cover up the odor and keep it from being discovered. Defendant said he previously included Sturdivant as a participant in the crime to get back at Sturdivant for telling the police that defendant had killed the victim.

Charges against Sturdivant were dropped the next day, and he was released.

Dr. John D. Butts, the chief medical examiner for the State of North Carolina, performed the autopsy on the body of Shelia Wall on 11 November 1995. He testified that the victim received thirty-four stab wounds to the body, five to the front and twenty-nine to the back, upper shoulder, and neck. Two injuries to the left lung and one to the aorta were inflicted from the back. The body cavity had filled with blood, indicating that the victim had been alive and her heart beating for some time after the infliction of the stab wounds. Additional stab wounds to the head penetrated the skull and may or may not have penetrated the brain. The victim also suffered an extensive fracture

501 S.E.2d 632
at the base of the right side of the skull consistent with a blunt-force injury from a heavy object. Dr. Butts concluded that the piece of wood found at the crime scene, or one like it, could have caused the fracture....

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  • State v. Davis
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of North Carolina
    • October 9, 1998 viewed in the context in which they are made and in light of the overall factual circumstances to which they refer. State v. Hipps, 348 N.C. 377, 501 S.E.2d 625 (1998). Because defendant did not object to the arguments at trial, he must establish that the remarks were so grossly improper......
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