Thorson v. State

Decision Date04 November 2004
Docket Number No. 96-DP-00144-SCT, No. 90-DP-00015-SCT., No. 2002-DP-01420-SCT
PartiesRoger Eric THORSON v. STATE of Mississippi.
CourtMississippi Supreme Court

Office of Capital Post-Conviction Counsel by James Lappan, Kellie Williamson Koenig, Greenville, Attorneys for Appellant.

Office of the Attorney General by Marvin L. White, Jr., Jackson, Attorney for Appellee.


CARLSON, Justice, for the Court:

s 1. This is the third time Roger Eric Thorson has been before this Court. After his conviction by a Harrison County jury of capital murder and his sentence to death in 1988, this Court remanded this case for a Batson hearing to determine if the prosecution violated the Batson criteria in exercising its peremptory challenges. Thorson v. State, 653 So.2d 876 (Miss.1995). Upon remand, the circuit court found no Batson violation. Thorson once again appealed to this Court which reversed his conviction and remanded this matter for a new trial finding that a juror was improperly challenged based solely on her religious affiliation. Thorson v. State, 721 So.2d 590 (Miss.1998). A new trial was conducted on June 3, 2002, in the Circuit Court of the Second Judicial District of Harrison County, Hon. Jerry O. Terry presiding. The jury once again found Thorson guilty of capital murder, and he was sentenced to death by lethal injection. Thorson appeals this conviction, citing thirty-three assignments of error. Finding these assignments to have no merit, we affirm the judgment and sentence of the Circuit Court of the Second Judicial District of Harrison County.


s 2. On March 4, 1987, Roger Eric Thorson visited Edgewater Mall in Biloxi in order to talk to his former fiancee, Gloria McKinney. He was worried that his neighbor and girlfriend Patricia Cook might have said some things to Gloria, so he wanted to apologize to her in person. When Thorson arrived at the mall, he learned from his friend, Reggie Brazeal, that McKinney would not get off work from Morrison's until 4:00 p.m. However, Thorson remained at the mall until McKinney left at 4:45 p.m. When McKinney exited the mall, Thorson approached her car, told her that he had come to apologize and asked her for a ride to the Cedar Lake exit. When they arrived at the exit, Thorson asked McKinney to keep driving towards his house because he still needed to talk to her. At this time, Thorson pulled a knife on McKinney. McKinney continued to drive at knife point until Thorson directed her to a dirt road. Thorson then ordered McKinney to remove all of her clothes and turn with her back facing him. He then placed a .22 revolver pistol on the dashboard which he had recently purchased from his neighbor, Paul Quinn. After McKinney removed her clothes, Thorson removed a piece of rope from his jacket pocket and tied her hands behind her back. He then placed her brassiere in her mouth and tied it around her neck. Thorson then raped Gloria McKinney. After he raped her, Thorson took a towel that he had found in McKinney's car and wiped down everything that he thought he might have touched because he did not want any of his fingerprints in her car. Thorson asked McKinney if she would tell anyone what had just happened, and she shook her head indicating that she would not. Thorson told her that he did not believe her. He then took the knife and slit her throat. Thorson got out of her car and removed a blue jacket which he had given to Gloria, a plastic power steering fluid bottle and Gloria's wallet. He removed Gloria's driver's license from the wallet because he wanted a picture of her. He threw the bottle and wallet into the woods so it would appear that someone else had hurt Gloria. At this time Gloria was sitting in the car, bleeding from the wound to her neck. She was able to get out of her car and work the brassiere from her mouth. When she screamed for help, Thorson walked back to the car and shot her in the head with the .22 revolver. He then ran home and hung Gloria's coat in his closet. Thorson walked to Patricia Cook's trailer, which was directly behind his, and cleaned his hands and the knife with bleach to remove any traces of blood or gunpowder residue. He then went back to his trailer and wrapped the knife, gun, shells and Gloria's watch in Gloria's jacket and buried it in a vacant lot near his trailer.

s 3. Thorson was arrested for the murder of Gloria McKinney on March 8, 1987. On June 3, 1987, Thorson was indicted in the Second Judicial District of Harrison County for the capital murder and felony kidnapping of Gloria McKinney. Trial commenced on June 3, 2002. During the trial the State called several witnesses to testify during its case-in-chief. Reginald Brazeal first testified that at the time of Gloria McKinney's death he was the head chef at the Morrison's located in Edgewater Mall. Brazeal stated that when he left work on March 4, 1987, at approximately 3:30 or 4:00 p.m., Thorson was waiting in the parking lot. Thorson asked Brazeal what time McKinney would be getting off of work, and Brazeal responded that he was not sure. Thorson explained that there were "some things he wanted to get straight with her."

s 4. The State also called Rick Gaston who was employed by the Harrison County Sheriff's Department. On March 5, 1987, Gaston was a Captain with the Patrol Division and was Shift Supervisor. Gaston first came in contact with Thorson when he was investigating McKinney's disappearance. Thorson told Gaston that he had not seen McKinney for several months. However, Gaston informed Thorson that he had been seen talking to her at the mall. Thorson explained that he had been there to see the Clydesdale horses and had seen her briefly in the parking lot when she got off of work. Thorson informed Gatson that he would be willing to help with the investigation in any way. Gatson then drove Thorson to the Central Intelligence Division (CID) where he was introduced to Investigator Jerry Tootle. Once at the CID, Thorson changed his story and told the investigators that McKinney had given him a ride from the mall the previous day. Thorson spent several hours at the CID talking to investigators on the evening of March 5, 1987, before he was returned home. The body of Gloria McKinney was subsequently found on March 7, 1987. After the body was discovered, the investigators visited Thorson's home again. Thorson voluntarily offered to come to the CID. He was not under arrest at this time.

s 5. Robert Burriss, employed by the Biloxi Police Department, testified that as a crime scene technician, he was called to the scene where McKinney's body and automobile were discovered. Burriss identified several pictures taken at the scene of the crime which portrayed blood found in the victim's car, the victim with her throat cut and the victim lying in her car. Burriss also identified photographs depicting the victims hands bound and the victims mouth gagged with her brassiere. Burriss testified that when he processed the victim's automobile for fingerprints, he was only able to develop streaks which led him to believe the car had been wiped clean.

s 6. Next, Richard Giraud, employed by the Harrison County Sheriff's Department, testified that as an investigator at the time of McKinney's murder he was present during the interview of Thorson at the CID on the evening of March 5, 1987. Giraud testified that Thorson continuously changed his story regarding talking to and seeing McKinney the previous day. During the next interview on March 7, 1987, Thorson informed the investigators that he and McKinney had driven past the Cedar Lake exit to a dirt road and had engaged in sexual intercourse. Thorson stated that McKinney then dropped him off at home. Thorson remained at CID until he was arrested at approximately 1:30 a.m. March 8, 1987. Giraud testified that he was arrested due to inconsistencies in his statements. On the morning of March 8, 1987, Giraud received information from Patricia Cook that evidence was buried near Thorson's residence. Giraud testified that the investigators found a gun, a blue jacket, a picture from the victim's driver's license and a knife. After finding these items, Giraud testified that he returned to CID and Thorson was brought from the County Jail to Jerry Tootle's office in the CID for further questioning. Giraud testified that when Thorson was shown the knife, he stated, "Well, I guess you know the rest of the story." Thorson was then mirandized and he made a video taped confession admitting to the murder of Gloria McKinney.

s 7. Dr. Paul McGarry, a forensic pathologist, testified that he performed the autopsy on Gloria McKinney on March 8, 1987. In describing the injuries suffered by McKinney, Dr. McGarry stated that "[s]he had a slash wound across the front of her neck that opened up her voice box, opened a hole in her larynx. She had a bullet wound to the head that went in the right temple, and had sprinkled around it gunpowder on the skin and hair, indicating it was close range." Dr. McGarry testified that the cause of McKinney's death was a "gunshot wound to the head at close range." The wound to the victim's neck would not have been fatal with proper management. A sexual assault kit was also performed on McKinney due to the extensive injuries to her genitals.

s 8. Michael Stroud, an employee of the Harrison County Sheriff's Department, testified that he executed a waiver to allow the Department to draw a sample of Thorson's blood. Stroud also testified that a rape kit was performed on the victim. Christopher Larson, employed by ReliaGene Technologies in New Orleans, Louisiana, testified that he performed a DNA analysis on the semen taken from the rape kit and the blood taken from Thorson. From the analysis, Larson was able to determine that "the vaginal swab from Gloria McKinney was consistent with the genetic profile from the blood of Roger Thorson." At the...

To continue reading

Request your trial
75 cases
  • Haynes v. State, No. 2005-KA-00722-SCT.
    • United States
    • Mississippi Supreme Court
    • June 8, 2006
    ...incorrect legal standard, committed manifest error, or made a decision against the overwhelming weight of the evidence. Thorson v. State, 895 So.2d 85, 115 (Miss.2004); Payton v. State, 897 So.2d 921, 935 (Miss.2003); Swinney v. State, 829 So.2d 1225, 1235 (Miss.2002). ¶ 16. In Edwards, the......
  • Walker v. Epps
    • United States
    • U.S. District Court — Southern District of Mississippi
    • March 27, 2012
    ...that Yancey was murdered to conceal either the identity of the killer or to avoid investigation for the robbery."); Thorson v. State, 895 So. 2d 85, 99 (Miss. 2004) (holding that the aggravator was supported where, after raping his victim, the defendant wiped down the car, asked the victim ......
  • Puckett v. Epps, Civil Action No. 2:04CV302HSO.
    • United States
    • U.S. District Court — Southern District of Mississippi
    • March 30, 2009
    ...that Yancey was murdered to conceal either the identity of the killer or to avoid investigation for the robbery."); Thorson v. State, 895 So.2d 85, 99 (Miss. 2004) (holding that aggravator existed where, after raping his victim, the defendant wiped down the car, asked the victim whether she......
  • Manning v. Epps, Civil Action No.: 1:05CV256-WAP.
    • United States
    • U.S. District Court — Northern District of Mississippi
    • March 2, 2010
    ...Court has repeatedly characterized language such as that contained in Instruction DSP-7 as "mercy" language. See, e.g., Thorson v. State, 895 So.2d 85 (Miss.2004) (instruction providing that "a decision to afford an individual defendant mercy and thereby sentence him to life imprisonment wi......
  • Request a trial to view additional results
1 books & journal articles
  • Witness
    • United States
    • James Publishing Practical Law Books Trial Objections
    • May 5, 2022
    ...that was independent of witness’s prior inconsistent statements and still significant to the prosecution. MISSISSIPPI Thorson v. State , 895 So. 2d 85, 127 (Miss. 2004). Trial court did not abuse its discretion in capital murder trial by not allowing defendant to impeach defense witness wit......

VLEX uses login cookies to provide you with a better browsing experience. If you click on 'Accept' or continue browsing this site we consider that you accept our cookie policy. ACCEPT