Walker v. State

Citation913 So.2d 198
Decision Date31 March 2005
Docket NumberNo. 2003-DP-01527-SCT.,2003-DP-01527-SCT.
PartiesDerrick Demond WALKER v. STATE of Mississippi.
CourtUnited States State Supreme Court of Mississippi

William Wayne Housley, Tupelo, attorney for appellant.

Office of the Attorney General by Melanie Kathryn Dotson, Marvin L. White, Jr., attorneys for appellee.


RANDOLPH, Justice, for the Court.

¶ 1. On October 17, 2001, Derrick Demond Walker was indicted for the capital murder1 of Charles Richardson pursuant to Miss.Code Ann. § 97-3-19(2)(e) and for arson of Richardson's dwelling.

¶ 2. The trial court granted Walker's motion for psychiatric examination and investigative funds on January 24, 2002. On May 7, 2003, the trial court granted Walker's motion to have a second psychiatric examination performed. Walker had been tested by the Mississippi State Hospital at Whitfield, which found that Walker was not "under the influence of any extreme mental or emotional disturbance" during the commission of the crimes. However, during a pre-trial hearing Walker's counsel noted that Walker had refused to cooperate with them, including a refusal to even talk with counsel. Walker wanted to fire counsel and asked the trial court to release him so he could get his "own bought lawyer." Walker's counsel urged the court that this was evidence of mental instability. Since a question regarding Walker's mental condition had been raised, the court approved funds for additional psychiatric testing, which was administered by Dr. Mark Webb, a psychiatrist at Duke University.

¶ 3. On May 29, 2003, the trial court conducted a hearing on Walker's motion to suppress his statements, which were made separately to Arkansas and Mississippi law enforcement officers. Walker also claimed that when he was stopped for speeding in Arkansas, no probable cause existed to allow the officer, Mike Kennedy,2 to physically inspect the vehicle or question him. Questioning by Arkansas police officers led to the first of Walker's confessions. Walker also claimed that he "may have been" under the influence of marijuana and "was or may have been" under the influence of stress at the time of the statements, and that either of these influences "would make any statements involuntarily and not knowingly given in an intelligent manner." The State claimed that Walker was lawfully stopped for speeding. The State claimed Walker had no basis to object to the search of the vehicle because the vehicle did not belong to Walker, i.e., Walker did not have "standing."3 The State further argued that the stop, search and questioning were legal.

¶ 4. While Kennedy was issuing a citation to Walker for speeding, Kennedy instructed Walker to sit in the passenger side of the front seat of his patrol car, while Kennedy ran a check on Walker's driver's license and car tag. In response, Kennedy learned Walker's driver's license had been suspended, and according to Kennedy, Walker's statements at the scene had aroused suspicion regarding vehicle ownership. Walker was arrested for driving with a suspended license,4 and immediately received Miranda warnings and was patted-down for weapons. Pursuant to a lawful inventory search of the vehicle after Walker's arrest and Kennedy's check of the license plate, Kennedy determined that the vehicle was registered to the brother of the victim. Following Walker's arrest, Kennedy learned that Richardson had been murdered that morning. Walker, already under arrest for driving with a suspended license5 was now a suspect for possible involvement in Richardson's murder. At that time, he was taken to an Arkansas State Police station, and was more thoroughly searched.

¶ 5. Arkansas State Police Special Agent Dale Arnold was called in to interview Walker. After Walker was given Miranda warnings again, he stated that he understood the warnings and wanted to waive his rights. According to Arnold, Walker was sober and rational at the time he waived his Miranda rights. According to Arnold, Walker subsequently gave his statement freely and voluntarily, without threat or promise or hope of reward. In his statement, Walker confessed to murdering Richardson. Arnold reviewed the statement with Walker, and Walker was given an opportunity to read the statement. After reviewing the statement, Walker signed the statement, and handwrote, "I was read the above statement." To ensure propriety, the interview was videotaped.

¶ 6. Walker was then taken to the St. Francis County Jail in Forrest City, Arkansas. Upon "booking" Walker and "dressing him out," Arnold noted injuries on Walker's body. When the injuries were pointed out by Arnold to Walker, Walker stated that he received the injuries during his struggle with Richardson. The injuries were photographed and documented by the Arkansas police.

¶ 7. Kennedy and Arnold both testified that there was nothing about Walker's appearance or demeanor that led them to believe Walker was under the influence of stress, drugs or alcohol. According to Kennedy's testimony, Walker displayed no signs of sleep deprivation and Walker "appeared normal." Arnold testified that Walker's answers "were quick and responsive" during the questioning and while he was being given his Miranda warnings.

¶ 8. David West, who is also employed with the Arkansas State Police, was present during the interrogation. He also testified that no threats or promises or hopes of reward were made to Walker. West testified that Walker acted normal, did not appear drunk or tired, and never fell asleep during the interview; West further testified that Walker expressed an understanding of the questions asked of him, was not confused, never acted inappropriately, and was alert.

¶ 9. Following Walker's statements to the Arkansas State Police, Jerry Davis and James King6 questioned Walker at the St. Francis County jail. For the third time, Walker was read Miranda warnings, and he responded that he understood them. According to the testimony of Davis and King, Walker appeared alert and normal, and Walker agreed to waive his Miranda rights freely and voluntarily, without any threats or promises or hopes of reward. According to King, Walker volunteered information and answered questions without any difficulty; further, King stated that Walker was calm and relaxed throughout the questioning and did not look upset.

¶ 10. The trial court, after hearing the evidence, found:

The Court finds first of all beyond a reasonable doubt that the statements of the Defendant, which are the subject matter of this Motion to Suppress, were given by the Defendant after the Defendant had been properly, adequately and timely advised of his constitutional rights or so-called [Miranda] warnings by law enforcement officers and after the defendant had freely, voluntarily, knowingly, intelligently and understandingly waived his privilege against self incrimination. Furthermore, the Court finds beyond a reasonable doubt that each of the statements given by the defendant to law enforcement officers was [sic] given by the defendant knowingly, understandingly, intelligently, freely and voluntarily.

Finally, the Court finds beyond a reasonable doubt that there is no evidence that either of the defendant's statements given to law enforcement officers was given by him as a result of any threat, coercion, inducement or promise. Therefore, the defendant's motion to suppress as to the statements given by the defendant to law enforcement authorities shall be and is hereby overruled.

¶ 11. On May 29, 2003, the Court conducted a pre-trial hearing on Walker's motion for a change of venue. Walker asserted that Richardson was a "quasi celebrity" and very popular in the Tupelo community, and when combined with the media coverage associated with the trial, that he would be denied a fair trial in Lee County, Mississippi. Walker asserted that "a large number of people in [the] community have already reached the conclusion that [he] is guilty." Walker submitted two videotapes from local television stations that had reported Richardson's murder. Walker also claimed, although never offered into evidence that he had affidavits from two individuals who lived in the community stating that there had been extensive media coverage in the community, that Richardson was well-known in the community and that a large number of people in the community had already reached a conclusion regarding Walker's guilt.

¶ 12. In rebuttal, the State introduced live witness testimony from the Lee County Chancery Clerk, Tax Collector, Tax Assessor, and District 2 Supervisor, respectively; these individuals claimed that the case had not been a topic of interest in the community, and there had been no community feeling of malice, grudge or ill will by the community as a whole toward Walker.

¶ 13. Bobby Smith, the District 2 Supervisor of Lee County, testified that he often comes into contact with the citizens of Lee County, and there was no feeling of malice, grudge or ill will by the community as a whole toward Walker, and there was no a general community opinion that Walker was guilty of the crime charged.

¶ 14. Leroy E. Belk, Jr., the Lee County Tax Collector, who stated that it is important to mingle with the citizens of Lee County, testified that he did not have any conversations about Walker with any citizens of Lee County. Further, Belk testified that he had not observed in the community any evidence of malice, grudge or ill will toward Walker.

¶ 15. Mark Weathers, the Lee County Tax Assessor, also testified that he had not heard any talk of malice, grudge or ill will toward Walker, and that he had not heard any talk of predisposition regarding Walker's guilt. Weathers also testified that he attended part of Richardson's funeral. Weathers disputed Walker's allegation...

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