Williams v. State

Decision Date23 August 1996
Docket NumberCR-92-0382
PartiesJason Oric WILLIAMS v. STATE.
CourtAlabama Court of Criminal Appeals

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Paul Brown, Mobile; Richard Yelverton, Mobile; and Bernard E. Harcourt, Cambridge, Massachusetts, for appellant.

Jeff Sessions and Bill Pryor, attys. gen., and Beth Hughes, asst. atty. gen., for appellee.

PATTERSON, Judge.

The Mobile County grand jury returned four separate indictments (CC-92-1552, CC-92-1553, CC-92-1554, and CC-92-1555) against the appellant, Jason Oric Williams, on April 21, 1992. In case CC-92-1552, he was charged with and convicted of the capital offenses of killing two persons during a robbery in the first degree or an attempt thereof, a violation of § 13A-5-40(a)(2), Code of Alabama 1975. 1 In case CC-92-1553, he was charged with and convicted of the capital offenses of murders wherein two or more persons are murdered by one act or pursuant to one scheme or course of conduct, a violation of § 13A-5-40(a)(10). 2 In case CC-92-1554, he was charged with and convicted of the offense of attempted murder of Jeffery Carr, a violation of § 13A-4-2 and § 13A-6-2. 3 In case CC-92-1555, he was charged with and convicted of the offense of attempted murder of Brad Barber, also a violation of § 13A-4-2 and § 13A-6-2. 4 On motion of the state, the offenses charged in the four indictments were consolidated for trial.

In reference to the convictions for the capital offenses (CC-92-1552 and CC-92-1553), a sentencing hearing was held before the jury in accordance with §§ 13A-5-45 and -46, and the jury recommended, by a vote of 10 to 2, that the sentence be death. 5 The trial court held another sentencing hearing in accordance with §§ 13A-5-47 through -52, and, after considering all the evidence, after weighing the aggravating and mitigating circumstances, and after considering the presentence report and the jury's recommendation, the trial court sentenced the appellant to death. In reference to the convictions for attempted murder (CC-92-1554 and CC-92-1555), the trial court sentenced the appellant to 20 years' imprisonment in each case, taxed the costs of court against him, ordered him to pay $50 to the victims compensation fund in each case, and ordered him to reimburse the state $1,500 for attorney's fees.

The state's evidence shows that the appellant had been living in the home of Gerald and Clair Paravicini in Irvington, for approximately

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two weeks before February 15, 1992, the date the crimes were committed. Before that, he had lived with his former wife, Sandra Ellzey, but she had forced him to move. The Paravicinis, whom the appellant had known for several years, had allowed the appellant to move into their home because he had no place to live. Jeffery Carr, the minor son of Mrs. Paravicini, also lived in the home. The appellant spent the evening of February 14 and the early morning hours of February 15, 1992, drinking alcohol and taking drugs. Around 6:00 a.m. on February 15, he arrived at the Paravicini home and was admitted by Jeffery Carr after knocking on a window. He called Ellzey on a portable telephone and while they were arguing, obtained Mr. Paravicini's .22 caliber automatic rifle and some hollow-point bullets from a bedroom. He then shot Jeffery Carr in the face and, as Mr. Paravicini came to Jeffery's aid, he shot Mr. Paravicini in the chest and neck. Jeffery ran out of the house to seek help, and Mr. Paravicini ran into the street, where he died. The appellant demanded the keys to the Paravicinis' automobile from Mrs. Paravicini and when she did not produce them, he struck her in the face with the rifle, breaking her jaw and two teeth, and he threatened to kill her. He took her purse, which contained her checkbook, credit cards, and $530 cash, and ran to the road where he attempted to commandeer a passing truck driven by Buford Billedeaua. * Billedeaua stopped his truck, but then took the keys and fled into the nearby woods as the appellant fired two shots at him. The appellant then went to the nearby home of Linda and Fred Barber. The Barbers had two sons, Bryan and Brad, who lived with them and who were present in the home at the time. When Mrs. Barber opened the door, the appellant shot her, without warning, in the face and head, killing her instantly. He then shot Mr. Barber, who was sitting in the kitchen drinking coffee, twice in the head, killing him instantly. He then shot Bryan, who was asleep in his bed, twice in the head, killing him. Brad locked himself in a bedroom, but the appellant kicked the door in and while he and Brad were struggling over the rifle, Brad was shot in the left hand. Brad broke free and fled while the appellant continued to fire at him.

The appellant took the Barbers' vehicle, a Ford Aerostar van, along with Mr. Barber's wallet, which contained approximately $50, and Mrs. Barber's purse. He was apprehended the following day in Mississippi after he telephoned Ellzey. When he was apprehended, he was in possession of the Barbers' vehicle, in which were found .22 caliber bullets. After being properly advised of his rights pursuant to Miranda v. Arizona, 384 U.S. 436, 86 S.Ct. 1602, 16 L.Ed.2d 694 (1966), he was questioned about Mr. Paravicini's rifle, and he stated that he threw the rifle off a bridge into the water as he entered Mississippi. The rifle was never recovered.

The appellant presented the defense of insanity, he alleged, caused by severe drug abuse coupled with a preexisting mental disorder. 6 The state contended that

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the appellant became angry after having an argument with his former wife and that he went on a shooting spree. The appellant states in his brief, "The only issue in the case was whether Jason Williams acted out of insane, drug-induced delusions and hallucinations, or whether he was just angry at his ex-wife and acted out of rage."

The appellant testified in his defense that he did not remember anything about the incident from the time he telephoned Ellzey from the Paravicini home until he realized that he was in Mississippi in a strange vehicle with a rifle and with blood on his body. However, on cross-examination, he claimed that he was hallucinating at the time of the shootings: he thought he was being attacked by a "large apparition." In addition to presenting four witnesses who testified that the appellant had been drinking alcohol and taking drugs on the night before the shootings, he testified that he had been drinking alcohol and taking drugs during the hours preceding the shootings. He also presented the testimony of a psychiatrist that he was "psychotic" on the morning of the shootings because of an "emotional illness," which the psychiatrist defined as a "borderline personality disorder," coupled with heavy usage of alcohol and drugs the night before. The psychiatrist concluded that as a result, at the time of the shootings, the appellant was suffering from a mental disease or defect that rendered him unable to appreciate the nature and quality or wrongfulness of his acts.

In rebuttal, the state presented the testimony of a forensic psychologist who contradicted the testimony of the appellant's expert, concluding that even though the appellant may have been intoxicated at the time of the killings, he had the ability to appreciate what he was doing, he understood what he was doing, and he realized the wrongfulness of his acts.

At the sentencing hearing before the jury, the appellant presented evidence that he was the product a dysfunctional home. His mother testified that his father had abandoned him when he was seven years old and that he had been adopted by her sister. His former wife, Ellzey, testified that the appellant had some "good" in him and that, when they were married, he was good to her and her son. The appellant testified at the sentencing hearing before the jury that he did not remember what had happened and that he was sorry. He presented a written statement to the same effect at the sentencing hearing before the trial court.

The appellant does not contest the facts showing that he fired the shots that killed Gerald Paravicini and the Barbers and that wounded Brad Barber and Jeffery Carr, and he does not contest the fact that he took the Barbers' automobile. He does question the state's interpretation of these facts. He contends that the evidence was insufficient to support a verdict finding him guilty of the capital offense of murder committed during a robbery in the first degree because, he argues, the killing of the Barbers was a random act--not done in the course of committing a theft of the Ford Aerostar van. In other words, he contends that taking the van was an afterthought to the murders. He also contends that the evidence was insufficient to support the verdict finding him guilty of the capital offense of murder wherein two or more persons are murdered by the defendant by one act or pursuant to one scheme or course of conduct because, he alleges, the murders of Mr. Paravicini, Mr. Barber, Mrs. Barber, and Bryan Barber were separate random killings and were not the result of one continuous act or committed pursuant to one scheme or course of conduct. The appellant also contends that it was error to convict him of the crimes charged in the indictments because at the time of the commission of the acts constituting the offenses, he, because he was suffering from a severe mental disease or defect, was unable to appreciate the nature and quality or wrongfulness of his acts.

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The appellant appeals his convictions and sentences, raising a host of issues. We will address those issues in the order that they appear in the appellant's brief. In addition, we have searched the record for plain error as required by Ala.R.App.P. 45A. 7

I.

The appellant contends that the prosecuting attorney abused the grand jury process by summoning and questioning his "principal defense witness," his former...

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