Wood v. State

Decision Date03 July 1996
Docket NumberCR-94-0481
Citation715 So.2d 812
PartiesHolly WOOD v. STATE.
CourtAlabama Court of Criminal Appeals

Cary Dozier, Troy; Frank Ralph, Troy, for appellant.

Jeff Sessions and Bill Pryor, attys. gen., and Andy Poole, asst. atty. gen., for appellee.

LONG, Judge.

The appellant, Holly Wood, was convicted of murder made capital because it was committed during the course of a burglary in the first degree, see § 13A-5-40(a)(4), Ala.Code 1975. The jury, by a vote of 10 to 2, recommended a sentence of death, and the trial court accepted the jury's recommendation and sentenced the appellant to death by electrocution.

The state's evidence tended to show the following: On the evening of September 1, 1993, the appellant entered the Troy residence of Annie Gosha and shot and killed Mrs. Gosha's daughter, Ruby Gosha, with whom the appellant had formerly had a relationship and by whom the appellant had had a child.

Annie Gosha testified that on September 1, 1993, Ruby Gosha and Ruby's children were living with her at her house in Troy. Before moving in with her mother, Ruby had lived with the appellant in Enterprise, until their relationship ended. At around 5:00 p.m. on September 1, the appellant arrived uninvited at Mrs. Gosha's house, purportedly to bring Ruby some cigarettes and diapers for his child. Mrs. Gosha testified that the appellant and Ruby began arguing and that Ruby told the appellant to "go on and leave her alone, to take his cigarettes and [diapers] and give them to somebody else, because it was over between them." (R. 418.) Mrs. Gosha stated that she also told the appellant to leave her property and to never come back. According to Mrs. Gosha, when the appellant left her house, he told Ruby that he would "get" her some day. (R. 420.)

Mrs. Gosha also testified that Ruby had told her that one night approximately two weeks before September 1, as she sat in her car, the appellant slipped up behind her and cut her on the arm or wrist, causing her to lose the function of two fingers.

At about 9:00 p.m. on the night of September 1, Mrs. Gosha and Ruby retired to separate rooms. Mrs. Gosha testified that as she was lying in bed watching television, she heard a "pop" or what sounded like a "firecracker shot." (R. 424-25.) She then went through Ruby's bedroom into the kitchen, where she saw that the door to the outside was open. When she returned to Ruby's bedroom, she found Ruby lying in bed. Ruby had been shot; there was a gunshot wound near her eye and one near her cheek. Mrs. Gosha then telephoned the police and an ambulance. Paramedics transported Ruby to the Edge Regional Medical Center emergency room in Troy, where Ruby was pronounced dead.

Willie Gosha, Ruby's brother and Annie Gosha's son, testified that he was also in Mrs. Gosha's house on the evening of September 1. He stated that as he was sitting on the bed in his room, he heard a door open and heard someone "creep through" it. (R. 440.) Shortly thereafter, he heard what sounded like a gunshot and then heard someone moving quickly back through the door.

Doctor Alfredo Paredes, a medical examiner for the Alabama Department of Forensic Sciences, performed an autopsy on Ruby Gosha. He testified that he recovered several lead shot pellets from the victim's head. He determined that the cause of death was a shotgun wound to the face that fractured the victim's skull, injuring her brain. Paredes testified that he also found a recent cut and recent bruises on the victim's palm and on the back of her left hand, two recent trauma-induced scars on her right forearm, a recent scar on her left forearm, and a recent scar on her left upper arm.

Calvin Salter, the appellant's cousin, testified that a few days before September 1, 1993, he went with the appellant to Annie Gosha's house to deliver some diapers to Ruby Gosha but that both Ruby and her mother told the appellant to leave. Salter testified that later that same day, he and the appellant saw Ruby at a shopping center. According to Salter, the appellant spoke with Ruby at that time, but Salter did not know what they talked about. Salter testified that sometime between 7:00 p.m. and 8:00 p.m. on September 1, the appellant came by his mother's house in Luverne and picked him up. The appellant was driving his father's pickup truck. The appellant and Salter then drove to Troy, with Salter driving. They drove past the Gosha residence and stopped on a nearby street, where the appellant left the truck and told Salter to circle the block. Salter circled the block and parked the truck, and shortly thereafter, the appellant returned to the truck. An automobile driven by a man named Amp went by, and the appellant told Salter to follow it. Salter testified that the appellant told him that if he caught Ruby and Amp together, he would kill Ruby. The appellant and Salter followed Amp's car until it passed the Gosha residence. The appellant then directed Salter to drive slowly toward the Gosha house, and when they neared the house, the appellant had Salter stop the truck. Salter testified that the appellant then took a 12-gauge shotgun from the gun rack of the truck, stuck it down his pants leg, covered it with his shirt, left the truck, and walked toward the Gosha house.

Salter testified that he parked the truck at a nearby apartment complex and made a telephone call at a public pay telephone. After making the call, he said, he began walking back to the truck, and the appellant, who was standing in the street behind the Gosha house, called out to him. Salter walked up to him, and the appellant said that he did not see Ruby at the house but that he was going back up to the house anyway. The appellant then walked toward the house again, and Salter went back to the pay phone and made another call. Salter testified that when he hung up the telephone, he heard a gunshot and returned to the truck. When he arrived at the truck, the appellant was sitting in it. The appellant then said to Salter, "Let's go to Luverne." (R. 495.)

Salter testified that as he began the drive to Luverne, the appellant told him that he had shot Ruby while she was lying in bed asleep. Salter stated that the appellant said: "I shot that bitch in the head, and [blew] her brains out and all she did was wiggle." (R. 495.) He stated that the appellant then began throwing 12-gauge shotgun shells out the window. Salter testified that the appellant told him that he knew he had killed Ruby and that the police would be coming after him.

When Salter and the appellant arrived in Luverne, they went to the appellant's father's house. The appellant took the shotgun from the truck, and he and Salter walked to a nearby wooded area, where they buried the gun under some leaves. They then slept in a shed near the appellant's father's house.

Salter testified that the appellant had told him that sometime before the shooting he had attempted to stab Ruby in the heart but that Ruby had thrown her arm up to protect herself, and he had stabbed her in the arm instead.

Luverne Police Officer Clifton Wells testified that late on the night of September 1, 1993, he located a vehicle parked at the appellant's father's house that matched a description he had received from a "be-on-the-lookout" bulletin from the Troy Police Department. After the appellant's father told Wells that the appellant lived in the shed next to his house, Wells arrested the appellant there. Wells transported the appellant to the Luverne Police Department and placed him in a cell. Troy Police Officer Donald Brown entered the cell, informed the appellant of his Miranda rights, and performed a gunshot residue test on the appellant's hands. After the test was performed, the appellant was escorted from the department by Troy Police Officer Lewis Fannin. Wells testified that he was in the appellant's presence from the time the appellant was arrested until he was escorted from the department by Fannin, and that neither he nor any other officer ever told the appellant any details of the crime.

Officer Fannin testified that he transported the appellant from the Luverne Police Department to the Troy Police Department and that he engaged in no conversation with the appellant during the trip, but that the appellant stated the following to him during the trip: "You motherfuckers must think I am crazy. What do I look [like] going in somebody's house shooting them in the head while they are asleep?" (R. 713.)

Troy Police Officer Donald Brown testified that Calvin Salter was in the shed after the appellant was arrested. According to Brown, later on the night that the appellant was arrested, Salter led him and other officers to a wooded area near the shed, where, Brown said, they found a shotgun under some leaves.

Joe Saloom, a forensic scientist for the Alabama Department of Forensic Sciences, examined the shotgun recovered near the shed and the shotgun shell wadding and lead shot pellets found in the victim's head. Saloom testified that he found residue in the barrel of the shotgun, which indicated that it had not been cleaned since it was last fired. He determined that it was a 12-gauge single-shot Herrington and Richardson shotgun. Saloom testified that the wadding found in the victim's head was a "combination wad and shot column, or shot protector, ... located inside a shot shell to hold the shot and cushion it from the detonation," and that it was expelled upon firing. (R. 804.) He testified that the wadding was a 12-gauge type and was consistent with the type of columns and wadding used in Remington shotgun shells and with the type of ammunition used in the recovered shotgun. He also determined that the pellets recovered from the victim's head were consistent in size and weight with "number 6 shot from a shotgun shell." (R. 805.)

I

The appellant contends that the state used its peremptory challenges against prospective jurors in a racially discriminatory manner,...

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