Woodward v. State, DP-81

Decision Date05 October 1988
Docket NumberNo. DP-81,DP-81
Citation533 So.2d 418
PartiesPaul Everette WOODWARD v. STATE of Mississippi.
CourtMississippi Supreme Court

Rex K. Jones, Jeff Bradley, Hattiesburg, for appellant.

Mike More, Atty. Gen., by Marvin L. White, Jr., Asst. Atty. Gen., and Donald G. Barlow and Felicia C. Adams, Sp. Asst En Banc.

Attys. Gen., Glenn L. White, Dist. Atty., Hattiesburg, for appellee.

PRATHER, Justice, for the Court:

Paul Everette Woodward was convicted of the crimes of capital murder, kidnapping and sexual battery of Rhonda Crane, and sentenced to death. Venue was changed from Perry County to the Circuit Court of Hinds County. On appeal, Woodward presents the following issues for review:


I. The multi-count indictment was prejudicial and should have been quashed by the trial court.
II. The trial court committed reversible error in excusing for cause venirepersons, Mary Magee and Ella M. Lewis.
III. The trial court erred in denying the motion to quash the jury panel because of the prejudicial effect of the State's opening statement before voir dire examination of the jury.
IV. The trial court erred in overruling the appellant's motion to suppress the physical evidence consisting of a pack of Reliance ink pens which were removed from the vehicle of the appellant.
V. The trial court erred in failing to suppress the confessions of the defendant.
VI. The trial court erred in its failure to grant a circumstantial evidence instruction.
VII. The State failed to prove the underlying felony of rape.
VIII. Cumulative errors which took place during the course of the trial denied the appellant a fair trial:

A. The continuous staring at the defendant by the victim's father while he testified.

B. The use of extraneous comments, or "rabbit trailing" by the district attorney.

C. The District Attorney throwing a pistol across the courtroom floor.

D. The District Attorney loading the pistol in the presence of the jury during closing argument.

E. The District Attorney's alleged improper argument during the sentence phase that the defendant should receive the death penalty because of danger to prisoners in Parchman.


Around noon on July 23, 1986, twenty-four year old Rhonda Crane, a resident of Escatapwa and a volunteer worker with the Jackson County Youth Court, was traveling on Mississippi Highway 29 south of New Augusta in Perry County, Mississippi to join her parents on a camping trip. A white male driving a white log truck forced her car to stop in the middle of the road. The white male then exited the truck with a .38 caliber pistol in his hand and forced Crane to get into his truck. The man then drove the victim to an isolated area, forced her out of his truck and into the woods at gunpoint and forced her to have sexual relations with him. Rhonda Crane was killed by the firing of one shot from a .38 caliber pistol into the back of her head.

Mrs. Crane's automobile was left on the highway with the engine running, the driver's door open and her purse on the car seat. Within seconds of her kidnapping, a motorist traveling in a vehicle on the same highway saw a white colored unloaded logging truck moving away from the Crane vehicle. Realizing that something unusual was occurring, the motorist notified the law enforcement authorities. Additionally, a housewife residing on a bluff along the highway at the location of the Crane car noted a logging truck with a white cab stop in front of her driveway. A white male exited and walked toward the back of his truck and returned with a blonde haired woman wearing yellow clothing. As he held her by her arm, the male yelled sufficiently loud for the housewife to hear the words "get in, get in," and forced the blond woman into the driver's door of the truck and then drove off. Hearing a sound like a Law enforcement officers identified the ownership of the Crane vehicle and its occupant and immediately began an investigation to locate Mrs. Crane. Their investigation developed the following facts. Paul Everette Woodward unloaded logs at the Leaf River Forest Products, a pulp mill, and departed the yard at 11:36 a.m. in a white Mack log truck. Woodward arrived at his wood yard, Walley Timber Company, at approximately 12:45 to 1:00 p.m. The yard manager noted that he was late arriving back at the yard and was wet from sweating. A drive from Leaf River to Walley takes approximately thirty minutes. A sheriff's deputy stopped Woodward, who was driving a white Mack logging truck, around 2:00 p.m. on the afternoon of July 23, to ask if he had seen anything that would assist in the investigation of Rhonda Crane's disappearance. Woodward replied that he had not seen anything.

running motor, the housewife investigated the scene on the highway in front of her house and also discovered the abandoned Crane car. This was reported to the Sheriff's office.

Through the investigation, it was ascertained that Paul Everette Woodward was the only driver of a white colored logging truck operating at the nearby timber yards on that date. On the following date, the body of Rhonda Crane was located in the nearby wooded area by her father and a friend. She was wearing a yellow shirt and a blue topped fountain pen was found at the scene.

Following the investigative work, Paul Everette Woodward was arrested and ultimately he made both written and videotaped confessions. Woodward also confessed to his employer over the telephone. He was charged under a multi-count indictment with three charges: (1) capital murder with an underlying crime of rape, (2) kidnapping, and (3) oral sexual battery. Further evidence will be developed in conjunction with the discussions of each issue.

Upon a motion for change of venue, Paul Woodward was tried before a jury in Hinds County and convicted of all three counts of the indictment. After a separate sentencing hearing, the jury sentenced Paul Everette Woodward to death.




After Woodward was indicted on September 8, 1986, he filed a demurrer and motion to quash the indictment contending that the muliple count indictment was prejudicial and denied him due process of law. The lower court entered an order overruling and denying the demurrer and motion to quash.

Woodward raises two issues in this assignment: (1) that he was prejudiced by assigning three felony crimes in a single indictment and (2) that under the merger doctrine there should be only one capital charge. Thus, this Court addresses the question.

In relevant part, the state legislature has defined capital murder as follows:

The killing of a human being without the authority of law by any means or in any manner shall be capital murder in the following cases: ...

(e) When done with or without any design to effect death, by any person engaged in the commission of the crime of rape, burglary, kidnapping, arson, robbery, sexual battery, unnatural intercourse with any child under the age of twelve (12), or nonconsensual unnatural intercourse with mankind, or in any attempt to commit such felonies....

Miss.Code Ann. Sec. 97-3-19(2)(e) (Supp.1987).

The Legislature recently authorized the use of single multi-count indictments as follows:

(1) Two (2) or more offenses which are triable in the same court may be charged in the same indictment with a separate count for each offense if: (a) the offenses are based on the same act or transaction; or (b) the offenses are based on two (2) or more acts or transactions (2) Where two (2) or more offenses are properly charged in separate counts of a single indictment, all such charges may be tried in a single proceeding.

connected together or constituting parts of a common scheme or plan.

(3) When a defendant is convicted of two (2) or more offenses charged in separate counts of an indictment, the court shall impose separate sentences for each such conviction.

(4) The jury or the court, in cases in which the jury is waived, shall return a separate verdict for each count of an indictment drawn under subsection (1) of this section.

(5) Nothing contained in this section shall be construed to prohibit the court from exercising its statutory authority to suspend either the imposition or execution of any sentence or sentences imposed hereunder, nor to prohibit the court from exercising its discretion to impose such sentences to run either concurrently with or consecutively to each other or any other sentence or sentences previously imposed upon the defendant.

Miss.Code Ann. Sec. 99-7-2 (Supp.1987). (Effective from and after July 1, 1986).

This Court has historically disapproved of a single multiple count indictment because of the possibility of the exact complaint that Woodward makes here, the pyramiding of multiple punishments growing out of the same set of operative facts. Thomas v. State, 474 So.2d 604 (Miss.1985). However, the cases relied upon by the defendant were decided before enactment of the multi-count indictment statute effective July 1, 1986.

The Legislature has now addressed the use of the single indictment containing multi-counts, and it has stated that as a matter of state policy no objection may be validly raised to an indictment containing multi-counts if the statute is otherwise followed. Thus, this Court holds that there is no error in the State's charging of three felony counts within a single indictment since this indictment was returned after the effective date of the statute and followed its dictates.

Secondly, Woodward argues that all three counts of the indictment arose out of the same incident. Under Miss.Code Ann. Sec. 97-3-19, capital murder is murder committed during the commission of the crime of rape, kidnapping or sexual battery. The defendant contends he should have been charged in one single count of only capital...

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