Wooten v. State

Decision Date06 February 2001
Docket NumberNo. 1999-KA-02108-COA.,1999-KA-02108-COA.
Citation811 So.2d 355
PartiesJanet WOOTEN, Appellant, v. STATE of Mississippi, Appellee.
CourtMississippi Court of Appeals

David L. Walker, Batesville, Attorney for Appellant.

Office of the Attorney General by Jeffrey A. Klingfuss, Attorney for Appellee.

Before SOUTHWICK, P.J., LEE, and THOMAS, JJ.

THOMAS, J., for the Court:

¶ 1. Ms. Janet Wooten appeals her conviction for manslaughter, raising the following issues:

I. DID THE LOWER COURT ERR IN FINDING THAT THE WEIGHT AND SUFFICIENCY OF THE EVIDENCE SUPPORTED A CONVICTION?
II. DID THE LOWER COURT ERR IN DENYING AN OBJECTION TO THE STATE'S PRESENTATION OF TESTIMONY CONCERNING PRIOR FIGHTS BETWEEN WOOTEN AND THE DECEASED AND WERE THE JURY INSTRUCTIONS PERTAINING TO THIS TESTIMONY PROPER?
III. DID THE LOWER COURT ERR IN DENYING A U.R.C.C.P. 9.04 DISCOVERY OBJECTION?
IV. DID THE LOWER COURT ERR IN DENYING AN OBJECTION TO ENTERING SEVERAL PHOTOGRAPHS OF THE CRIME SCENE INTO EVIDENCE DUE TO THEIR GRUESOME CONTENT.

Finding no error, we affirm.

FACTS

¶ 2. The State's case in chief was based on the contention that Janet Wooten shot and killed her husband, James Wooten, because he was involved in an affair with another woman. The State called on the following witnesses to establish this assertion.

¶ 3. Pat Kazziah, the coroner/medical examiner for Tate County, MS, confirmed that James had been shot in the chest and that this wound was the cause of his death. During cross-examination, he further testified that he could smell alcohol on the body of James.

¶ 4. Dr. Steven Hayne, a forensic pathologist, testified as an expert witness. He had performed an autopsy on the body of James, where he discovered that James had been shot in the upper chest from a distance of approximately four feet. Dr. Hayne confirmed that the gunshot wound was the cause of death. Dr. Hayne testified that the wound was a typical shotgun wound. Dr. Hayne stated that James was five feet, nine inches tall and weighed 220 pounds. Over Janet's discovery objection, Dr. Hayne discussed his opinion of photographs showing blood splatters on the walls. Dr. Hayne stated that the photographs indicated blood splattering of moderate velocity on a wall.

¶ 5. Annette Freeman, a dispatcher for the Tate County Sheriff's Department, testified that sometime after 11:00 p.m. on November 20, 1998, she received a call from a person who identified herself as Janet Wooten. Ms. Freeman testified that Janet claimed she had had a fight with her husband, he had threatened to kill her and she shot him. Janet continued to inform Ms. Freeman that her husband was lying on the floor, the gun was on the couch and there was blood everywhere.

¶ 6. Dudley Hill, a deputy sheriff of Tate County, was requested to respond to the call from the Wooten house. Hill found James lying on the hallway floor face down in a pool of blood. He found a shotgun on a couch at the end of the hallway. Hill took Janet into custody and transported her to jail. Hill smelled alcohol on Janet at the time of the arrest. Russell Billingsly, a sergeant of the Tate County Sheriff's Department, confirmed the location of the deceased body. He further testified that he saw two beer bottles at the site.

¶ 7. Larry Hulette, an investigator with the Tate County Sheriff's Department, also arrived at the scene of the crime. Hulette confirmed the location of the shotgun and also testified to having found one spent shotgun hull on the floor. Hulette did not question Janet on the night of her arrest because she appeared to be intoxicated and upset over the incident. The morning after the incident, Hulette questioned Janet about the fight. She told Hulette that her husband had been fighting and she feared that James was going to choke her, as he had done before. Janet told Hulette that she shot her husband as an act of self-defense.

¶ 8. Harry Floate, a second investigator with the Tate County Sheriffs Department, accompanied Larry Hulette. Floate was responsible for taking the photographs of the body and the crime scene. He testified that the photographs entered into evidence were an accurate representation of what he witnessed at the Wooten home. Floate then gave a thorough description of each photograph entered into evidence. Floate further identified the shotgun shell box that he had found in a drawer of the Wooten home. Floate also identified a shotgun hull found at the scene, as well as the murder weapon, a bolt action 410 shotgun. Floate also explained a diagram presented which accurately represented the Wooten home, and specifically the crime scene. Floate then identified a confessional statement which he had transcribed as Janet explained the incident. Janet had signed and dated the written confession the morning after the incident had occurred.

¶ 9. Janet's defense argument was based on the claim that she shot James in self-defense. Her first witness was Hulette, who testified that during his investigation of the Wooten home, he found a broken necklace on the floor, as well as several bottles of beer and alcohol. He further stated that Janet was in the den when she fired the shotgun and had no means to exit the home without passing through James. The defense also called Floate, who testified that Janet told him she thought she had shot James in the leg.

¶ 10. The defense then called Janet. She testified that after a night of drinking alcohol, she and James began to argue and fight. When the argument became physical, Janet ran into the den. James followed her screaming that he was going to kill her. Janet then picked up a shotgun and told James to stop. Unfettered, James continued toward her and Janet shot him in the chest. Janet then made a 911 call. She claimed that her actions were made in self-defense.

¶ 11. On cross examination, Janet stated that her height was approximately six feet tall. Janet admitted that she had cut James' wrists in a past fight with a knife. She further admitted that there had been numerous fights between herself and James in the past. She explained that the last three years of the marriage had been bad, although she denied that James had been sleeping elsewhere two to three months before the shooting incident. Janet further denied that she had told others of her intentions to kill James.

¶ 12. The State then called rebuttal witnesses. Sidney Wooten, Jr., the father of the deceased, testified that Janet apologized to him about the incident, admitting that she "didn't have to do this."

¶ 13. Glinda Milam, the sister of the deceased, testified that she stopped by the Wooten house after work. She explained that Janet was drinking at that time and James had not arrived home for the evening yet.

¶ 14. Timothy Wooten, a brother of the deceased, testified that five years prior to the trial Janet discovered that James had been having an affair and shot a pistol at him twice. James was not hit by either shot, and the two settled the fight without physical injury. Kind Wooten, another brother of the deceased, offered testimony that supported this incident.

¶ 15. Conteia Wooten, another sister of the deceased, testified that Janet had made statements threatening to kill James. While the exact time that these statements were made is unclear, Conteia claimed that they were made in the same year that James was killed. Conteia further testified that Janet had a shotgun that she kept in the den closet and further identified the murder weapon as this same weapon.

¶ 16. Friendly Wooten, a third brother of the deceased, testified that he was supposed to meet James on the night of the shooting. James was going to Memphis to see his girlfriend. James had been living with his girlfriend for several weeks before the shooting.

ANALYSIS

I. DID THE LOWER COURT ERR IN FINDING THAT THE WEIGHT AND SUFFICIENCY OF THE EVIDENCE SUPPORTED A CONVICTION?

¶ 17. The decision to grant or deny a motion for new trial is discretionary with the trial court. McClain v. State, 625 So.2d 774, 781 (Miss.1993). In order to preserve the issue for consideration on appeal, the defendant must raise the issue that the verdict was against the overwhelming weight of the evidence as a ground for his motion for new trial. Howard v. State, 507 So.2d 58, 63 (Miss.1987). In Ford v. State, 753 So.2d 489, 490 (Miss. Ct.App.1999), we held that:

[i]n determining whether a jury verdict is against the overwhelming weight of the evidence, this Court must accept as true the evidence presented as supportive of the verdict, and we will disturb a jury verdict only when convinced that the circuit court has abused its discretion in failing to grant a new trial or if the final result will result in an unconscionable injustice.

Id. (citing Danner v. State, 748 So.2d 844, 846 (Miss.Ct.App.1999)). See also Turner v. State, 726 So.2d 117, 125 (Miss.1998); Groseclose v. State, 440 So.2d 297, 300

(Miss.1983). "Any less stringent rule would denigrate the constitutional power and responsibility of the jury in our criminal justice system." Hughes v. State, 724 So.2d 893, 896 (Miss.1998). "In determining whether a jury verdict is against the overwhelming weight of the evidence, the court accepts as true the evidence favorable to the State." Wetz v. State, 503 So.2d 803, 812 (Miss.1987). See also McClain, 625 So.2d at 781; Van Buren v. State, 498 So.2d 1224, 1229 (Miss.1986). It has also been established that "the jury is the judge of the weight and credibility of testimony and is free to accept or reject all or some of the testimony given by each witness." Meshell, 506 at 991. See also Hilliard v. State, 749 So.2d 1015, 1017 (Miss.1999); Lewis v. State, 580 So.2d 1279, 1288 (Miss.1991); Gandy v. State, 373 So.2d 1042, 1045 (Miss.1979). The "testimony of a single uncorroborated witness is sufficient to sustain a conviction... even though there may be more than one person testifying to the contrary." Williams v. State, 512 So.2d 666, 670 (Miss.1987). We hold that...

To continue reading

Request your trial
9 cases
  • Tillis v. State
    • United States
    • Mississippi Court of Appeals
    • August 19, 2014
    ... ... As acknowledged by the supreme court, [i]t is the responsibility of defense counsel to request a continuance if unfairly surprised and, if requested, the trial court should almost certainly grant it. By failing to do so, [the defendant] waives the issue for appeal. Wooten v. State, 811 So.2d 355, 366 ( 30) (Miss.Ct.App.2001) (citation omitted). See also URCCC 9.04. Accordingly, we find no abuse of discretion in the circuit court's decision to allow the coroner's testimony and to admit her report into evidence. 15 This argument lacks merit. II. Whether the ... ...
  • Flaggs v. State
    • United States
    • Mississippi Court of Appeals
    • May 27, 2008
    ...this proposition, we note that Dr. Hayne has been accepted in other cases as an expert in the analysis of blood spatter. See Wooten v. State, 811 So.2d 355, 358(¶ 4) (Miss. Ct.App.2001) (Dr. Hayne discussed his opinion of photographs showing blood splatters on the walls); see also State v. ......
  • Tillis v. State
    • United States
    • Mississippi Court of Appeals
    • December 1, 2011
    ...requested, the trial court should almost certainly grant it. By failing to do so, [the defendant] waives the issue for appeal." Wooten v. State, 811 So. 2d 355, 366 (¶30) (Miss. Ct. App. 2001) (citation omitted). See also URCCC 9.04. Accordingly, we find no abuse of discretion in the circui......
  • Taylor v. State, 2013–KA–00305–COA.
    • United States
    • Mississippi Court of Appeals
    • July 22, 2014
    ... ... [a]ny physical evidence and photographs relevant to the case or which may be offered in evidence[.] See also Brady v. Maryland, 373 U.S. 83, 87, 83 S.Ct. 1194, 10 L.Ed.2d 215 (1963). The essential purpose of Rule 9.04 is the elimination of trial by ambush and surprise. Wooten v. State, 811 So.2d 355, 365 ( 28) (Miss.Ct.App.2001) (citing Robinson v. State, 508 So.2d 1067, 1070 (Miss.1987) ). Furthermore, a violation of Rule 9.04 is considered harmless error unless it affirmatively appears from the entire record that the violation caused a miscarriage of justice. Id ... ...
  • Request a trial to view additional results

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