Wynn v. State

Decision Date06 October 2000
Citation804 So.2d 1122
PartiesGregory Renard WYNN v. STATE.
CourtAlabama Court of Criminal Appeals

Valerie Lynn Palmedo Goudie, Anniston; and Fred Lawton III, Anniston, for appellant.

Bill Pryor, atty. gen., and Thomas F. Parker IV, asst. atty. gen., for appellee.


The appellant, Gregory Renard Wynn, was convicted of four counts of capital murder in connection with the killing of Denise Bliss. Two of the counts were made capital because the appellant committed the murder during the course of a first-degree robbery, see § 13A-5-40(a)(2), Ala.Code 1975, and two of the counts were made capital because the appellant committed the murder during the course of a second-degree burglary, see § 13A-5-40(a)(4), Ala.Code 1975. After a sentencing hearing, the jury recommended, by a vote of 12-0, that the appellant be sentenced to death. The trial court accepted the jury's recommendation and sentenced the appellant to death. The appellant filed a motion for a new trial, which the trial court denied after conducting a hearing. This appeal follows.1

In its sentencing order, the trial court summarized the relevant facts of this case as follows:

"The evidence and testimony in this case showed that Denise Bliss was a shift leader (manager) at a Hardee's restaurant located at 5630 McClellan Boulevard in Anniston, Calhoun County, Alabama. As a night shift manager, it was her duty to close the store and prepare the deposit of the cash receipts. Denise Bliss was employed and acting in that capacity for Hardee's on the evening of April 8, 1998. She was last seen alive after the store closed for business and she remained by herself to complete her duties as shift manager.
"Early on the morning of April 9, 1998, employees of the Hardee's store arrived to begin preparation of the restaurant and food for the service of the breakfast menu. Upon gaining entry to the store, blood was first noted in significant quantities on the floor and the employees left to summons help. Police were called and an investigation began.
"The evidence showed that Denise Bliss had worked at Hardee's for some thirteen or fourteen years and in her capacity as a shift leader or manager she had the authority to hire and fire employees under her. It was further testified to that the Defendant Gregory Renard Wynn had previously been employed at the Hardee's store which was the scene of the crime and that he had been terminated. Clearly, Denise Bliss and the Defendant knew and would recognize one another. While working at Hardee's and at the time of the crime, the Defendant lived at 6305 Meadowlark Drive, which address was less than a mile from the Hardee's store in issue.
"The evidence offered and unrebutted showed that Hardee's has a routine for the accounting of receipts and on-premises maintenance of operating cash. Essentially, each cash drawer contains assorted cash and currency amounting to $100, each drawer is sized to fit in the store safe where it is to be placed on closing, that some $700 is maintained in a `safe fund' [additional coins and currency for operations] and that the remaining money, when the drawers are `counted down' to $100 is deposited. The deposit is prepared, documented and then placed in a serial-numbered bag and an accounting strip containing that serial number is torn off and retained. Also, the serial number of a so-called `bait bill' is recorded, usually the highest denomination bill.
"From testimony and evidence it appeared that the routine followed above was followed and certified following close of business on April 8, 1998.
"The evidence further showed that Denise Bliss arrived at work at Hardee's at around 2:23 p.m. when she `clocked in.' That night on closing, her co-workers Anthony Gooden and Jennifer Wintle `clocked out' at 10:07 p.m. and 9:57 p.m., respectively. Thereafter, Denise Bliss was ostensibly alone in the store and was the apparent sole occupant of the premises with legal authority to enter or remain.
"A Hardee's employee, Gloria Foster, a biscuit cook, arrived at the store site around 3:00 a.m. and Ingrid Terry, a line cook, arrived shortly thereafter. Upon gaining access to the building, which was locked, they discovered blood on the floor and immediately left to call the police.
"When the police arrived, they found a large pool of blood on the floor and a trail of blood leading to the body of Denise Bliss in the store freezer or walk-in cooler. The store remained under the custody and control of the Anniston Police Department until it was processed as a crime scene.
"From the crime scene, it was evident that there had been a confrontation in the area of the store where the blood pool was located and that the body of the victim Bliss had been dragged to the freezer or cooler. It was also evident that the cash register drawers, the safe and the night deposit had been ransacked and money was missing. It was later determined that some $1100 in receipts [currency, checks and coins] were missing.
"The evidence further showed that the night of April 8, 1998, was stormy and that severe weather forecasts had been issued. Shortly before closing, it was further shown that two black males had come into the Hardee's store and asked to use the telephone. Additional evidence showed that both men left shortly thereafter.
"While the defense attempted to imply that one or both of these men may have been responsible, there was no credible evidence developed supporting that defense theory. In fact, the State called two witnesses, both of whom ... testified that sometime around 9:52 p.m. they saw a black male at or near the intersection of Weaver Road [very close to the Hardee's in issue] cross the road and walk toward the crime scene. One of the witnesses testified that he got a good look at the man as he crossed in front of his headlights and he then identified the Defendant as that person.
"The crime scene facts and evidence of the weapon or weapons used to inflict the injuries resulting in the victim's death [were] presented by Anniston police officers and crime scene technicians. While there was no direct evidence regarding the weapon or weapons used, the circumstantial evidence [from the testimony of these witnesses and other testimony regarding statements attributed to the Defendant and from the physical condition of the items] was conclusive that the victim's wounds were inflicted by a window washing device [most often referred to as a squeegee] and a metal pipe device that was used to compact the trash before it was removed from the store waste receptacles. Both of these items were on the store premises prior to the crime and would have been known to one who had worked there. Further, either or both of these devices would be readily capable of inflicting serious physical injury or causing death if used to strike or beat someone.
"Though there was no direct testimony given that the Defendant was in the Hardee's store on the night of April 8th, the circumstantial evidence was overwhelming not only that he was, in fact, there but that the Defendant was the sole actor involved in the death of Denise Bliss.
"Through the testimony of Randy Smith, Jr., it was stated that on the night of but before the time of the crime alleged, the Defendant called Smith [a friend] and solicited his help in `hitting a lick' at Hardee's. The solicitation was declined and Smith went on to testify that he saw the Defendant the next day, April 9th, at the house trailer home of Brandy Yott in Weaver, Alabama, that the Defendant was wearing new clothes and a new silver scorpion or crab necklace and that the Defendant told him that he went into the Hardee's store before closing and hid in the bathroom. Smith further testified that the Defendant stated that he robbed the place, that the victim recognized him, that she was the person who had fired him and that he hit her in the mouth and chased her around the store.
"The testimony of State's witness Brandy Lee Mancil showed that the Defendant had stated to her that he had robbed Hardee's and that the Defendant showed her money stated to have been obtained in the robbery. Mancil further testified that the Defendant stated that he had killed the victim (Bliss), that he had thrown some items in the woods and that he had put his clothing into a dumpster. Mancil also stated that the Defendant had in his possession a blue zip bank bag and that he related to her that he had hidden in the Hardee's bathroom and that he had beaten the lady there (Bliss), who he said was the lady who fired him, and that he had drug her into the freezer where she would freeze to death before anyone could find her. Mancil further testified that she and the Defendant left the trailer and took a cab to the Howard Johnson's motel in Oxford, Alabama, where they all rented a room in Brandi Yott's name. Mancil also testified that Cledus Ferrell and Carlos McCallum came to the room after being contacted. The manager of the Howard Johnson corroborated many of the key items of testimony of Yott and Mancil from business records.
"The State presented, through various witnesses, that the next day the Defendant went on a buying spree, purchasing various items of clothing for himself and others and also a scorpion necklace and ring for himself. These items were identified by witnesses and by store personnel who sold them. Again, the evidence was overwhelming that the Defendant was the person with the money and was paying for all or nearly all of everything purchased for himself and the witnesses who testified regarding the facts and circumstances surrounding the purchases.
"After leaving the Howard Johnson's motel, Mancil, Yott and the Defendant returned to Brandi Yott's trailer in Weaver. Testimony presented by the dispatcher and two drivers of Andy's Taxi Company, showed that at 11:20 p.m. on April 8th a black male passenger

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