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Williamson v. State

Court of Criminal Appeals of Oklahoma

May 17, 2018

JOHN PATRICK WILLIAMSON, Appellant
v.
THE STATE OF OKLAHOMA, Appellee.

          AN APPEAL FROM THE DISTRICT COURT OF McCURTAIN COUNTY THE HONORABLE GARY L. BROCK, SPECIAL JUDGE

         APPEARANCES AT TRIAL

          ADAM HASELGREN, JOE ROBERTSON ATTORNEYS FOR DEFENDANT

          MARK MATLOFF DISTRICT ATTORNEY, JOHNNY LOARD ASSISTANT DISTRICT ATTORNEY ATTORNEYS FOR STATE

         APPEARANCES ON APPEAL

          MEGHAN LeFRANCOIS ATTORNEY FOR APPELLANT

          MIKE HUNTER, ATTORNEY GENERAL, THEODORE M. PEEPER, ASSISTANT ATTORNEY GENERAL ATTORNEYS FOR APPELLEE

          OPINION

          LEWIS, VICE PRESIDING JUDGE

         ¶1 Appellant, John Patrick Williamson, was tried by jury and convicted of first degree (malice) murder, in violation of 21 O.S.Supp.2012, § 701.7 (A), in the District Court of McCurtain County, case number CF-2015-147, before the Honorable Gary L. Brock, Special Judge. The jury set punishment at life imprisonment without parole and Judge Brock pronounced judgment and sentence according to the verdict. Mr. Williamson now appeals to this Court.

         FACTS

         ¶2 Appellant shot and killed his step-brother, Michael Sean Daniel, in the middle of the road near Idabel, Oklahoma, in McCurtain County. Two witnesses, Kathy Minor and Gwen Devasier, saw Daniel on his knees in the road while Appellant shot him once in the chest. Daniel fell and Appellant shot him again in the face. Daniel had also been shot in the arm. Appellant walked to his pickup and drove away, leaving Daniel in the road. Daniel's motorcycle was parked just a few yards from where he was lying and the killing took place near Daniel's home.

         ¶3 Earlier, another witness saw the victim's motorcycle and Appellant's pickup traveling east on the road at a high rate of speed with the pickup just about fifty yards behind the motorcycle. Investigators found spots that appeared to be blood on the left side of the motorcycle.

         ¶4 The medical examiner found three wounds to the victim; a wound to his left arm went through his arm and into the left side of his chest. There was one to the right side of his chest, and one to the right side of the victim's face. The victim had a blood alcohol content of.14 percent. He also had levels of the anti-depressants Sertraline and Trazodone in his system.

         ¶5 This shooting was the culmination of a feud between Appellant and his step-mother's family, including his step-brother Michael Daniel, which began soon after his father died. His step mother, Anita Williamson, testified that when her estranged husband, John Henry Williamson, died, Appellant moved into his house. Mrs. Williamson was, however, a joint owner and she started proceedings to have him removed from the house.

         ¶6 One day, about seven months prior to this shooting, Mrs. Williamson went with the victim, who was her son, to visit a couple of friends and talk about getting Appellant out of the house. They sat around drinking beer and decided they should get Appellant out of the house before he had a chance to cause damage. They went to the house and Daniel and one friend went to the door. Appellant met them at the door carrying a cane. Appellant struck both men with the cane and they went to the ground. Mrs. Williamson went to the door carrying a baseball bat. She told her step-son that the house was hers and she wanted him out. Appellant gathered his children and drove away. Mrs. Williamson stayed there that night and apparently moved in.

         ¶7 Another time, about five weeks prior to the shooting, Mrs. Williamson and Daniel drove by Appellant and he started hollering, yelling and cursing them out. They just drove on by. Later that day, however, Daniel received threatening text messages from Appellant in an attempt to get Daniel to fight him.

         ¶8 The night before the shooting Appellant stayed at the home of Jeffrey and Gayla Alford. On the morning of May 6, Appellant drove to Wal-mart in Idabel, where he was caught on video, and drove back to the Alford home. Around 2:30 p.m. Appellant received a call and went outside to answer the call. He came back in and told Gayla Alford that he would be spending the night in Broken Bow. Witnesses remembered seeing the shooting occur at about 3:40 p.m.

         ¶9 After Appellant drove away from the scene of the shooting he drove to Cheryl Tutt's house arriving there about 4:00 p.m. Tutt is Gayla Alford's sister. Tutt testified that she invited Appellant in and he looked scared. He was shaking and sweating. His color was pale. He told her, "I done it and somebody saw my truck." Appellant was wearing the same Carhartt shirt that Wal-mart video showed he was wearing before the shooting. Appellant asked Tutt to drive him to Texarkana, but she could not because she did not have her car. Appellant asked for back-road directions to Gayla's house. He asked Tutt to not say anything to anybody. After Appellant left, Tutt called Gayla and told her Appellant was on his way and something was not right.

         ¶10 Appellant arrived at the Alford home, but he was no longer wearing the blue Carhartt shirt. Appellant asked Gayla to take him to Texarkana, but she could not. He asked her for money, told her he loved her, and asked her to take his dog. He wanted her to not think he was a bad person, but he had to go.

         ¶11 Investigators found the blue Carhartt shirt near where Appellant had parked at the Tutt house. They also found a box of.22 caliber shells nearby. Appellant's pickup was located in Hope, Arkansas the next morning and Appellant was eventually arrested nearby at around 8:00 a.m.

         ANALYSIS

         ¶12 Appellant claims in proposition one that his trial was fundamentally unfair because the admission of prejudicial and otherwise improper law enforcement testimony invaded the province of the jury. Appellant concedes that most of the testimony came without objection, so this Court reviews those instances for plain error only.

         ¶13 To be entitled to relief for plain error, an appellant must show: "(1) the existence of an actual error (i.e., deviation from a legal rule); (2) that the error is plain or obvious; and (3) that the error affected his substantial rights, meaning the error affected the outcome of the proceeding." Hogan v. State, 2006 OK CR 19, ¶ 38, 139 P.3d 907, 923; see Simpson v. State, 1994 OK CR 40, ¶¶ 3, 11, 23, 876 P.2d 690, 694, 695, 698. This Court will only correct plain error if the error seriously affects the fairness, integrity or public reputation of the judicial proceedings or otherwise represents a miscarriage of justice. Hogan, 2006 OK CR 19, ¶ 38, 139 P.3d at 923.

         ¶14 Appellant complains about OSBI Agent Whit Kent's testimony. His testimony, Appellant contends, was a rehash of other witnesses' testimony using a timeline to summarize the State's theory of the case. Appellant also complains that Agent Kent was allowed to testify regarding the contents of recordings of Appellant's jail conversations before the recordings were introduced to the jury.

         ¶15 Agent Kent testified about a timeline prepared by him and introduced as an exhibit with no objection by Appellant. His testimony about the timeline was a summary of the investigation and what information he gathered to form the basis for the timeline. His testimony did not give an opinion regarding the veracity of the witnesses' testimony. As such, his testimony did not amount to improper bolstering or vouching. See Warner v. State, 2006 OK CR 40, ¶ 24, 144 P.3d 838, 860-61, overruled on other grounds Taylor v. State, 2018 OK CR 6, ___P.3d___ (where there is no expression of personal belief in witnesses' credibility or that evidence not presented supports witnesses' testimony there is no improper vouching). Contrary to Appellant's argument, Kent's testimony did not force the jury to ignore its responsibility to make its own conclusions based on the facts and circumstances appearing in evidence. This testimony, therefore, was not improper as it did not tell the jury what conclusions to reach. Romano v. State, 1995 OK CR 74, ¶ 21, 909 P.2d 92, 109.

         ¶16 Kent's testimony may have reiterated some of the witnesses' testimony; however, the reiteration was not so cumulative that its probative value was substantially outweighed in violation of 12 O.S.2011, § 2402. The testimony was probative to show the steps in the investigation, why the focus was on Appellant, and how law enforcement conducted their investigation leading to Appellant's apprehension.

         ¶17 Kent's testimony about the recordings of Appellant's jail conversations also garnered no objection by defense counsel, thus we review for plain error only. Appellant complains that, in setting a foundation for the introduction of the recordings, Kent testified about incriminating phrases on the recordings just before the trial court admitted the tapes. Appellant's only complaint is that the testimony bolstered the recordings, was cumulative of the recordings, and usurped the jury's ability to decide what was on the recordings.

         ¶18 Here, the jury was not asked to abandon its own perception of the recordings and substitute its interpretation for that of Kent. Kent only testified about the phrases he thought were important in the investigation and which statements were incriminating based on his training and experience. The jurors were free to determine the weight of these recordings on their own. There was no error in Kent's testimony.

         ¶19 Finding no error in the admission of Kent's testimony, this Court cannot find plain ...


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