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Flight is admissible as evidence of consciousness of guilt

Facts and Analysis

We are confronted with Eric Fuselier‘s third appeal before this court from a capital murder conviction and death sentence in the Circuit Court of Jones County.

Eric Fuselier was convicted and sentenced to death for the April 25, 1983 murder of Rose Gunter during the commission of a felony. Gunter was found in her bed, gagged, blindfolded and stabbed forty-one times. Two days after the murder, Fuselier, who was an escapee from the Louisiana State Penitentiary, attempted to flee the home of Leslie Corley on foot.

However, he was caught, arrested, tried, convicted of the murder and sentenced to death. In his first appeal, this court reversed Fuselier’s conviction and sentence and remanded the case for a new trial. At Fuselier’s second trial, the State adduced evidence that when law enforcement officers arrived at the home of Leslie Corley two days after the murder of Rose Gunter to arrest Fuselier and his co- indictee, David McFee, Fuselier jumped out of a window in the back of the Corley house and began running toward the woods.

The officer chasing Fuselier racked his shotgun and ordered Fuselier to stop, which Fuselier did. Fuselier now contends that the evidence of flight was improperly admitted in his retrial. He argues that this court, in its first opinion regarding this case, held that the evidence of flight could not be admitted.

Generally, it is a well-established principle that flight is admissible as evidence of consciousness of guilt. See MSC Williams v. State, 667 So. 2d 15 (Miss. 1996). However, an instruction that flight may be considered as a circumstance of guilt or guilty knowledge is appropriate only where that flight is unexplained and somehow probative of guilt or guilty knowledge.

Evidence of flight is inadmissible where there is an independent reason for flight known by the court which cannot be explained to the jury because of its prejudicial effect upon the defendant. Fuselier argued that the evidence of flight was not probative of his guilt or guilty knowledge of Gunter’s murder because, as an escapee, he had an independently sufficient reason to flee.

In Fuselier’s second trial, the State again offered evidence of Fuselier’s flight, but did not offer an instruction on flight. Therefore, the jury was allowed to draw the same inference that this court determined that the jury should not have been allowed to draw in the first trial, namely that Fuselier’s flight was probative of his guilt or guilty knowledge in relation to Rose Gunter’s murder. Thus, the conviction was reversed.

Thoughts

Most of the time you will be able to talk about someone running away from you to escape, etc. However, as you can see above, there are times you will not be able to discuss the flight. Now you know why.

 

https://courts.ms.gov/images/Opinions/Conv3936.pdf