The crime occurred on September 7, 2018, around lunchtime in Hattiesburg on the hill between Newk’s Eatery and Red Lobster. Rosemary Geauxtreaux, Justin Anderson’s mother, testified at trial. She and her husband, Robert Geauxtreaux had been panhandling that day on the corner by Newk’s. According to Rosemary, Anderson and Michael McLendon had been taking drugs together in the woods nearby when they joined the couple on the corner. They were all on the hill talking about one of McLendon’s cars, and no one was fighting.
McLendon, who was a family friend, was lying in a resting position on his elbows on the grassy knoll behind Rosemary. Anderson and Robert were sharing a seat on a milk crate behind Rosemary, who was holding the sign. She testified that McLendon and Anderson had been playing with a gun and pointing it at each other and that she “had been telling them all day to put it up.” Then she heard what she thought was a firecracker. Anderson and Robert told Rosemary to run, and when she asked why, Robert told her that Anderson had shot McLendon. Rosemary then called the police.
Rosemary told the jury that she knew Anderson had accidentally shot McLendon. However, portions of Rosemary’s testimony were impeached with a prior recorded police statement. The State showed that Rosemary did not tell the police that Anderson and McLendon had been playing with a gun or that Rosemary had told them to put the gun away. Additionally, Rosemary’s statements were inconsistent as to the length of time that she had spent with Anderson and McLendon prior to the incident.
Kevin Fitzpatrick, the owner of the Hattiesburg Newk’s, testified at trial that he and Max McGehee, the general manager, had been on the patio on the day of the incident going over financial documents. Fitzpatrick observed a transient man, later identified as Anderson, walk past the restaurant and meet with another man who appeared from behind the building. He watched as the two men joined an older couple sitting on a hill behind the Red Lobster that was visible from the Newk’s patio. Anderson and one of the men started talking loudly and then Fitzpatrick heard what he thought was a firecracker. He saw three people run off the hill and then realized someone had been shot because he only saw the feet of the fourth person on the hill. Fitzpatrick heard the female in the group hysterically ask Anderson why he shot the other man, and Anderson responded with “the MF’er wouldn’t leave me alone.”
McGehee also testified at trial that he had been sitting outside discussing financial reports with Fitzpatrick, his boss, when he saw Anderson walk past the restaurant. Another male emerged from behind the building a few seconds later and began talking with Anderson. McGehee noticed the two men walk up the hill between Newk’s and Red Lobster where an older man and woman were located. He heard “some voices get a little louder” and then a sound that was either a gun or a firecracker. McGehee witnessed the woman and two of the men run off the hill and then the woman tried to hit Anderson. McGehee stated that it was at this point that he decided to call the police because he did not want to allow a physical altercation between the two restaurants. He went inside to call 911. After the phone call, he noticed Sergeant Lashaunda Buckhalter and a table of officers having lunch in the restaurant. He repeated the information to them, and they responded to the incident.
Lashaunda Buckhalter, a sergeant at the Hattiesburg police department, testified at trial that she and other officers were having lunch at Newk’s when they were approached by McGehee. McGehee told the officers that he had “witnessed an argument going on outside the business at that time” and that he had heard what he thought was a gunshot or a firework. Sergeant Buckhalter began responding to the accident by activating her body-worn camera and proceeding outside.
Once outside, she observed Anderson sitting on the sidewalk, crying with his hands on his head and a cigarette in his mouth; McLendon was lying on the ground face down with what appeared to be blood coming from his head; Rosemary was standing and screaming; and Robert standing on the side of the curb. Sergeant Buckhalter testified that Rosemary was screaming that Anderson had shot McLendon in the head. Rosemary, Anderson and Robert were handcuffed while first responders arrived and attended to McLendon. McLendon was taken to the hospital where he later died from his gunshot wound.
Anderson was read his Miranda rights and placed in the back of a patrol car, which transported him to the Hattiesburg Police Department. The gun, which was unloaded and sitting on the curb when the officers arrived, was taken into police custody.
Detective Jeremy Dunaway, an investigator at the Hattiesburg Police Department, testified that when he interviewed Anderson at the police station, Anderson confessed to shooting someone in the head.
The jury convicted Anderson of first degree murder, and he was sentenced to life in prison. On appeal, he argued his confession was invalid due to his intoxication. MSC affirmed.
Sergeant Buckhalter testified that Anderson was advised of his rights when he was placed in the police car and transported to the station. Detective Dunaway testified that when he entered the interview room, Anderson was sitting on the floor under the table. Dunaway joined Anderson on the floor and testified at trial that the following conversation took place:
I told him that, you know, I wanted to speak to him about the incident to find out what was going on, but prior to doing that, I’d have to go over his Miranda rights with him. He’d have to waive his rights to where I could ask any questions. We proceeded to talk. It was during that time, he stated that we couldn’t help him. He talked about how he was going to go back to jail. At that time I told him, we wasn’t sure what was going on, and why he was indicating he’d go back to jail, and he spontaneously stated that he had shot somebody in the head. After that we continued to try to go over the Miranda form with him, but he refused, and wasn’t long after that the interview ended.
Anderson also told Dunaway that he was tired of people messing with him. Toward the end of the interview, Anderson accused Dunaway of winking at him, but Dunaway stated that he was not winking.
Anderson argues that Dunaway’s testimony shows that Anderson was intoxicated and therefore unable to understand his rights. Anderson further relies on Rosemary’s testimony that Anderson and McLendon had been “doing dope” in the woods and “talking crazy out of their heads” while playing with a gun to prove that he was not acting rationally.
The State argues that Anderson’s statement was spontaneously given before interrogation had begun. Further, the State argues that even if Anderson was intoxicated, his confession is admissible and cited O’Halloran.
This Court has found that a confession is admissible, despite the defendant’s intoxication, when it is clear that he fully understood and appreciated what he was saying and that his statements were free and voluntary. See MSC Moore v. State, 237 So. 2d 844 (Miss. 1970). The evidence supports a finding that Anderson fully understood that he was voluntarily admitting to Dunaway that he shot McLendon. Although his behavior was strange, there is no evidence that he was intoxicated to the point that his mental faculties were affected. Anderson was aware enough to converse with Dunaway and later invoke his rights.
The voluntariness of a waiver, or of a confession, is a factual inquiry for the trial court that will not be disturbed unless it appears clearly contrary to the overwhelming weight of the evidence.
Additionally, Anderson’s confession was cumulative of other evidence. Rosemary testified that Anderson shot McLendon; multiple witnesses observed Rosemary screaming accusations at Anderson; Fitzpatrick overheard Anderson’s response to Rosemary as to why he shot McLendon; Sergeant Buckhalter’s body camera showed Rosemary screaming that Anderson shot McLendon; and the 911 call contained further accusations by Rosemary that her son had shot someone in the head.