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Court Case Record Eugene Lee JONES. v. STATE of Alabama. CR–14–1332 UID(ea73)


Eugene Lee JONES. v. STATE of Alabama. Court Case Record

Court Case Number: CR–14–1332


 
Case NumberCR–14–1332
Case TitleEugene Lee JONES. v. STATE of Alabama.
Case TypeCriminal
StateAlabama, AL
County
CourtCourt of Criminal Appeals of Alabama.
Court Address
Phone
Field Date4/29/2016
Close Date

Parties

CounselNameType
Eugene Lee JONES.Appellee/Petitioner
STATE of Alabama.Appellant/Defendant
Details
On Application for Rehearing
This Court's opinion issued on February 12, 2016, is withdrawn, and the following is substituted therefor.
The appellant, Eugene Lee Jones, was indicted by a Lauderdale County grand jury for murder, see § 13A–6–2, Ala.Code 1975. Following a trial by jury, Jones was convicted of the lesser-included offense of manslaughter. The circuit court sentenced Jones as a habitual felony offender to life imprisonment and ordered Jones to pay $3,485 in restitution, $50 to the crime victims compensation fund, and court costs.
The evidence presented at trial established the following pertinent facts. On July 25, 2013, Jones and Lula Addison drank and smoked crack together. Beginning at approximately 9 a.m. and continuing throughout the day, Jones and Addison made numerous purchases at a shop called the “Store and Deli.” Video surveillance showed Jones and Addison buying liquor, beer, Brillo brand scouring pads, and a crack pipe. Around 11:15 a.m., Jones, Addison, her son, and her son's girlfriend drove to a crack house on Red Bud Street to purchase drugs.
During the morning, Jones checked into room 317 of the City Lodge Hotel in Florence. Addison's daughter, Lasonia Williams, was working at the hotel as a housekeeper on July 25, 2013. While at the hotel working that day, Williams briefly spoke to Addison before Addison and Jones went into room 317. Williams testified that Addison seemed to be happy and “buzzed” when she spoke to her. (R. 274.) That night, shortly after 8:30 p.m., Addison entered a convenience store then got into a car with Raphael Glen to return to the crack house to purchase more drugs. Glen then returned Addison to the hotel.
Four days later, on July 29, 2013, Williams was cleaning rooms at the hotel when she “smelled a bad smell” in room 316. (R. 265.) Williams telephoned Perulate Patel, the hotel owner, who helped Williams investigate the location of the bad smell. Patel and Williams tracked the smell to room 317—the room Addison and Jones had shared. When Patel lifted up the mattress, she discovered a dead body and telephoned the police.
Sgt. Craig Blasingame with the Florence Police Department arrived at the City Lodge Hotel in response to a call for “suspicion of a possible something underneath the hotel bed in Room 317” and what was believed to be a human body. (R. 252.) Sgt. Blasingame lifted the mattress and box springs off of the bed frame and discovered a dead woman. Sgt. Blasingame confirmed that the body under the bed was Addison. The coroner testified that Addison's body was in a state of decomposition as the body was bloated and layers of skin had begun to separate. Addison's body was lodged under metal bed rails, one of which was placed across her neck. Sgt. Blasingame testified that there was no sign of a struggle in the hotel room.
During the investigation into Addison's death, Jones made two statements to law-enforcement officials. On July 29, 2013, Jones went to the district attorney's office after finding out that he was a suspect in Addison's death. After waiving his Miranda1 rights, Jones gave a statement to police. In his first statement, Jones said that he met Addison, bought and smoked some crack cocaine with her, and then rented a room at the City Lodge Hotel with her. Jones told police that he and Addison went to a restaurant to get something to eat before they returned to the hotel room. While they were at the restaurant, Addison ran into a man whom Jones could not identify. Addison told Jones that the man wanted to have sex with her for money and that she wanted to use the hotel room in order to “turn a trick.” (R. 529.) Jones stated that he agreed and left the room. When Jones returned, the door to the room was ajar and Addison was not in the room.
After approximately two hours of questioning, Jones asked for an attorney, stating: “I know where this is going. I need a lawyer. I came here on my own free will.” (R. 216.) Officer Gerald Pearson, who was leading the questioning, immediately stopped questioning Jones about Addison's murder. Jones was not provided with a lawyer at that time. After Jones invoked his right to counsel and the questioning ended, Officer Pearson offered to give Jones a ride to the Salvation Army shelter facility. However, before Officer Pearson could give Jones a ride, Officer Pearson learned that there was an arrest warrant for Jones from Bessemer stemming from what Officer Pearson believed was a drug-paraphernalia charge. At that point, Jones was taken into police custody and was transferred from Florence to Bessemer. Jones was subsequently released from custody in Bessemer once his case concluded. While in Bessemer, Jones was arrested again on a warrant obtained by Officer Pearson charging Jones with a b
On October 7, 2013, Jones met with Marty Leeth, an agent with the Federal Bureau of Investigation. After waiving his Miranda rights, Jones gave a second statement to law-enforcement officials in which he claimed, as he did in his first statement, that he and Addison had bought and smoked some crack cocaine and had rented a hotel room. Jones, however, stated that when he and Addison returned from the restaurant, they both took off their clothes and got into bed. Suddenly, they heard a knock at the door and Addison jumped up to investigate. When Addison opened the door, a man forced his way into the room and robbed Jones at gunpoint. After the robbery, Addison grabbed her belongings and attempted to leave the room. Jones believed that Addison had set him up to get robbed and tried to lock the door to prevent Addison from leaving the room. According to Jones, he and Addison struggled and he threw Addison on the bed. When Addison “popped right back up,” Jones grabbed her from behind with h
Addison's toxicology report showed the presence of cocaine and levamisole, a drug used to rid animals of parasites. Justin Sanders, a toxicologist with the Alabama Department of Forensic Sciences, testified that levamisole is sometimes used to “cut” crack cocaine. (R. 456.) Based on the toxicology results, Sanders testified that Addison had smoked crack cocaine “cut” with levamisole. According to Sanders, high amounts of levamisole can be lethal. The toxicology report did not indicate how much of the drug was present in Addison's system. Sanders testified that when cocaine and alcohol are used together, the body generates cocaethylene, a dangerous chemical that can cause sudden death.
Dr. Valerie Green, a medical examiner for the Alabama Department of Forensic Sciences, testified that a toxicology analysis of Addison's liver revealed a blood-alcohol level of 0.106. Dr. Green stated that the level of alcohol in Addison's blood meant that she was “somewhat impaired” but that it was not considered a “fatal level of ethanol in the body.” (R. 672.) Dr. Green confirmed the presence of cocaine, cocaethylene and levamisole in Addison's body but testified that the drugs were not the cause of Addison's death. According to Dr. Green, Addison's death was the result of asphyxia due to strangulation. Dr. Green testified that Addison's trachea was fractured and that the muscles in her neck had hemorrhaged—both signs of strangulation. Dr. Green testified that Addison was alive when she was strangled.
After both sides had rested and the circuit court had instructed the jury on the applicable principles of law, the jury found Jones guilty of the lesser-included offense of manslaughter. Jones timely filed a motion for a new trial, which the circuit court denied. This appeal followed.
I.
Jones contends that the circuit court erred by denying his motion for a mistrial made during voir dire. Specifically, Jones contends that statements made by prospective Juror P.H. in the presence of other members of the jury venire “tainted” the jury and ultimately compromised its verdict. (Jones's brief, p. 23.)
The record indicates that during voir dire the prosecutor asked prospective jurors whether a family member or close friend had ever been the victim of murder or any violent crime. P.H. informed the court that her father “was killed in a car wreck by a young man who decided to do drugs before he drove that morning.” (R. 83.) P.H. informed the court that the defendant pleaded guilty to manslaughter and “received ten years. Two in the prison system, three house arrest with ankle monitor, work privileges, five years probation for a ten year sentence.” (R. 83–84.) When asked if she felt “let down by the court system,” P.H. responded in the affirmative but stated that she thought that she could be fair to both sides. Jones subsequently moved for a mistrial based on P.H.'s response, arguing
“I'm moving for a mistrial, the reason being is [P.H.], she referred to the charge of manslaughter then proceeded to tell what the punishment was. I think that taints the whole jury. Manslaughter is going to be an option in this case that they can convict him of that, you know, some of these people are going to say well that's all he can get. Well manslaughter with no priors is two to twenty. With his priors it can be more than that so I feel like it's going to be unfair for him because now all these people are going to think well we can't convict him of manslaughter. He's going to get just a small amount of time and that's not the case so that's why I'm moving for a mistrial. You know, a lot of times when we have a jury trial I seen them knock and have the note what the punishment would be. We can't—they can't be instructed on that. I feel like they've already got some instruction on what punishments could be. I think it's tainted the venire and any jury that he would get and move for
(R. 153–54.) P.H. was subsequently struck for cause before trial.
“ ‘A mistrial is a drastic remedy that should be used sparingly and only to prevent manifest injustice.’ Hammonds v. State, 777 So.2d 750, 767 (Ala.Crim.App.1999)(citing Ex parte Thomas, 625 So.2d 1156 (Ala.1993)), aff'd, 777 So.2d 777 (Ala.2000). A mistrial is the appropriate remedy when a fundamental error in a trial vitiates its result. Levett v. State, 593 So.2d 130, 135 (Ala.Crim.App.1991). ‘The decision whether to grant a mistrial rests within the sound discretion of the trial court and the court's ruling on a motion for a mistrial will not be overturned absent a manifest abuse of that discretion.’ Peoples v. State, 951 So.2d 755, 762 (Ala.Crim.App.2006).”
Peak v. State, 106 So.3d 906, 915 (Ala.Crim.App.2012).
Further, the Alabama Supreme Court has held that a “mistrial is an extreme measure that should be taken only when the prejudice cannot be eradicated by instructions or other curative actions of the trial court.” Ex parte Lawrence, 776 So.2d 50, 55 (Ala.2000)(citing Nix v. State, 370 So.2d 1115, 1117 (Ala.Crim.App.1979), cert. denied, 370 So.2d 1119 (Ala.1979)).
In the instant case, Jones has not alleged, much less shown, that the venire was tainted with prejudice when P.H. referenced a manslaughter conviction for which the defendant received a 10–year sentence. Instead, Jones speculates, as he did when he moved for a mistrial, that “some of the jurors might have wanted to acquit” and that “some might have wanted to convict [Jones] of criminally negligent homicide.” (Jones's brief, p. 24.) Furthermore, after the parties finished presenting evidence the circuit court instructed the jury regarding the applicable principles of law. It is presumed that the jury followed the circuit court's instructions. See Calhoun v. State, 932 So.2d 923, 965 (Ala.Crim.App.2005)(“We presume that the jury follows the circuit court's instructions.”) Therefore, we cannot say that the circuit court abused its discretion in denying Jones's motion for a mistrial.