JACKSON, Miss. — The U.S. Supreme Court declined
Monday to hear an appeal from Lisa Jo Chamberlin, who was seeking a
new trial after being sentenced to death in the slayings of a
Hattiesburg couple whose bodies were found in a freezer in rural
A Mississippi court denied her post-conviction
petition last fall. Chamberlain sought U.S. Supreme Court review of
her petition, which the justices denied without comment.
Chamberlin had claimed — among other things — that
her trial attorney failed to question prospective jurors about their
feelings about the death penalty, failed to raise the issue of her
drug addiction and failed to raise the issue of her dominance by a
In a post-conviction petition, an inmate argues he
or she has found new evidence or a possible constitutional issue that
could persuade a court to order a new trial.
The Mississippi Supreme Court said last fall that
Chamberlin failed to show how she was denied a fair trial or that the
outcome would have been different. The court said it also would not
second-guess decisions that appeared to part of the defense's trial
Chamberlin was one of two people charged in the
2004 deaths of Linda Heintzelman and Heintzelman's boyfriend, Vernon
Hullett. Their bodies were found inside a freezer at an abandoned farm
in Russell County, Kan., by law officers who were searching for drugs.
Chamberlin was convicted in 2006 and sentenced to
death. The Mississippi Supreme Court upheld her conviction in 2008.
The other defendant, Roger Lee Gillett, was
convicted and sentenced to death in 2007.
Prosecutors said Gillett and Chamberlin fled
Mississippi to cover their tracks and hide the Crime.
The investigation began when authorities learned in
March 2004 that Chamberlin and Gillett had a stolen vehicle and were
making methamphetamine at the Kansas farm.
Officers arrested the couple on March 29, 2004, at
the Kansas home and a search found illegal drugs. A second search
uncovered a freezer in which a dismembered body was found. The body
was determined to be Vernon Hullett, Gillett's cousin. When they
pulled the body out, Linda Heintzelman's frozen body was found
Prosecutors said Gillett and Chamberlin were living
with the victims in Hattiesburg, Miss., at the time of the slayings.
Chamberlin, in a taped confession played at her
trial, said the victims were killed because they wouldn't open a safe
in Hullett's home, according to court records.
JACKSON, Miss. (AP) - The Mississippi Supreme Court
has upheld the conviction of a woman sentenced to death for her role
in the killing of 2 people.
Lisa Jo Chamberlin was 1 of 2 people charged in the
March 2004 deaths of Linda Heintzelman and Heintzelman's boyfriend,
Vernon Hulett, both of Hattiesburg. Their bodies were found inside a
freezer at an abandoned farm in Russell County, Kan., by law officers
who were searching for drugs.
Chamberlin was convicted in 2006 and sentenced to
death. The Supreme Court upheld her conviction this past week.
The other defendant, Roger Lee Gillett, was
convicted and sentenced to death in 2007.
RUSSELL -- It's not something he relishes, but if
invited, Max Barrett would travel back to Mississippi to watch Lisa
If anyone ever deserved to die, he said, she does.
Barrett, Russell County's undersheriff, should
know. He was intimately involved in the investigation surrounding
Chamberlin, her boyfriend, Roger Gillett, a former Russell native, and
the two Hattiesburg, Miss., people they brutally murdered.
And brutally is putting it mildly, according to
both Barrett and the tone of a written ruling issued late last month
by the Mississippi Supreme Court in rejecting Chamberlin's attempt for
a new trial.
That state's highest court, in its 51-page ruling,
also agreed that death by injection was reasonable.
Bottom line, for a few dollars -- enough,
Chamberlin and Gillett had hoped, to let them run to Mexico to escape
drug charges in Russell County -- they beat Gillett's cousin Vernon
Hulett to death with a hammer, caving in his skull after hitting him
so hard the metal handle on the hammer bent.
Linda Heintzelman wasn't quite so lucky.
It took her two days to die. She was beaten,
stabbed, raped with an inanimate object; her throat was slit and a
plastic bag pulled over her head to suffocate her.
After all that, she died as a result of being
suffocated with a pillow.
Heintzelman was considered a person of special
needs, Barrett said, somewhat learning disabled and simply couldn't
remember the combination to a lockbox that Hulett had in the house.
Hulett simply had refused to give them the combination.
After killing them both, Gillett and Chamberlin
hacked up the bodies, stuffed them in a chest freezer that had been
loaded into Hulett's truck and drove 15 hours -- almost 1,000 miles,
bringing along seven bags of evidence they disposed of in the Russell
When Gillett and Chamberlin made it to the Waldo
farm owned by Gillett's family, they pulled the truck into a shed.
That's when they plugged in the freezer, sealed
with a roll of grey duct tape, the cardboard center itself found among
the trash dumped at the landfill, according to court documents.
All this took place in March 2004.
Chamberlin and Gillett were both convicted in
connection with the murders and sentenced to death.
The Mississippi Supreme Court recently upheld
Chamberlin's conviction and ruled her sentence of death was
reasonable. A similar appeal -- automatic in death-penalty cases -- is
pending for Gillett.
Barrett, undersheriff of the Russell County
sheriff's office, has been watching the case with great interest since
March 29, 2004, when he and others in the sheriff's office started
pursing drug-related cases against Chamberlin and Gillett in Russell
Barrett, as it turned out, was the officer in
charge of evidence found in Russell County in connection with the
murder investigation. He also was among those identified by the
Mississippi court for interviews authorities had with Chamberlin.
By the time the case was complete, there was plenty
of evidence, all of which since has been loaded onto a U-Haul trailer
and driven back to Mississippi by authorities there.
It was in Russell where local law enforcement
officers and the Kansas Bureau of Investigation executed a search
warrant on a house where Gillett and Chamberlin had been staying.
Authorities were looking for drugs, specifically involving the
manufacture of methamphetamine.
A second warrant was issued for a farm near Luray.
That's where the freezer was found, its lid taped
shut with gray duct tape.
"We assumed that was part of the drug lab," Barrett
said, "that they were making their own anhydrous."
Anhydrous ammonia is but one ingredient in the
manufacture of meth, and it generally is obtained through theft of a
farm fertilizer or can be made.
After the discovery of the freezer, Barrett said he
was donning his meth lab gear just as additional KBI agents arrived on
the scene and offered to go in his stead.
Given how hot those protective suits can be,
Barrett said he gladly relented.
KBI special agents, however, were in for perhaps
the shock of a lifetime.
When they opened the freezer, it didn't contain
anything to do with drugs.
Inside was a decapitated body. It wasn't until
authorities pulled out a body, later identified as Hullet, that they
learned another body -- that of Heintzelman -- was underneath.
In the end, it took more than three days for the
bodies to thaw enough so autopsies could be performed.
When the discovery was made, Russell County Sheriff
John Fletcher radioed Barrett to return to the farm, detailing that
bodies had been found inside. Barrett didn't believe him at first,
thinking it was just a joke. He soon learned it was no joke.
As the investigation continued, Barrett was
involved in several interviews with Chamberlin, including one where
she told him she and Gillett had dumped seven bags of trash at the
Russell County landfill north of Russell.
"Luck was on our side," Barrett said, "definitely
to obtain all that evidence."
After going to the landfill with Chamberlin, a KBI
agent and a dog, they found all seven bags of trash Gillett and
Chamberlin had brought along with them from Mississippi. The first
bag, ripped open by the loader being used, contained many items that
were a direct link to Hulett.
"We had all the clothing, knives and saws," Barrett
said. "We found everything they used during the commission of the
crime. I was dumbfounded that they didn't dispose of it along the
But, he said, "they were in a panic because they
weren't familiar with the area."
Ironically, Hulett and Heintzleman lived only about
a mile from the Hattiesburg courthouse, where Gillett and Chamberlin
were convicted. Yet not far behind the Hulett residence, the terrain
was overgrown and likely would have hidden either bodies or evidence.
Gillett and Chamberlin ended up in Mississippi,
fleeing there in hopes of escaping prosecution on the drug charges in
"They were scared to death that we were onto them,"
Once in Hattiesberg, they planned to rob Hulett and
Heintzleman, but never were able to get inside the lock box where a
small amount of money had been hidden away.
For Barrett, this is the type of case that many
officers never have seen, or ever will. In fact, Barrett hopes he
never sees one like it again.
"I've been doing this almost 21 years," he said of
his law enforcement career. "I've seen a fair share of stuff. This is
definitely one you read about happening someplace else. It was a shock
to be involved in."
So heinous was the crime, he said, that it fits the
category of deserving the death penalty.
"If they invite me down," he said of the time when
either Chamberlin or Gillett are put to death, "I would probably go
down and witness it. I would go represent the department."
Chamberlin gets death for killings of couple
left in freezer
August 5, 2006
HATTIESBURG, Miss. - A woman convicted of killing
two people whose bodies were found in a freezer in Kansas should be
put to death, a Mississippi jury ruled late Friday.
The sentencing decision came just hours after the
same jury found Lisa Jo Chamberlin guilty of capital murder.
Judge Bob Helfrich set Chamberlin's execution by
chemical injection for Sept. 29, although the sentence likely will be
delayed by an automatic appeal to the Mississippi Supreme Court.
Chamberlin was one of two people charged in the
March 2004 deaths of Linda Heintzelman and Heintzelman's boyfriend,
Vernon Hulett, both of Hattiesburg. Their bodies were found inside the
freezer at an abandoned farm in Russell County, Kan., by law officers
who were searching for drugs.
Roger Gillett also faces also is charged with
capital murder in the deaths. His trial date is April 15.
Final arguments in Chamberlin's trial were
presented Friday morning, one day after the prosecution ended its case
and the defense immediately rested without calling any witnesses.
The last witness to testify was a former Forrest
County Jail inmate who said Chamberlin showed no remorse about the
killings. Chamberlin only expressed sorrow that she was caught, Martha
Petrofsky told jurors.
"She said she wasn't scared of the killings,"
Petrofsky testified. "She was really upset because she said they
should have disposed of the bodies better, like feeding them to the
The jury was selected Monday in Vicksburg and
transported to Hattiesburg for the trial.
Defense attorneys had said the state could not
prove Chamberlin robbed the couple before their deaths, therefore
making her not guilty of the capital murder charge. Before a defendant
can be convicted of capital murder, an underlying felony must be
Petrofsky said when Chamberlin arrived at the
Forrest County Jail, she admitted to her that she was involved in
Heintzelman's death, but not Hulett's. Petrofsky said Chamberlin told
her that she and Gillett came to Hattiesburg "to make some dope and
some money and leave."
Gillett and Hulett were first cousins.
Petrofsky, who was jailed on a charge of setting
fire to her mother's home, said Chamberlin told her she and Gillett
were trying to steal money from a safe in Hulett's home but were
According to testimony, Hulett was killed before
Earlier Thursday, Kansas forensic pathologist
Donald Pojman testified that Hulett died of a blunt force injury to
the left side of his head.
Pojman said Heintzelman's official cause of death
was listed as multiple injuries that included stab and cut wounds,
blunt force trauma and asphyxiation.
Jurors also heard Chamberlin in a videotaped
confession to Kansas investigators describe the killing of
Heintzelman. In the videotape, Chamberlin described how she had been
gone from Hulett's Hattiesburg home for an hour and returned to find
Hulett dead and Heintzelman alive and lying on the floor at Gillett's
feet. The two couples had spent several days together before the
killings, authorities said.
Chamberlin said on the videotape that she and
Gillett left the house with Heintzelman alive but Gillett said, "Let's
go back and finish what we started."
She said she gave a bag to Gillett who used it to
Supreme Court of Mississippi
Chamberlin v. State
Lisa Jo CHAMBERLIN v. STATE of Mississippi.
July 17, 2008
Michael Adelman, Hattiesburg, Gay Polk-Payton,
attorneys for appellant.Office of The Attorney General by Pat
McNamara, Marvin L. White, Jr., attorneys for appellee.
¶ 1. Lisa Jo Chamberlin was convicted and sentenced
to die by lethal injection for the capital murders of Linda
Heintzelman and Vernon Hullett during the commission of a robbery.
Chamberlin appeals her convictions and sentence.
¶ 2. The investigation into this gruesome double
murder began when Kansas authorities received a report that the
defendant Lisa Jo Chamberlin and her boyfriend and co-defendant, Roger
Gillett, were in possession of a stolen vehicle and were manufacturing
methamphetamine at the Gillett farm in Russell County, Kansas.
¶ 3. Based on the information received, Kansas
Bureau of Investigation (KBI) Officer Matthew Lyon obtained two search
warrants. One warrant authorized the search of 606 North Ash, where
Gillett and Chamberlin were staying, and the second warrant authorized
the search of the Gillett farm.
¶ 4. On March 29, 2004, at 3:45 p.m., officers
began a search at 606 North Ash. Lyon and other KBI officers
participated in the search. The search was completed at 5:05 p.m.
KBI officers found Gillett and Chamberlin, as well as methamphetamine
and other drug paraphernalia, at 606 North Ash. KBI officers arrested
Gillett and Chamberlin that day. Chamberlin was detained at the
Russell County Jail.
¶ 5. At approximately 5:13 p.m. on March 29, Lyon
attempted to interview Chamberlin. After Lyon read Chamberlin her
rights, Chamberlin told Lyon that she did not want to answer any
questions. The interview ended at approximately 5:20 p.m. Only
identifying questions were asked and answered in that interview.
¶ 6. Chamberlin was charged with a number of
drug-related offenses. Meanwhile, at approximately 5:15 p.m., other
officers began to search the Gillett farm. At the farm, the first
officers to arrive discovered a white Dodge Dakota pickup truck with
Mississippi plates parked in a metal shed and a white freezer that was
taped shut with duct tape and plugged in inside a wooden granary.
¶ 7. Upon opening the freezer, the officers
discovered a dismembered body, later identified as Vernon Hullett, and
a black plastic trash bag which contained severed body parts. The
officers secured the premises while they sought and obtained a third
search warrant. Armed with this third search warrant, which
authorized the officers to search for evidence in connection with the
murder investigation, the officers returned to the Gillett farm,
pulled the male body out of the freezer and discovered another body
frozen in a liquid in the bottom of the freezer. The officers thawed
the contents of the freezer and extracted a second body, later
identified as Linda Heintzelman. The search at the farm was
completed the next day, March 30, at 5:22 p.m.
¶ 8. On the evening of March 29, Officer Lyon
received a call from the Russell County Sheriff advising him that two
bodies had been found at the Gillett farm. Officers conducted three
interviews with Chamberlin during the course of the day on March 30.
¶ 9. At the end of Chamberlin's last interview on
the afternoon on March 30, she agreed to show KBI Officer Delbert
Hawel the location where she and Gillett had dumped evidence at the
landfill in Russell. At approximately 8:00 p.m., KBI Officer Max
Barrett, Hawel, and Chamberlin rode to the Russell County dump, and
Chamberlin indicated where some of the physical evidence from the
murders had been deposited. The landfill was secured until it could
be searched. Barrett testified that later that evening, after
returning to the sheriff's office, he was contacted by one of the
corrections officers who told him that Chamberlin wanted to talk to a
KBI agent. Since the KBI agents had left for the evening, Chamberlin
indicated that she would talk with Barrett. Barrett testified that
when he spoke with Chamberlin she expressed her desire to talk to one
of the agents, and he relayed her request to an agent.
¶ 10. The next day, March 31, officers returned
to the dump and recovered seven plastic trash bags, containing, among
other things, one of Hullett's work shirts, pants with Hullett's name
on them, a pillow heavily stained with blood, a camera, a purse
containing identification which apparently belonged to Heintzelman, a
wallet and identification that belonged to Hullett, a Hattiesburg,
Mississippi, phone book, and the cardboard center of a roll of duct
tape. Barrett packaged the evidence and transferred it to
Hattiesburg Police Officer Rusty Keyes.
¶ 11. During the three interviews on March 30 and
the interview on the morning of March 31, Chamberlin explained her
relationship with Gillett and her participation in the robbery and
murders of Hullett and Heintzelman. Chamberlin met Gillett in
Oregon, where she was born and raised. They lived together for a
brief time in Oregon before they moved to Russell, Kansas, where they
lived with some of Gillett's relatives. Around the beginning of
March, Chamberlin and Gillett drove from Russell County, Kansas, to
Hattiesburg, Mississippi, where they stayed with Gillett's cousin,
Vernon Hullett, and his live-in girlfriend, Linda Heintzelman. On
March 6, shortly after arriving in Hattiesburg, Gillett and Chamberlin
wrecked their car while following Hullett and Heintzelman in
Heintzelman's pickup truck on Highway 49. According to Chamberlin,
Heintzelman changed lanes too closely in front of their vehicle,
causing them to run into the rear of Heintzelman's truck. Gillett's
car was badly damaged, but Heintzelman's truck sustained only minor
¶ 12. According to Chamberlin, Heintzelman
promised to report the accident as a claim against her insurance and
then divide the insurance proceeds with Chamberlin and Gillett.
Heintzelman never submitted the accident report to her insurance
¶ 13. Chamberlin told KBI officers that on an
unknown date in March 2004, she, Gillett, Hullett, and Heintzelman
were all at Hullett's residence. Hullett and Heintzelman suggested
that Gillett and Chamberlin get their own place to live. Chamberlin
agreed, but Gillett wanted to stay at Hullett's. Chamberlin and
Gillett argued about moving. Unable to drive her car in its damaged
condition, Chamberlin left on foot and returned that evening to find
Gillett standing on the front porch smoking a cigarette.
¶ 14. When Chamberlin and Gillett entered the
house, Gillett became violent with Heintzelman, accusing her of not
being truthful about reporting the accident to her insurance company.
Gillett instructed Chamberlin to get his gun from under the mattress
in the bedroom. Chamberlin complied. Chamberlin and Gillett cut
the telephone wires so that Hullett and Heintzelman could not call the
police. Gillett fired one round inside the house to scare Hullett
¶ 15. Gillett punched and hit Hullett several
times in an attempt to get the combination to Hullett's safe. Upon
discovering that all the beer in the house had been consumed,
Chamberlin left again to get more beer. When Chamberlin returned,
Heintzelman was bent over the safe and was not wearing any pants.
Chamberlin inquired as to whether Gillett had raped Heintzelman.
Gillett explained that he wanted to “break her,” so he made her take
her clothes off and used a beer bottle to rape her. Still
unsuccessful in opening the safe, Chamberlin became impatient and told
Gillett something similar to “let's just kill them and get out of
¶ 16. According to Chamberlin, Gillett bashed
Hullett in the head with a hammer while Hullett was sitting in a chair
in the living room. Gillett also slashed Hullett's throat.
Chamberlin went out of the house and came back in a number of times
over several hours while Heintzelman was lying on the floor, injured
but “still breathing.” Eventually, Chamberlin suggested that they
smother Heintzelman. Chamberlin and Gillett worked together to bind
Heintzelman's hands behind her back so that she could not struggle
with them. Gillett lifted Heintzelman's head, and Chamberlin placed
a bag over it. Chamberlin told the officers that she was unable to
complete the asphyxiation of Heintzelman and went outside. She said
that Heintzelman was still breathing when she went outside, but when
she returned, Heintzelman was dead.
¶ 17. Chamberlin told the officers that she
assisted in cleaning up the murder scene. She helped move the bodies
to the bathroom, where Gillett cut off Hullett's head and arms and she
held garbage bags open while Gillett placed Hullett's arms inside the
bags. Chamberlin described how she assisted in loading Heintzelman's
body and then Hullett's body, along with the black trash bag, into the
freezer and how she taped the freezer shut as Gillett stood on top of
the freezer to hold it closed. Chamberlin and Gillett took Hullett's
pickup truck and transported the freezer containing the two bodies on
the back of that truck from Hullett's house to Kansas. After
arriving in Kansas, they unloaded the freezer and plugged it in at the
Gillett farm. She indicated that they took the items they
transported from Hullett's house and disposed of them at the Russell
dump. Also, she agreed to cook some methamphetamine for five hundred
dollars because they needed money. She described how they discarded
the trash from making methamphetamine at the public swimming pool and
how on the next day she and Gillett were arrested.
¶ 18. During trial, Dr. Donald Pojman, who
performed the autopsies on Hullett and Heintzelman, testified that the
cause of Heintzelman's death was from “[s]harp-force injuries of the
torso and the neck,” “blunt-force injuries of the head,” and
“asphyxiation,” and that the cause of Hullett's death was blunt-force
injuries to the left side of the head.
¶ 19. Chamberlin and Gillett were jointly
indicted on two counts of capital murder in the deaths of Heintzelman
and Hullett. The court granted Chamberlin's motion for severance
¶ 20. Chamberlin filed a motion to suppress the
evidence recovered from the Russell landfill as well as a motion to
suppress her statements. At the suppression hearing, three KBI
officers, Lyon, Hawel, and Kelly Ralston, testified that they
interviewed Chamberlin a total of five times, and in those interviews,
Chamberlin admitted her participation in the murders. Two officers
from the Hattiesburg Police Department, Rusty Keyes and Terrell
Carson, testified that upon arrival in Hattiesburg, Chamberlin refused
to make a statement and requested a lawyer. Also, two jailmates of
Chamberlin's at the Forrest County Jail, Martha Petrofsky and Marilyn
Coleman, testified at the suppression hearing. Petrofsky and
Coleman, both housed in the one-room detention area where Chamberlin
was detained, testified that Chamberlin admitted to participating in
the murders of Hullett and Heintzelman. Chamberlin did not present
evidence at the suppression hearing. The trial court entered an
order denying Chamberlin's motion to suppress statements.
¶ 21. During trial, Chamberlin did not put on any
evidence. After the three-day trial, the jury found Chamberlin
guilty on two counts of capital murder. During sentencing,
Chamberlin called two former jail mates as character witnesses. She
also called a psychologist appointed by the court to investigate any
mitigating factors in relation to her mental state. The psychologist
testified as to information she obtained from interviewing Chamberlin
and people who knew her, including Chamberlin's mother, Twila Speer;
Chamberlin's aunt, Loma Wagner; and a long-time friend from
childhood, Veronica, among others. At the conclusion of the
sentencing phase, in accordance with the recommendation of the jury,
the court ordered Chamberlin to be put to death by lethal injection.
The trial court stayed Chamberlin's execution pending resolution of
her Motion for Judgment Notwithstanding the Verdict, or in the
Alternative, Motion for a New Trial, and her appeal to this Court.
The trial court denied Chamberlin's post-trial motions, and Chamberlin
timely appealed to this Court.
¶ 22. The thoroughness and intensity of review
are heightened in cases in which the death penalty has been imposed.
Ross v. State, 954 So.2d 968, 986 (Miss.2007); Laney v. State, 421
So.2d 1216, 1217 (Miss.1982). What may be harmless error in a case
with a lesser sentence becomes reversible error when the penalty is
death. Ross, 954 So.2d at 986; Laney, 421 So.2d at 1217. Under
this standard of review, all doubts are to be resolved in favor of the
accused. Lynch v. State, 951 So.2d 549, 555 (Miss.2007).
I. WHETHER THE TRIAL COURT ERRED IN ADMITTING
THE STATEMENTS MADE DURING CUSTODIAL INTERROGATIONS.
¶ 23. In the course of five interviews conducted
by the KBI, Chamberlin repeatedly admitted to participating in the
murders of Hullett and Heintzelman. Claiming that KBI officers
violated her right to counsel and her right to remain silent,
Chamberlin moved for suppression of statements she made during the
second, third, fourth, and fifth interviews with KBI officers.
¶ 24. Lyon testified that he began an interview
with Chamberlin on March 29, 2004, at approximately 5:13 p.m. Lyon,
unaware of the homicides at the time of this first interrogation,
initially was solely concerned with the narcotics investigation which
had resulted in Chamberlin's arrest.
¶ 25. Lyon began by asking preliminary
identification questions. Chamberlin claims that about one minute into
the interview she stated, “I won't tell you anything until I talk to a
lawyer.” The State contends that Chamberlin asked, “Is this where
I'm supposed to ask for a lawyer,” and later “Don't you think I need a
The videotape of the interrogation shows that Chamberlin made an
unintelligible statement, and Lyon immediately asked questions to
clarify whether Chamberlin had invoked her right to counsel.
Subsequently, Chamberlin clearly said, “I'll talk.”
¶ 26. This first interview lasted about six
minutes. Lyon testified that after he read Chamberlin her Miranda
rights, she “checked [on a Miranda form] that she did not want to
speak with [him].” The interview concluded at approximately 5:20
¶ 27. After finding unidentified bodies at the
Gillett farm, Hawel, along with Lyon, interrogated Chamberlin on the
morning of March 30, 2004. This interview began at approximately
9:43 a.m. Approximately sixteen hours after the first interview, Lyon,
for the second time, and Hawel, for the first time, interviewed
Chamberlin, focusing solely on the bodies found at the farm. Hawel
read Chamberlin her Miranda rights at the beginning of the interview,
and she signed and initialed a waiver, witnessed by Hawel and Lyon.
The interview was not recorded on video but was memorialized by
Hawel's notes and investigation report. According to the report,
Chamberlin described Hullett's and Heintzelman's dead bodies in the
living room of Hullett's home, injuries to Hullett's neck, her
assistance in cleaning the house and loading the bodies in the
freezer, the arrangement of the bodies in the freezer and the
inclusion of a black plastic trash bag in the freezer. This
interview ended at approximately 10:39 a.m. There is no evidence that
Chamberlin invoked her Miranda rights during this interview.
¶ 28. Agents Hawel and Lyon initiated a third
interview later in the afternoon on March 30, beginning about 1:24
p.m. This interview was videotaped. Chamberlin was reminded of her
Miranda rights by reference to the same waiver she signed and
initialed in the interview earlier that morning, and she confirmed
that she understood.
¶ 29. During this interview, Chamberlin was very
emotional, intermittently crying and apologizing to Roger.
Chamberlin began to relay the details of the day of the murders but
then began to ramble. Chamberlin did not provide any details of the
murders during this interview, which concluded at 1:39 p.m.
¶ 30. Hawel and Ralston conducted a fourth
interview, beginning at approximately 2:46 p.m. that same afternoon.
Ralston testified that he was present when Hawel, before beginning the
interview, reviewed with Chamberlin her Miranda rights and she
acknowledged that she understood her rights and said that she wanted
to speak with him. Ralston memorialized this interview in a report.
The report indicates that Chamberlin described the details of the
murders “from start to finish,” including Gillett bashing Hullett in
the head with a hammer, the dismemberment of Hullett and finally the
placement of the bodies in the freezer where they were found.
Chamberlin also spoke in detail about how she helped tape
Heintzelman's hands behind her back so she would not struggle with
Chamberlin and Gillett as they began suffocating her with a plastic
bag, a process which Gillett completed. Chamberlin told Hawel that
she would notify him if she recalled anything else. The report
indicates that the interview concluded with Chamberlin's last
statement that she would show Hawel where the trash was dumped inside
the Russell landfill.
¶ 31. On March 31, Hawel testified that he was
contacted by officer Barrett, who stated that Chamberlin desired to
talk with a KBI agent. Barrett testified that “[Chamberlin] wanted
to talk to someone and she asked to speak to one of the KBI agents.
They weren't there, so she asked to speak to me.” Barrett passed the
information on to a KBI agent.
¶ 32. Hawel sent for Chamberlin and asked her
whether she wanted to talk to him, and she answered in the
affirmative. Hawel and Ralston videotaped the fifth interview, which
began at approximately 9:43 a.m. Hawel informed Chamberlin of her
Miranda rights, and Chamberlin signed a waiver. Chamberlin then gave
a detailed account from the day of the murders, including her
involvement, through her arrest in Kansas.
¶ 33. Chamberlin alleges that she invoked her
Fifth-Amendment right to counsel during the first interview and
consequently, the KBI officers violated her right when they
reinitiated the interviews with her the next day. She argues that
all statements made after the first interview should be suppressed.
The State argues that Chamberlin's right to counsel was not violated
because she made an ambiguous request for counsel, and Lyon
appropriately asked clarifying questions.
¶ 34. Findings by a trial judge that a defendant
confessed voluntarily, and that such confession is admissible are
findings of fact. Davis v. State, 551 So.2d 165, 169 (Miss.1989).
As long as the trial judge applies the correct legal standards, his
decision will not be reversed on appeal unless it is manifestly in
error, or is contrary to the overwhelming weight of the evidence.
Davis, 551 So.2d at 169 (citing Frost v. State, 483 So.2d 1345, 1350
(Miss.1986); White v. State, 495 So.2d 1346, 1347 (Miss.1986)).
¶ 35. The Fourteenth Amendment incorporates the
Fifth-Amendment privilege against self-incrimination. The United
States Supreme Court held in Miranda v. Arizona, 384 U.S. 436, 86
S.Ct. 1602, 16 L.Ed.2d 694 (1966), that the privilege extends to state
custodial interrogations. The Miranda warning requires that, before
subjecting a person in police custody to interrogation, law
enforcement officers must inform the person that he has the right to
remain silent, that any statement he makes may be used as evidence
against him, and that he has a right to the presence of an attorney,
either retained or appointed. Miranda, 384 U.S. at 444, 86 S.Ct.
1602. Once this warning has been given, if the person in custody
“indicates in any manner, at any time prior to or during questioning,
that he wishes to remain silent, the interrogation must cease.” Id.
at 473-74, 86 S.Ct. 1602. Any statement taken after such an
indication is the product of compulsion. Id. at 474, 86 S.Ct. 1602.
The administration of the Miranda warnings and a waiver, or a fully
effective equivalent, constitute the prerequisites to the
admissibility of any statement made by a defendant. Id. at 476, 86
S.Ct. 1602. The State has the burden of proving all facts
prerequisite to admissibility beyond a reasonable doubt. Davis, 551
So.2d at 169 (citing Jones v. State, 461 So.2d 686, 694 (Miss.1984);
Gavin v. State, 473 So.2d 952, 954 (Miss.1985)).
¶ 36. If the individual states that he wants an
attorney, the interrogation must cease until an attorney is present.
Miranda, 384 U.S. at 474, 86 S.Ct. 1602; Edwards v. Arizona, 451
U.S. 477, 101 S.Ct. 1880, 68 L.Ed.2d 378 (1981). In determining
whether a defendant's right to counsel has been violated, this Court
must consider two things. Holland v. State, 587 So.2d 848, 856
(Miss.1991) (citing Edwards, 451 U.S. at 482, 101 S.Ct. 1880); Berry
v. State, 575 So.2d 1, 5 (Miss.1990). First, it must determine
whether the defendant actually invoked his right to counsel.
Holland, 587 So.2d at 856; Davis v. United States, 512 U.S. 452, 458,
114 S.Ct. 2350, 129 L.Ed.2d 362 (1994). If the defendant invoked
this right, he “is not subject to further interrogation by the
authorities until counsel has been made available to him, unless the
accused himself initiates further communication, exchanges, or
conversations with the police.” Edwards, 451 U.S. at 484-85, 101
¶ 37. A defendant's request for counsel must be
interpreted broadly “whether the defendant's request is explicit or
equivocal.” Holland, 587 So.2d at 856 (citing Towne v. Dugger, 899
F.2d 1104, 1106 (11th Cir.1990) (quoting Michigan v. Jackson, 475 U.S.
625, 633, 106 S.Ct. 1404, 1406, 89 L.Ed.2d 631, 640 (1986))).
However, “[t]he likelihood that a suspect would wish counsel to be
present is not the test for applicability of Edwards.” Davis, 512 U.S.
at 459, 114 S.Ct. 2350 (citing McNeil v. Wisconsin, 501 U.S. 171, 178,
110 S.Ct. 1176, 108 L.Ed.2d 293 (1991)). Determining whether a
defendant invoked his right to counsel is an objective inquiry.
Davis, 512 U.S. at 459, 114 S.Ct. 2350 (citing Connecticut v.
Barrett, 479 U.S. 523, 529, 107 S.Ct. 828, 93 L.Ed.2d 920 (1987)).
“Invocation of the Miranda right to counsel requires, at a minimum,
some statement that can reasonably be construed to be an expression of
a desire for the assistance of an attorney.” Davis, 512 U.S. at 459,
114 S.Ct. 2350 (citing McNeil, 501 U.S. at 178, 111 S.Ct. 2204)
(internal quotation marks omitted). A defendant must “articulate his
desire to have counsel present sufficiently clearly that a reasonable
police officer in the circumstances would understand the statement to
be a request for an attorney.” Davis, 512 U.S. at 459, 114 S.Ct.
2350. The Supreme Court explained in Davis that “if a suspect makes
a reference to an attorney that is ambiguous or equivocal in that a
reasonable officer in light of the circumstances would have understood
only that the suspect might be invoking the right to counsel, our
precedents do not require the cessation of questioning.” Id.
(emphasis in original).
¶ 38. This Court previously has held that if an
officer understands only that the suspect might be invoking the right
to counsel, an officer must cease interrogation, except for inquiries
made to clarify the defendant's request. Holland, 587 So.2d at 856
(emphasis added). The United States Supreme Court declined to
require such a procedure but noted in Davis that where the officers
followed the same procedure as adopted by this Court, such a procedure
is “good police practice for the interviewing officers.” Davis, 512
U.S. at 461, 114 S.Ct. 2350.
¶ 39. A review of the video recording of the
first interrogation shows that Lyon was in the midst of asking
identification questions when Chamberlin, after spelling her last
name, blurted out the unintelligible statement regarding an attorney.
Lyon then ceased his series of identifying questions and asked
Chamberlin a number of questions, pertaining only to whether she
wanted an attorney. Eventually, Chamberlin said, “I'll talk.” The
trial court found that “her questions concerning an attorney were
ambiguous as a matter of law and that investigators took all
appropriate precautions to determine the nature and extent of the
ambiguity, and that the defendant voluntarily and without coercion
agreed to proceed and further answer questions.” This Court agrees.
¶ 40. After the clarifying questions and
Chamberlin's response that she would talk, Lyon advised Chamberlin of
her Miranda rights, and she acknowledged that she understood. When
Lyon asked Chamberlin “are you willing to answer questions now,”
Chamberlin shook her head “no,” and Lyon ceased asking questions.
Chamberlin's indication that she did not want to answer questions did
not constitute an unambiguous request for counsel. Thus, at the end
of the first interrogation, she successfully invoked her right to
silence but not her right to counsel. This Court finds, as the trial
court did, that Chamberlin's Miranda rights were fully respected
during the first interview.
¶ 41. According to Hawel's report, Chamberlin
admitted involvement in the murders during the second interrogation.
Chamberlin asserts that this statement should have been suppressed,
because she invoked her right to silence at the end of the first
¶ 42. “[T]he admissibility of statements obtained
after the person in custody has decided to remain silent depends under
Miranda on whether his ‘right to cut off questioning’ was
‘scrupulously honored.’ ” Michigan v. Mosley, 423 U.S. 96, 104, 96
S.Ct. 321, 46 L.Ed.2d 313 (1975). The government may, however, use
statements which are given voluntarily by the defendant after he
receives full disclosure of the rights offered by Miranda. Michigan
v. Tucker, 417 U.S. 433, 450, 94 S.Ct. 2357, 41 L.Ed.2d 182 (1974).
When a defendant alleges a violation of her privilege against
self-incrimination, the trial court must determine, in consideration
of the totality of the circumstances, whether or not the confession
was made voluntarily, and whether there was a knowing and voluntary
waiver of the accused's privilege against self-incrimination. Davis,
551 So.2d at 169 (citing Gavin v. State, 473 So.2d 952, 954
(Miss.1985); Jones v. State, 461 So.2d 686, 696 (Miss.1984)).
¶ 43. Invocation of the right to counsel is a
rigid, prophylactic rule which prohibits further questioning until an
attorney is made available or the defendant knowingly and voluntarily
waives his right. See Edwards, 451 U.S. 477, 101 S.Ct. 1880. On
the other hand, invocation of the right to silence concerns whether an
officer scrupulously honors a defendant's right to cease questioning
for a reasonable time, after which questioning may resume if the
defendant knowingly and voluntarily waives this right. See Neal v.
State, 451 So.2d 743, 755 (Miss.1984).
¶ 44. No passage in “the Miranda opinion can
sensibly be read to create a per se proscription of indefinite
duration upon any further questioning by any police officer on any
subject, once the person in custody has indicated a desire to remain
silent.” Mosley, 423 U.S. at 102-103, 96 S.Ct. 321. The officer's
initiation of the second interrogation did not violate Chamberlin's
Miranda rights when it was undisputed that a significant period of
time had passed from the first interrogation (about sixteen hours).
New Miranda warnings were administered and a waiver signed; and the
interrogation was restricted to the murders, which had not been a
subject of the first interrogation. See Mosley, 423 U.S. at 106, 96
S.Ct. 321. Further, Chamberlin makes no argument or puts forth any
evidence that she invoked her right to remain silent in the second
interrogation. Hawel read Chamberlin her Miranda rights; Chamberlin
signed and initialed a waiver; and there is no indication that
Chamberlin invoked any of her Miranda rights. The trial court found
that the State had met the Mosley guidelines. This Court agrees.
Therefore, the statements obtained in the second interrogation were
properly obtained and admitted.
¶ 45. Similarly, the initiation of the third
interrogation by the KBI officers was proper. During the third
interrogation, Chamberlin did not make a statement concerning her
involvement in the murders. However, she became very emotional and
indicated that she no longer wanted to answer questions, and Hawel
properly ceased questioning. Therefore, the concern with the third
interrogation is not whether a statement made therein was admissible
but, rather, the effect of Chamberlin's invocation of her right to
silence on the statements obtained in the fourth and fifth interviews.
¶ 46. As to the initiation of the fourth
interview, this Court must again answer the question put forth in
Neal, 451 So.2d at 749, 751. “Once an accused states that he wishes
questioning to cease, when and under what circumstances may law
enforcement authorities resume interrogation and obtain an admissible
inculpatory statement?” Neal, 451 So.2d at 754. In Neal, this Court
held that “[n]otwithstanding an earlier valid waiver of his privilege
against self-incrimination and his right to counsel, an accused may
revoke that waiver.” Johnson v. State, 512 So.2d 1246, 1252
(Miss.1987) (quoting Neal, 451 So.2d at 755), overruled in part by
Smith v. State, 986 So.2d 290, 2008 Miss. LEXIS 339 (Miss.2008). Any
revocation must be scrupulously honored. Neal, 451 So.2d at 755.
However, “[w]here ․ following the revocation the accused is re-advised
of his Miranda rights, if he thereafter knowingly, intelligently and
voluntarily re-waives those rights, any subsequent inculpatory
statement may be received in evidence against him.” Id.
¶ 47. Chamberlin waived her Miranda rights at the
beginning of the third interview. She then revoked that waiver by
stating that she was unable to continue. Accordingly, Hawel stopped
the interview. Later that afternoon, a Miranda warning was
re-administered, and she re-waived her rights. Due to the undisputed
evidence that she knowingly, intelligently, and voluntarily waived her
rights at the beginning of the fourth interrogation, the initiation of
the fourth interrogation by the KBI officers was proper, and her
subsequent inculpatory statements were admissible in evidence against
her. The trial court found that “Chamberlin's rights were
sufficiently safeguarded during this colloquy and that all statements
made therein were made after intelligently, knowingly, and voluntarily
waiving her rights.” This Court agrees. The trial court properly
admitted the statements obtained in the fourth interview.
¶ 48. As for the fifth interview, the State
submitted at the suppression hearing undisputed evidence that
Chamberlin initiated that interview. The trial court found that
“Chamberlin initiated the final interview by sending a message through
the jailer that she wished to speak to the authorities again. The
interview of March 31, 2004, was the result of her request.” 3
The record supports the trial court findings that Chamberlin's
Miranda rights were not in question when she initiated the
communication with Hawel. See Edwards, 451 U.S. at 485, 101 S.Ct.
1880 (an accused is subject to further interrogation when the accused
“initiates further communication, exchanges, or conversations with the
police”). Clearly, Chamberlin's statement made during the fifth
interview was admissible.
¶ 49. The trial court's finding that Chamberlin's
statements were properly obtained in accordance with her Miranda
rights is supported by the record. The trial court did not err in
admitting the statements from each interrogation, and Chamberlin's
argument is without merit.
¶ 50. Lastly, Chamberlin, citing Agee v. State,
185 So.2d 671 (Miss.1966), argues that in order for Chamberlin's
confession to be admissible, the State must have produced all of the
witnesses present at the alleged confession. Accordingly, Chamberlin
asserts that since Barrett, to whom Chamberlin allegedly expressed her
desire to speak to KBI officers, did not testify at the suppression
hearing, the motion to suppress should have been granted. In Agee
this Court stated:
[w]hen objection is made to the introduction of the
confession, the accused is entitled to a preliminary hearing on the
question of the admissibility of the confession ․ after the State has
made out a prima facie case as to the voluntariness of the confession,
the accused offers testimony that violence, threats of violence, or
offers of reward induced the confession, then the State must offer all
the officers who were present when the accused was questioned and when
the confession was signed, or give an adequate reason for the absence
of any such witness.
Agee, 185 So.2d at 673. In Agee, the Court held
that the defendant's confession was inadmissible. Agee, 185 So.2d at
674. One of the reasons for this holding was that, after the
defendant testified at the hearing that the confession was
involuntary, the State did not meet its burden by calling “all the
officers who were present when the accused was questioned and when the
confession was signed, or give an adequate reason for the absence of
any such witness.” Agee, 185 So.2d at 673.
¶ 51. Chamberlin's argument fails for two
reasons. First, Chamberlin did not testify at the suppression
hearing or provide any evidence. Thus, the State was not required to
rebut her testimony by calling all the officers present at the
questioning or signing of the confession. Second, under Agee,
Barrett would not have been a requisite witness since Lyon, Hawel and
Ralston, all of whom testified at the suppression hearing, were the
officers present at the interrogations in which Chamberlin was
questioned and confessed. See Agee, 185 So.2d at 673. The State
did not veer from Agee in the suppression hearing in this case.
Thus, this argument also is without merit.
II. WHETHER THE TRIAL COURT ERRED IN ADMITTING
THE EVIDENCE SEIZED FROM THE LANDFILL.
¶ 52. The standard of review for the suppression
of evidence is abuse of discretion. Miss. Transp. Comm'n v. McLemore,
863 So.2d 31, 34 (Miss.2003).
¶ 53. Chamberlin asserts that the trial court
should have suppressed the evidence found in seven plastic bags
recovered from the Russell County Dump in Russell County, Kansas.
This evidence included Hullett's work uniform, a pillow, a photograph
of the pillow, a woman's purse, a coin purse, a cigarette case, keys,
camera and photos, a wallet, remains of Hullett's driver's license and
paperwork, a partially completed Mississippi accident report form, a
direct-deposit card, a Hattiesburg telephone directory, and the
cardboard center from a roll of duct tape. Chamberlin argues that
the evidence was recovered as a result of information obtained from
her statements on March 30 and therefore, should have been excluded,
since the officers initiated the interrogations on the morning of
March 30, after Chamberlin invoked her Miranda rights.
¶ 54. The Miranda rule is employed to protect
against violations of the Fifth-Amendment Self-Incrimination Clause.
United States v. Patane, 542 U.S. 630, 636, 124 S.Ct. 2620, 159
L.Ed.2d 667 (2004). The exclusionary prohibition against “fruit of
the poisonous tree” applies to violations of the Fifth-Amendment
privilege against self-incrimination. Brown v. Illinois, 422 U.S.
590, 599, 95 S.Ct. 2254, 45 L.Ed.2d 416 (1975). Having found no
Fifth-Amendment self-incrimination violation, we hold that the “fruit
of the poisonous tree” doctrine is inapplicable to the evidence found
in the dump. The trial court did not abuse its discretion by
admitting the evidence in question, and this argument is without
III. WHETHER THE TRIAL COURT ERRED IN DENYING
CHAMBERLIN'S BATSON CHALLENGE.
¶ 55. During jury selection, Chamberlin objected
to the State's use of seven of its twelve peremptory challenges to
strike black individuals from the jury panel. The United States
Supreme Court has held that the equal protection clause prohibits
exclusion of persons from participation in jury service on account of
their race. Batson v. Kentucky, 476 U.S. 79, 85, 106 S.Ct. 1712, 90
L.Ed.2d 69 (1986). This Court gives great deference to a trial
court's determination under Batson because it is based largely on
credibility. Batson, 476 U.S. at 98, n. 21, 106 S.Ct. 1712; Flowers
v. State, 947 So.2d 910, 917 (Miss.2007) (citing Berry v. State, 802
So.2d 1033, 1037 (Miss.2001)). This Court will not overrule a trial
court's Batson ruling absent finding the ruling was clearly erroneous
or against the overwhelming weight of the evidence. Flowers, 947 So.2d
¶ 56. The Batson inquiry has three steps.
Batson, 476 U.S. at 93-94, 106 S.Ct. 1712. First, the trial court
must determine whether the defendant has made a prima facie showing
that the prosecutor exercised a peremptory challenge on the basis of
race. Rice v. Collins, 546 U.S. 333, 338, 126 S.Ct. 969, 163 L.Ed.2d
824 (2006) (citing Batson, 476 U.S. at 96-97, 106 S.Ct. 1712).
Inequality under Batson draws from “the general equal protection
principle that the ‘invidious quality’ of governmental action claimed
to be racially discriminatory ‘must ultimately be traced to a racially
discriminatory purpose.’ ” Batson, 476 U.S. at 93, 106 S.Ct. 1712.
In order to establish a prima facie case, Chamberlin must show that
the facts and circumstances give rise to the inference that the
prosecutor exercised the peremptory challenges with a discriminatory
purpose. Strickland v. State, 980 So.2d 908, 915 (Miss.2008);
Tanner v. State, 764 So.2d 385, 393 (Miss.2000) (citing Bush v.
State, 585 So.2d 1262, 1268 (Miss.1991)); Randall v. State, 716 So.2d
584, 587 (Miss.1998) (citing Batson, 476 U.S. at 94, 106 S.Ct. 1712).
“In deciding whether the defendant has made the requisite showing,
the trial court should consider all relevant circumstances.” Batson,
476 U.S. at 96, 106 S.Ct. 1712 (emphasis added).
The Batson doctrine is not concerned with racial,
gender, or ethnic balance on petit juries, and it does not hold that a
party is entitled to a jury composed of or including members of a
cognizable group. Rather, it is concerned exclusively with
discriminatory intent on the part of the lawyer against whose use of
his peremptory strikes the objection is interposed.
Strickland, 980 So.2d at 915 (quoting Ryals v.
State, 794 So.2d 161, 164 (Miss.2001)). Therefore, the sheer number
of strikes exercised against a cognizable group of jurors is not, in
itself, dispositive. Strickland, 980 So.2d at 916 (citing Flowers,
947 So.2d at 935).
¶ 57. Once a prima facie case has been made, the
prosecutor must present race-neutral reasons for the strikes. The
reasons need not be persuasive, or even plausible; so long as the
reasons are not inherently discriminatory, they will be deemed
race-neutral. Rice, 546 U.S. at 338, 126 S.Ct. 969 (citing Purkett v.
Elem, 514 U.S. 765, 767-768, 115 S.Ct. 1769, 131 L.Ed.2d 834 (1995)
(per curiam)). Once the prosecutor proffers his explanation, and the
Court determines that it is race-neutral and satisfies the
prosecution's step-two burden of articulating a nondiscriminatory
reason for the strike, the inquiry should proceed to step three, where
the trial court determines whether the prosecutor was motivated by
discriminatory intent. Purkett, 514 U.S. at 769, 115 S.Ct. 1769.
¶ 58. Chamberlin objected numerous times to the
State's use of challenges, ultimately using seven out of twelve
challenges against blacks. The court allowed Chamberlin to argue her
prima facie case. Counsel asserted:
My prima facie case is that seven out of twelve
constitutes a pattern, and particularly-I mean of those that were
available of the first, I believe seven of the first eight strikes
went to African American jurors. I submit that constitutes a pattern
with an inference of discrimination.
The court then directed the State to provide
race-neutral reasons for its challenges exercised against blacks.
The State offered race-neutral reasons for each juror it struck,
explaining that each black juror was excluded based on his/her answers
to the juror questionnaire, which the State compiled and both parties
¶ 59. The State struck juror number five because
she answered that she had personal views against the death penalty
that would prevent her or impair her from reaching a verdict; her
beliefs were so strong that she could not vote for death for the
defendant; she was uncertain whether she was emotionally capable of
announcing her verdict; she was uncertain whether she would hold the
State to a greater burden; and she would need to be
one-hundred-percent certain of the defendant's guilt.
¶ 60. The State struck juror number thirty-eight
because she was uncertain that she was emotionally capable of
announcing her verdict; she was uncertain whether she would require a
greater burden from the State; and she was uncertain whether she
would need to be one-hundred-percent certain of the defendant's guilt.
¶ 61. The State struck juror number eighty-one
because she answered that she was uncertain whether she was
emotionally capable of standing up and announcing her verdict in
court; she was uncertain whether she could follow the law given by
the court; she would hold the State to a greater burden; she would
require one-hundred-percent certainty of guilt; she would be less
likely to find someone guilty if there was the possibility of the
death penalty; and she had a family member who had been recently
convicted on a drug charge in that county. The State conducted an
individual voir dire of juror number eighty-one, in which she
confirmed several of the questionnaire answers which the State
proffered for striking her.
¶ 62. The State struck juror number ninety-two
because she answered that she would require one-hundred-percent
certainty of guilt; she would have a problem voting for the death
penalty without concrete evidence; and she would not feel comfortable
seeking the death penalty because of fear of retaliation to herself or
¶ 63. The State struck juror number 104 because
he answered that he was uncertain whether he was emotionally capable
of standing up in court and announcing his verdict; he was uncertain
whether he would hold the State to a greater burden; and he would
want to be one-hundred-percent certain of guilt.
¶ 64. The State struck juror number 106 because
he answered that he was uncertain whether he was emotionally capable
of rendering a verdict; he was uncertain whether he would hold the
State to a greater burden; and he would require one-hundred-percent
¶ 65. The State struck juror number 117 because
she answered that she could not set aside her personal opposition or
hesitancy to the death penalty and evaluate the case based on what the
judge would provide and the facts and circumstances presented; she
would require the State to meet a greater burden of proof; and she
was uncertain whether she would require one-hundred-percent certainty
¶ 66. Chamberlin asserts that the trial court
erred first by not making a clear determination that Chamberlin had
established a prima facie case of discrimination by showing that the
State had exercised seven of its twelve peremptory challenges to
strike black jurors from the regular panel. This argument is moot
since all three steps of the Batson analysis were completed. See
Hernandez v. New York, 500 U.S. 352, 359, 111 S.Ct. 1859, 114 L.Ed.2d
395 (1991). The United States Supreme Court has held that under
Batson, “[o]nce a prosecutor has offered a race-neutral explanation
for the peremptory challenges and the trial court has ruled on the
ultimate question of intentional discrimination, the preliminary issue
of whether the defendant had made a prima facie showing becomes moot.”
Hernandez, 500 U.S. at 359, 111 S.Ct. 1859. In Thomas v. State, 818
So.2d 335, 342-45 (Miss.2002), where the trial judge did not make a
definitive ruling on whether the objector had made a prima facie case,
this Court held that such a ruling was moot, since the judge decided
the ultimate question of whether the State exercised its challenges
with a discriminatory purpose.
¶ 67. For the first four jurors challenged,
jurors five, thirty-eight, eighty-one, and ninety-two, Chamberlin
offered no rebuttal to the State's reasons. As the State asserts,
Chamberlin is procedurally barred from arguing pretext as to the first
four jurors, for whom she did not argue pretext to the trial court.
See Flowers, 947 So.2d at 921-922 (citing Evans v. State, 725 So.2d
613, 632 (Miss.1997) (finding that the defendant's argument of pretext
was barred from consideration on appeal because the argument as to
that particular juror was presented for the first time on appeal)).
¶ 68. On the remaining three challenged jurors,
jurors 104, 106, and 117, Chamberlin argued reasons why they would
make good jurors but failed to rebut the specific reasons proffered by
the State for striking them. The objector must come forward with
proof when given the opportunity for rebuttal. Thomas v. State, 818
So.2d at 344. “[I]f the defendant offers no rebuttal, the trial court
is forced to examine only the reasons given by the State.” Thorson v.
State, 895 So.2d 85, 119 (Miss.2004) (quoting Walker v. State, 815
So.2d 1209, 1215 (Miss.2002) (quoting Bush, 585 at 1268)). Because
Chamberlin failed to offer any proof that the State's reasons were
pretextual, the State's reasons for the challenges were the only
considerations before the trial judge. See Thomas, 818 So.2d at 345.
¶ 69. This Court must then evaluate “the
persuasiveness of the justification” proffered by the prosecutor,
while keeping in mind that “the ultimate burden of persuasion
regarding racial motivation rests with, and never shifts from, the
opponent of the strike.” Rice, 546 U.S. at 338, 126 S.Ct. 969;
Purkett, 514 U.S. at 768, 115 S.Ct. 1769.
¶ 70. The State exercised seven out of twelve
peremptory strikes against blacks and five against venire persons who
were not black. The State tendered a total of four potential black
jurors, two of whom the defendant struck. The resulting jury
included two black veniremen. The State offered reasons for the
strikes that the trial court considered race-neutral, and the defense
failed to rebut those reasons. Therefore, the defense did not meet
its burden to show “that the facts and circumstances give rise to the
inference that the prosecutor exercised the peremptory challenges with
a discriminatory purpose.” Considering the totality of the evidence,
the trial court's ruling on Chamberlin's Batson challenge was neither
clearly erroneous nor against the overwhelming weight of the evidence.
IV. WHETHER THE TRIAL COURT ERRED IN ALLOWING
THE INTRODUCTION OF GRUESOME PHOTOGRAPHS OF THE VICTIMS.
¶ 71. Chamberlin argues that, over her
objections, the trial court admitted thirteen prejudicial photographs,
each of which she alleges had no probative value. The State replies
that each photograph was relevant, as it aided in describing the
circumstances of the killings or causes of death, or clarifying or
supplementing the witness's testimony to the jury.
¶ 72. Chamberlin cites Sudduth v. State, 562
So.2d 67, 70 (Miss.1990), for this Court's statement that “photographs
of the victim should not ordinarily be admitted into evidence where
the killing is not contradicted or denied, and the corpus delicti and
the identity of the deceased have been established.” Id. at 70.
(citing Davis, 551 So.2d at 173; Shearer v. State, 423 So.2d 824, 827
(Miss.1982)). However, Chamberlin ignores the declaration
immediately following in which the Court stated, “[p]hotographs of
bodies may nevertheless be admitted into evidence in criminal cases
where they have probative value and where they are not so gruesome or
used in such a way as to be overly prejudicial or inflammatory.”
Sudduth, 562 So.2d at 70 (citing Davis, 551 So.2d at 173; Griffin v.
State, 504 So.2d 186, 191 (Miss.1987); Miss. R. Evid. 403).
¶ 73. Admission of photographs by the trial court
is reviewed for abuse of discretion. Dampier v. State, 973 So.2d 221,
230 (Miss.2008). A decision favoring admissibility will not be
disturbed absent a clear abuse of that judicial discretion. Id. The
discretion of the trial judge is “almost unlimited ․ regardless of the
gruesomeness, repetitiveness, and the extenuation of probative value.”
Id. (quoting Williams v. State, 544 So.2d 782, 785 (Miss.1987)).
See also Bennett v. State, 933 So.2d 930, 946 (Miss.2006); Jones v.
State, 920 So.2d 465, 476 (Miss.2006); McIntosh v. State, 917 So.2d
78, 83-84 (Miss.2005); Dubose v. State, 919 So.2d 5, 11 (Miss.2005);
Blake v. Clein, 903 So.2d 710, 728 (Miss.2005); Hodges v. State, 912
So.2d 730, 781 (Miss.2005). “Some probative value is the only
requirement needed in order to support a trial judge's decision to
admit photographs into evidence.” Jones, 920 So.2d at 476-477
(quoting Jordan v. State, 728 So.2d 1088, 1094 (Miss.1998) (quoting
Scott v. State, 878 So.2d 933, 985 (Miss.2004), overruled in part by
Lynch v. State, 951 So.2d 549 (Miss.2007)); McIntosh v. State, 917
So.2d at 84. “So long as a photograph has probative value and its
introduction serves a meaningful evidentiary purpose, it may still be
admissible despite being gruesome, grisly, unpleasant, or even
inflammatory.” Dampier, 973 So.2d at 230 (citations omitted). But
see McNeal v. State, 551 So.2d 151 (Miss.1989)) (the solitary instance
where this Court held a photograph, a close-up of the victim's partly
decomposed skull, was gruesome and lacked an evidentiary purpose and
was more prejudicial than probative). A photograph has a meaningful
evidentiary purpose when it: (1) aids in describing the circumstances
of the killing; (2) describes the location of the body or cause of
death; or (3) supplements or clarifies witness testimony. Dampier,
973 So.2d at 230.
¶ 74. Similarly, autopsy photographs are
admissible only if they possess probative value. Hodges, 912 So.2d at
781-82 (citing Puckett v. State, 737 So.2d 322, 338 (Miss.1999); Noe
v. State, 616 So.2d 298 (Miss.1993)). The comment to Mississippi
Rule of Evidence 401 states that if there is any probative value, the
rule favors admission of the evidence. Thorson, 895 So.2d at 120.
¶ 75. The State cites Simmons v. State, 805 So.2d
452, 485 (Miss.2001). In Simmons, the defendant gutted, beheaded,
and dismembered the victim and discarded the parts in a bayou.
Simmons, 805 So.2d at 470. The defense argued that the trial court
erred in admitting into evidence a photograph of the victim's severed
head. Id. at 485. This Court stated the aforementioned test that
“[p]hotographs of the victim have evidentiary value when they aid in
describing the circumstances of the killing, the location of the body,
the cause of death, or clarify or supplement a witness's testimony.”
Simmons, 805 So.2d at 485 (citation omitted).
¶ 76. In Simmons, the State used the photograph
in question numerous times. Id. at 485. Once, an officer used it to
identify the victim's head. Id. To the defendant's objection, the
State responded that it needed the photograph to identify the flesh
found in the bayou as human, and specifically, as belonging to the
victim. Id. The judge overruled the objection and the photo was
entered into evidence. Id. at 486. The State again used the
photograph when questioning the victim's girlfriend. Id. at 486.
She positively identified the head in the photograph as that of the
victim's. Id. This Court held that “[s]ince the discretion of the
trial judge runs toward unlimited admissibility, it is impossible for
this Court to say that the trial judge abused his discretion.” Id. at
¶ 77. Of the thirteen photographs in question in
this case, two depicted the bodies as they were found at the Gillett
farm. Exhibit 48 showed Hullett's body in the top of the freezer,
and Exhibit 49 showed Heintzelman's body after removal from the
freezer, still wrapped in a blanket as it had appeared in the bottom
of the freezer upon thawing. The State entered the photographs
during the testimony of a KBI officer who was describing what he saw
at the crime scene. He testified that the photographs aided him in
explaining what he saw.
¶ 78. The remaining ten photographs were taken
during the autopsies performed by Dr. Donald Pojman. Dr. Pojman
chose these photographs from his file for the purpose of helping him
explain the injuries about which he would testify to the jury. Dr.
Pojman testified as to each photograph that it was either necessary or
would aid him in explaining to the jury the injuries he found. Each
photograph varied in its depiction of scratches, scrapes and
lacerations on various parts of each victim's body, including on
Hullett's disarticulated arms; stab wounds and long cuts on
Heintzelman's back; and lacerations and holes in each victim's head
from hammer-inflicted injuries. The trial court admitted each
photograph over the defendant's objection that the photographs were
inflammatory, that their probative value was outweighed by their
inflammatory nature, and that the photographs “[went] beyond any
¶ 79. The question as to each photograph is
whether it: (1) had probative value and (2) aided in described the
circumstances of the killing, described the location of the body and
cause of death, or supplemented or clarified witness testimony. As
in Simmons, each picture to which the defense objected satisfied both
of these requirements. See Simmons, 805 So.2d at 485-86. In order
to exclude any photograph, the trial court would have been required to
find as to any particular photograph that, pursuant to Mississippi
Rule of Evidence 403, the probative value of such photograph was
substantially outweighed by the danger of unfair prejudice. With
Rule 403 and the record in this case squarely before us, we cannot
find that the trial court abused its discretion in allowing these
photographs to be admitted into evidence; therefore, this assignment
of error is without merit.
V. WHETHER THE TRIAL COURT ERRED IN DENYING
SENTENCING INSTRUCTIONS D-3 AND D-10.
¶ 80. Whether to give a jury instruction is
within the sound discretion of the trial court. Goodin v. State, 787
So.2d 639, 657 (Miss.2001). Chamberlin argues that the trial court
erred when it refused to give two proposed instructions, D-3 and D-10.
Proposed instruction D-3 read:
A mitigating circumstance is that which in fairness
or mercy may be considered as extenuating or reducing the degree of
moral culpability or blame which justify a sentence of less than
death, although it does not justify or excuse the offense. The
determination of what are mitigating circumstances is for you as
jurors to resolve under the facts and circumstances of this case.
The appropriateness of the exercise of mercy can
itself be a mitigating factor you may consider in determining whether
the State has proved beyond a reasonable doubt that the death penalty
¶ 81. Proposed instruction D-10 read:
If based upon your consideration of the aggravating
and mitigating circumstances each and every one of you agrees that
death is the appropriate sentence, you must still consider the final
step of the penalty phase process. Just as you are the sole judges
of the facts, so too are you the sole arbiters of mercy. Regardless
of your consideration of aggravating and mitigating circumstances, as
the jury, you always have the option to recommend against death.
This means that even if you conclude that death is an appropriate
sentence based on your consideration of mitigating and aggravating
circumstances, you may still show mercy and sentence Ms. Chamberlin to
life in prison. As a jury, this option to recommend life must always
be considered by each and every one of you before an ultimate and
irrevocable sentence may be passed.
¶ 82. Chamberlin argues that Kansas v. Marsh, 548
U.S. 163, 126 S.Ct. 2516, 165 L.Ed.2d 429 (2006), required the trial
court to give a mercy instruction in this case. However, Marsh does
not speak to or even consider the issue of whether a mercy instruction
is required. Rather, the Marsh Court held that “the States enjoy a
constitutionally permissible range of discretion in imposing the death
penalty.” Marsh, 126 S.Ct. at 2525 (quoting Blystone v. Pennsylvania,
494 U.S. 299, 308, 110 S.Ct. 1078, 108 L.Ed.2d 255 (1990)) (internal
quotations omitted). “[T]he States are free to determine the manner
in which a jury may consider mitigating evidence,” i.e., whether the
evidence should be viewed through the lens of mercy. Marsh, 126 S.Ct.
¶ 83. That discretion allows trial courts to
avoid the potential arbitrariness of an emotional decision encouraged
by a mercy instruction.
This Court has repeatedly held that “capital
defendants are not entitled to a mercy instruction.” Jordan v. State,
728 So.2d 1088, 1099 (Miss.1998) (citing Underwood v. State, 708 So.2d
18, 37 (Miss.1998); Hansen v. State, 592 So.2d 114, 150 (Miss.1991);
Williams v. State, 544 So.2d 782, 788 (Miss.1987); Lester v. State,
692 So.2d 755, 798 (Miss.1997); Jackson v. State, 684 So.2d 1213,
1239 (Miss.1996); Carr v. State, 655 So.2d 824, 850 (Miss.1995);
Foster v. State, 639 So.2d 1263, 1299-1301 (Miss.1994); Jenkins v.
State, 607 So.2d 1171, 1181 (Miss.1992); Nixon v. State, 533 So.2d
1078, 1100 (Miss.1987)). “The United States Supreme Court has held
that giving a jury instruction allowing consideration of sympathy or
mercy could induce a jury to base its sentencing decision upon
emotion, whim, and caprice instead of upon the evidence presented at
trial.” Id. (citing Saffle v. Parks, 494 U.S. 484, 492-95, 110 S.Ct.
1257, 1262-64, 108 L.Ed.2d 415 (1990)).
Howell v. State, 860 So.2d 704, 759 (Miss.2003).
See also Ross, 954 So.2d at 1012 (holding there was no error in
refusing the defendant's proposed instruction specifically citing
mercy or sympathy as a mitigator since “a capital defendant is not
entitled to a sympathy instruction, because, like a mercy instruction,
it could result in a verdict based on whim and caprice”); King v.
State, 784 So.2d 884, 890 (Miss.2001) (“neither side is entitled to a
jury instruction regarding mercy or deterrence”); Wiley v. State, 750
So.2d 1193, 1204 (Miss.1999) (“[T]he State must not cut off full and
fair consideration of mitigating evidence; but it need not grant the
jury the choice to make the sentencing decision according to its own
whims or caprice.”).
¶ 84. Additionally, the requested instruction
D-10 states that “even if you conclude that death is an appropriate
sentence based on your consideration of mitigating and aggravating
circumstances, you may still show mercy and sentence Ms. Chamberlin to
life in prison.” This Court has found that “a defendant is not
entitled to an instruction that the jury may return a life sentence
even if the aggravating circumstances outweigh the mitigating
circumstances or if they do not find any mitigating circumstances.”
King v. State, 960 So.2d 413, 442 (Miss.2007) (citing Holland v.
State, 705 So.2d 307, 354 (Miss.1997), Hansen v. State, 592 So.2d 114,
150 (Miss.1991), Goodin v. State, 787 So.2d 639, 657 (Miss.2001),
Foster v. State, 639 So.2d 1263, 1301 (Miss.1994)). “[T]his Court has
repeatedly refused to accept instructions that would nullify the
balancing of aggravating and mitigating factors, since such
instructions might induce verdicts based on whim and caprice.” Ross,
954 So.2d at 1012 (citing Manning v. State, 726 So.2d 1152, 1197
(Miss.1998), overruled in part by Weatherspoon v. State, 732 So.2d 158
¶ 85. The trial court did not abuse its
discretion in refusing either instruction. This issue is without
VI. WHETHER THE TRIAL COURT ERRED IN DENYING
CHAMBERLIN'S PETITION FOR PAYMENT OF TRAVEL AND RELATED EXPENSES FOR
¶ 86. Chamberlin argues that the trial court
erroneously denied her petition for payment of travel and related
expenses for her aunt and childhood best friend, who were to testify
during the sentencing phase. The State responds that Chamberlin
never obtained a ruling from the trial court on her petition, and
thus, the issue is procedurally barred.
Under Rule 2.04 of the Uniform Rules of Circuit and
County Court Practice, the burden is on the movant to obtain a ruling
on a pre-trial motion, and failure to do so constitutes a procedural
bar. See Berry v. State, 728 So.2d 568, 570 (Miss.1999) (“It is the
responsibility of the movant to obtain a ruling from the court on
motions filed by him and failure to do so constitutes a waiver of
same.”); Holly v. State, 671 So.2d 32, 37 (Miss.1996) (finding that
the burden to obtain a ruling on an in limine motion to exclude
evidence rests on the moving party); Martin v. State, 354 So.2d 1114,
1119 (Miss.1978) (same).
“It is the duty of the movant, when a motion ․ is
filed ․ to pursue said motion to hearing and decision by the court.
Failure to pursue a pretrial motion to hearing and decision before
trial is deemed an abandonment of that motion; however, said motion
may be heard after the commencement of trial in the discretion of the
court.” U.R.C.C.C. 2.04.
Ross, 954 So.2d at 992. Chamberlin's failure to
obtain a ruling on her pre-trial motion was a direct result of her
failure to request a ruling at an appropriate time. The trial court
heard several pre-trial motions brought by the defense, including a
motion for severance, a motion for change of venue, and a motion for
funds for an expert psychologist. The trial court granted the motion
for severance and the motion for change of venue. However, the
defendant did not present to the trial court her motion for payment of
travel expenses. Therefore, the trial court did not, in fact,
decline Chamberlin's pre-trial motion, rather, it did not rule on it
at all. This Court agrees with the State that this issue is
¶ 87. Further, this issue is without merit.
Chamberlin asserts that this denial of travel expenses for the two
witnesses constituted a violation of her rights to due process, equal
protection of law and a reliable capital sentencing hearing, in
violation of the Fifth, Eighth and Fourteenth Amendments to the United
States Constitution. Chamberlin cites Eddings v. Oklahoma, 455 U.S.
104, 102 S.Ct. 869, 71 L.Ed.2d 1 (1982), among other cases, in support
of this argument. This Court previously has stated:
[w]hile under the holding of the United States
Supreme Court in Eddings v. Oklahoma, 455 U.S. 104, 113-115, 102 S.Ct.
869, 71 L.Ed.2d 1 (1982), it might have been proper in the sentencing
phase of the trial to have such witnesses testify on Johnson's
background, that case is not authority for the proposition that a
state is required to furnish travel expenses for out-of-state
prospective character witnesses.
Johnson v. State, 477 So.2d 196, 215 (Miss.1985).
The opinion went on to state that defense counsel was, at a minimum,
“under a duty to furnish detailed statements in affidavit form from
each of these proposed witnesses as to what their testimony would be
in the trial of the case.” Id. The only thing counsel in that case
presented was an unsworn summary as to what the witnesses might have
testified. Id. The information in Johnson exceeded the information
provided in this case. Chamberlin's petition consisted only of the
statements that: (1) Chamberlin was a pauper; (2) the two witnesses
for which funds were requested did not have adequate funds for lodging
or travel; and (3) those witnesses were “vital to the defense of the
Defendant.” This Court finds the purpose of these two witnesses was
that of character witnesses, according to Chamberlin's post-trial
notice of filing of her statement of evidence, where she claimed
denial of the travel expenses in question violated her right to
present the jury the full range of her mitigating factors.4
Further, the psychologist testified as a mitigating witness during
the sentencing phase concerning information she gathered from
interviewing the aunt and childhood best friend about Chamberlin.
¶ 88. Chamberlin failed to meet her duty to
provide sufficient information to the trial court, and she further
failed to obtain a ruling on her motion. Therefore, this argument is
not only procedurally barred, but also without merit.
¶ 89. Mississippi Code Annotated Section
99-19-105(3) (Rev.2007) requires this Court to perform a
proportionality review when affirming a death sentence in a capital
case. Section 99-19-105(3) states:
(3) With regard to the sentence, the court shall
(a) Whether the sentence of death was imposed under
the influence of passion, prejudice or any other arbitrary factor;
(b) Whether the evidence supports the jury's or judge's finding of a
statutory aggravating circumstance as enumerated in Section 99-19-101;
(c) Whether the sentence of death is excessive or disproportionate to
the penalty imposed in similar cases, considering both the crime and
the defendant; and (d) Should one or more of the aggravating
circumstances be found invalid on appeal, the Mississippi Supreme
Court shall determine whether the remaining aggravating circumstances
are outweighed by the mitigating circumstances or whether the
inclusion of any invalid circumstance was harmless error, or both.
¶ 90. After reviewing the record in this appeal
as well as the death penalty cases listed in the appendix (attached),
we conclude that Chamberlin's death sentence was not imposed under the
influence of passion, prejudice, or any other arbitrary factor.
¶ 91. We also find that the evidence is more than
sufficient to support the jury's finding of statutory aggravating
circumstances. The jury unanimously found as to the murders of both
Hullett and Heintzelman that the aggravating circumstances were:
“[t]he capital offense was committed while the defendant was engaged
[in] or was an accomplice in the commission of or an attempt of flight
after committing a robbery” (Miss.Code Ann. § 99-19-101(5)(d)); “the
capital offense was committed for the purpose of avoiding or
preventing a lawful arrest” (Miss.Code Ann. § 99-19-101(5)(e)); and
“the capital offense was especially heinous, atrocious, or cruel”
(Miss.Code Ann. § 99-19-101(5)(h)).
¶ 92. Further, upon comparison with other
factually similar cases in which the death sentence was imposed, the
sentences of death were neither excessive nor disproportionate in this
case. Finally, we find that the jury did not consider any invalid
aggravating circumstances. Therefore, this Court affirms the death
sentences imposed in this case.
¶ 93. Based upon the aforementioned analysis,
this Court affirms the final judgments and sentences of the Circuit
Court of Forrest County as to Chamberlin for the murders of Hullett
¶ 94. COUNTS I AND II: CONVICTIONS OF CAPITAL
MURDER AND SENTENCE OF DEATH BY LETHAL INJECTION, AFFIRMED.
v. Arizona, 384 U.S. 436, 86 S.Ct. 1602, 16 L.Ed.2d 694 (1966).
clearly mentions “an attorney” on the tape, but from a review of the
tape, it cannot be determined exactly what she said. Chamberlin did
not testify at either the suppression hearing or the trial.
testified that Chamberlin communicated her request to speak to someone
“late [on] the 29th or early the 30th.” However, he corrected this
statement during redirect. Describing the events on March 30
pertaining to the visit to the landfill with Chamberlin and Hawel,
Barrett testified that after returning to the facility that night, he
had his last conversation with Chamberlin, in which she told him she
wanted to speak with a KBI agent.
State further argues that Chamberlin is procedurally barred from
having this Court consider her statement of evidence, filed pursuant
to Mississippi Rules of Evidence Rule 10(c), which states that while
the trial court did not rule on her motion on the record, the trial
court advised her that it would not authorize the funding. Having
found both that this issue is procedurally barred and that it had no
merit, this Court need not address this argument.
FOOTNOTE. Case was originally affirmed in this Court but on
remand from U.S. Supreme Court, case was remanded by this Court for a
new sentencing hearing.
LAMAR, Justice, for the Court.
SMITH, C.J., WALLER, P.J., EASLEY, CARLSON, GRAVES,
DICKINSON AND RANDOLPH, JJ., CONCUR. DIAZ, P.J., CONCURS IN RESULT
Lisa Jo Chamberlin