Appeals Court upholds manslaughter conviction in Perry Co. case

Published 6:33 pm Wednesday, August 23, 2006

The state Court of Appeals has upheld Jimmy Speagle’s 2003 conviction and life sentence for manslaughter in the slaying of Beaumont resident and his former neighbor Taylor Walker.

Speagle, who was also convicted of possession of a weapon after a felony, was sentenced in Forrest County as a habitual offender. Speagle had been previously convicted on other charges, including a 1979 incest conviction in Jones County.

Prosecutors said Walker was shot to death in 2004 at an apartment complex where both he and Speagle lived.

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According to the court record, Speagle called police and told them he shot Walker. Speagle told investigators that he shot Walker at close range after they had argued and after Walker was trying to choke him.

However, other testimony was that Walker was standing more than two feet away and fell immediately after being shot.

Speagle claimed he was innocent under the so-called Weathersby rule.

The Weathersby rule states “that where the defendant or the defendant’s witnesses are the only eyewitnesses to the homicide, their version, if reasonable, must be accepted as true, unless substantially contradicted in material particulars by a credible witness or witnesses for the state or by the physical facts or by the facts of common knowledge.”

Appeals Judge Donna M. Barnes, writing Tuesday for the court, said the facts of the case contradicted Speagle’s claim that he was being choked when he shot Walker.

“The evidence suggests very strongly that Speagle shot Walker from some distance and not in reasonable self-defense,” Barnes said.

In another case, the Appeals Court upheld Dexter Williams’ capital murder conviction and life sentence for the killing of his ex-girlfriend’s 2-year-old daughter.

Williams was convicted in Washington County in 2003 in the death of Shakyla Trisby.

Prosecutors claimed Williams held Trisby in a tub of scalding water, after the child had soiled her pants. The child died later of infections from her burns.

Williams had argued on appeal that prosecutors failed to prove that the child was abused. In Mississippi, capital murder is defined as murder committed along with the commission of another crime — in this case, child abuse.

Williams claimed prosecutors had to prove that he intended to burn Shakyla.

Appeals Judge David Michael Ishee, writing for the court, said testimony at the trial was that the child was extensively burned on her feet, legs, buttocks and lower back, but no burns showed up on her hands, arms or front torso.

Ishee said experts testified because there were no splash burns and her burns were consistent with being held, or immersed, in hot water.

Ishee said the evidence from the experts contradicted that of Williams that the child stepped into the bathtub.