Miss. Supreme Court to hear murder case

Published 4:27 pm Tuesday, June 3, 2008

The Mississippi Supreme Court has agreed to hear the appeal of a Mobile man who was convicted of murder for his role in the 2004 shooting death of Patrick Anderson.

The key issue in Desmond Walton’s appeal is that his statement to authorities should not have been used in his 2005 trial in Forrest County on grounds he was not read his Miranda rights before questioning by authorities.

The familiar warning given by police tells suspects they have a right to remain silent and the right to have an attorney. They are told that anything they say may be used against them in court and if they can’t afford a lawyer, one will be appointed for them by the court.

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The state Court of Appeals last year ruled that the trial judge erred in allowing the jury to hear the statement, but other evidence was so overwhelmingly against Walton that the error was harmless.

The Supreme Court agreed this past week to hear the case.

Walton, who was sentenced to life in prison in 2005 in Forrest County, was one of five men accused in the slaying of Anderson at the victim’s Rawl Springs home on June 1, 2004.

Prosecutors said Anderson was a known drug dealer and a member of the Black Gangster Disciples. Prosecutors said some gang members gave police the nicknames, and one possible real name, of potential suspects.

According to the court record, Jonah Pinkney turned himself in and gave investigators the names of Jerry Street, and two brothers, Eric and Michael Love. Pinkney, Michael Love and Street testified against Walton, identifying him as the shooter, the court record showed.

According to court documents, in an interview with police that was played for the jury, Walton initially denied he shot Anderson. As the interview went on, Walton said he had gone to buy drugs, and during the drug deal, Anderson reached to his side or back and pulled out a handgun, and Walton said he shot Anderson in self-defense.

Prosecutors admitted that Walton was not read his rights before the interview and the trial judge erred in allowing the jury to hear the tape recording. Nevertheless, prosecutors said the action did not harm their case because of other evidence that showed Walton’s guilt.

Walton did not testify in his own defense.

The Appeals Court said Walton’s statement was not a confession and the videotape was prejudicial to Walton’s defense. However, the Appeals Court said three witnesses testified against Walton with two of them saying they saw Walton shot the unarmed Anderson.