Supreme Court of Missouri
Case Style: State of Missouri, Respondent
v. Earl M. Forrest, Appellant.
Case Number: SC86518
Handdown Date: 10/01/2006
Appeal From: Circuit Court of Platte
County, Hon. Owens Lee Hull, Jr.
Counsel for Appellant: Janet M. Thompson
Counsel for Respondent: Robert J. Ahsens
In December 2002, Earl Forrest, who had been
drinking, went to Harriet Smith's home and demanded that she fulfill
her part of a bargain to buy a lawn mower and a mobile home for
Forrest in exchange for Forrest introducing her to a source for
methamphetamine. During the ensuing melee, Forrest shot a guest of
Smith's, Michael Wells, in the face, killing him. Forrest also shot
Smith six times, killing her. He took $25,000 worth of
methamphetamine from Smith's home and returned to his own home,
where he had a shootout with law enforcement officers. He shot and
killed Deputy Joann Barnes. He also shot his girlfriend, Angela
Gamblin, and Sheriff Bob Wofford, both of whom survived. He was
charged with three counts of first-degree murder, and the jury found
him guilty on all three counts. The jury subsequently recommended a
death sentence for each of the three murders. Forrest appeals.
Court en banc holds:
(1) The court properly admitted the testimony of
two police officers. Although their testimony about the shootout at
Forrest's home was hearsay, it was not so prejudicial as to require
reversal. Forrest offers nothing other than speculation in his claim
of prejudice, and there is no evidence to support his contention
that the statements affected the trial's outcome. He also does not
prove, even if the statements constituted improper bolstering, how
the statements would have prejudiced his case in light of the
overwhelming evidence of his guilt.
(2) The court properly admitted evidence of
Forrest's alleged possession and distribution of illegal drugs in
California. Although Forrest was not charged with any crimes for
this alleged conduct, the state was permitted to introduce it during
the penalty phase trial as evidence of Forrest's character. In
addition, the court properly admitted victim impact testimony during
the penalty phase trial. It did not constitute impermissible hearsay
because it was not offered for the truth of the matter, and there is
no evidence that these statements prejudiced the jury or rendered
Forrest's trial fundamentally unfair. The trial court properly
instructed the jury how to consider the victim impact testimony.
(3) The trial court sustaining the state's
objection to certain arguments Forrest made during the penalty phase
did not deprive the jury of evidence in mitigation and did not
prejudice Forrest's case. Certain statements the prosecutor made
during closing arguments were within the scope of a party's latitude
in drawing inferences from the record, were appropriate inferences
based on the record and did not constitute prejudicial misconduct.
(4) The information charging Forrest with first-degree
murder was not defective, and the court properly instructed the jury
using instructions patterned after model approved instructions that
in no way shift the burdens of proof to the defense or preclude the
jury from giving proper effect to the burden of proof.
(5) The trial court did not err for not
admonishing the prosecutor and for not declaring a mistrial after
the prosecutor objected to recognizing two of Forrest's witnesses as
experts. The court certified both as experts for their testimony and
properly instructed the jurors that objections are not evidence.
(6) The evidence was sufficient to support the
jury's statutory aggravator finding that Smith's murder was
committed during Wells' murder without also finding that Wells'
murder was committed during Smith's murder. Wells was murdered first,
and it was reasonable for the jury to find that Smith's murder was
committed during that unlawful homicide. Forrest offers no authority
to support his proposition that multiple murders must be committed
simultaneously as opposed to during the same criminal transaction to
establish this statutory aggravator.
(7) A full review of the transcript shows that
the court did not abuse its discretion in striking from the jury
pool two potential jurors who objectively appeared to be unable to
consider the full range of punishment, including the death penalty.
(8) The prosecutor did not define or argue the
issue of Forrest's deliberation improperly. The record shows that
the prosecutor did not make the determination of deliberation in
place of the jury but rather argued that the evidence of multiple
victims, multiple wounds and the timing between gunshots warranted a
proper inference that Forrest deliberated.
(9) This Court repeatedly has rejected claims
that section 565.021, RSMo, is unconstitutionally vague because it
does not distinguish adequately first-degree murder from second-degree
(10) In its independent proportionality review of
Forrest's death sentences, this Court concludes there is no evidence
to suggest that the jury imposed the punishment as a product of
passion, prejudice or any other arbitrary factor. The evidence
supports, beyond a reasonable doubt, the jury's finding of three
statutory aggravating factors as a basis for considering the death
sentence, which is neither excessive nor disproportionate to the
penalty imposed in similar cases.
Opinion Author: Ronnie L. White, Judge
Opinion Vote: AFFIRMED. All concur.
A jury convicted Appellant, Earl M. Forrest, of
three counts of first-degree murder and recommended three death
sentences. Judgment was entered consistent with the jury's
recommendation. Appellant seeks reversal raising thirteen points of
error. This Court has jurisdiction pursuant to Mo. Const. art. V,
sec. 3. Affirmed.
The facts, which this Court reviews in the light
most favorable to the verdict, are:
On December 9, 2002, Appellant, who had been
drinking, and his girlfriend, Angelia Gamblin, drove to Harriett
Smith's home. Appellant and Smith apparently had a falling out over
a dishonored agreement with Smith to purchase a lawn mower and a
mobile home for Appellant in exchange for Appellant introducing
Smith to a source for methamphetamine. Appellant demanded that Smith
fulfill her part of the bargain. During the ensuing melee, Appellant
shot Michael Wells, a visitor at the Smith residence, in the face
killing him. He also killed Smith, shooting her a total of six
Appellant removed a lockbox from Smith's home
containing approximately $25,000 worth of methamphetamine and
returned to his home with Gamblin, where a shootout with the police
ensued. Appellant shot Sheriff Bob Wofford in the abdomen wounding
him. He killed Deputy Sharon Joann Barnes, shooting her once in her
chest and a second time in the back of her head. Appellant sustained
a bullet wound to his face. Gamblin was shot twice, once in her
shoulder and once in her back.
Appellant finally surrendered and was charged
with three counts of first-degree murder for the deaths of Smith,
Wells and Barnes. The jury found Appellant guilty on all three
During the penalty phase, the jury found the
presence of multiple statutory aggravators to support its unanimous
recommendation for a death sentence for each of the three murders.
With regard to the murder of Harriett Smith, the jury found that:
(1) her murder was committed while Appellant was engaged in the
commission of another unlawful homicide, that of Michael Wells; and
(2) Appellant murdered Smith for the purpose of receiving something
of monetary value. The statutory aggravator found in relation to
Michael Wells's murder was that he too was murdered for pecuniary
gain. The murder of Joann Barnes carried the statutory aggravator of
being committed against a peace officer while engaged in the
performance of her official duty.
Appellant raises three points claiming
evidentiary errors; points I, II, and XIII. Appellant contends that
the trial court erred when admitting the testimony of two police
officers that Appellant believed was hearsay and improper bolstering
of other testimony during the guilt phase trial. He also alleges
error with the trial court's admission of prior unadjudicated
criminal conduct and victim impact testimony during the penalty
"A trial court has broad discretion to admit or
exclude evidence at trial." "This standard of review compels the
reversal of a trial court's ruling on the admission of evidence only
if the court has clearly abused its discretion."
"[T]hat discretion is abused when a ruling is
clearly against the logic of the circumstances and is so
unreasonable as to indicate a lack of careful consideration."
Additionally, on direct appeal, this Court reviews the trial court "for
prejudice, not mere error, and will reverse only if the error was so
prejudicial that it deprived the defendant of a fair trial." Trial
court error is not prejudicial unless there is a reasonable
probability that the trial court's error affected the outcome of the
The disputed testimony of the two officers
involved their rendition of the shootout that occurred at
Appellant's residence. A review of the transcripts reveals that the
officers' testimony was repetitious when they were asked to describe
some of the events that transpired when additional officers arrived
on the scene and when Ms. Gamblin was shot. The statements involved
whether other officers had stated if they heard gun shots coming
from the house and whether Gamblin had stated that the Appellant was
the first to shoot when the police arrived. Appellant objected to
these statements at trial solely on the basis of being hearsay.
Consequently, the Court applies abuse of discretion review to the
hearsay argument but reviews the bolstering claim for plain error.
"A hearsay statement is any out-of-court
statement that is used to prove the truth of the matter asserted and
that depends on the veracity of the statement for its value." The
testimony in question was clearly hearsay. However, the admission of
the testimony, while being error, was not so prejudicial as to
require reversal. To the "extent a declarant is available for live
testimony, under oath, the dangers of hearsay are largely non-existent."
The declarants in this instance did
provide direct testimony and were subject to cross-examination.
Moreover, Appellant offers nothing other than speculation in his
attempt to claim prejudice, and there is no evidence to support the
contention that the statements affected the outcome of trial.
"Improper bolstering occurs when an out-of-court
statement of a witness is offered solely to duplicate or corroborate
trial testimony." "However, if the out-of-court statement is offered
for relevant purposes other than corroboration and duplication . . .
there is no improper bolstering." Even assuming, arguendo, that the
statements in question constituted improper bolstering, and that
they did not have independent value or were merely cumulative,
Appellant fails to demonstrate how the admission of these two
statements would have prejudiced his case. Not only would simple
prejudice be required under plain error review for this claim, but
that prejudice must rise to the level of manifest injustice or a
miscarriage of justice to rise to the level of reversible error.
Because the evidence of Appellant's guilt was
overwhelming, no manifest injustice or miscarriage of justice has
been shown that would entitle Appellant to relief under the plain
Appellant also claims error with the trial
court's admission of evidence concerning his alleged drug possession
and distribution of illegal drugs in California -- alleged crimes
that were never adjudicated. "[T]his Court has repeatedly held that
both the state and the defendant may introduce any evidence
pertaining to the defendant's character in order to help the jury
assess punishment in a penalty phase setting, even where that
evidence constitutes unadjudicated bad acts." Appellant's claim of
error is devoid of merit.
In his third claim of evidentiary error,
Appellant claims multiple errors in association with the admission
of the victim impact testimony from Joann Barnes's family members.
Appellant contends that the court admitted hearsay; evidence
ascribing blame to Appellant for the unrelated deteriorating health
of two brothers; inappropriate evidence of the family's desire that
Appellant receive the death penalty; and finally that the jury
lacked instruction or guidance in how to consider and weigh this
evidence or what standard of proof to apply to this evidence.
Victim impact evidence is admissible under the
United States and Missouri Constitutions. "[J]ust as the defendant
is entitled to present evidence in mitigation designed to show that
the defendant is a uniquely individual human being, the State is
also allowed to present evidence showing each victim's uniqueness as
an individual human being." Victim impact evidence violates the
constitution only if it "is so unduly prejudicial that it renders
the trial fundamentally unfair."
The alleged hearsay statements concerned the
observations of one witness as to how Barnes's nieces and nephews
reacted to her death. The transcripts reveal that the witness stated
that the nieces and nephews talked about their Aunt Joann's death
and that they couldn't believe what happened. There is no testimony
as to what exactly what the nieces and nephews stated. This
testimony was not offered for the truth of the matter asserted and
does not constitute improper hearsay.
With regard to the testimony mentioning Barnes's
brothers, one brother died subsequent to Ms. Barnes's murder and one
experienced multiple strokes, there was no testimony directly
linking, or even suggesting, that their deteriorating health was in
any way related to Ms. Barnes's murder. "It is not necessary that
every piece of victim impact evidence relate to the direct impact of
the victim's death on the witness."
The witness in question was testifying as to the
many hardships the family endured following Barnes's murder. There
is no evidence that supports the proposition that the jury was
incapable of understanding the court's instructions during the
penalty phase when it returned a recommendation for the death
The jury found, beyond a reasonable doubt, the
statutory aggravators necessary to support its recommendation. There
is absolutely no evidence that these statements prejudiced the jury
and no evidence that the admission of this evidence renders
Appellant's trial fundamentally unfair.
The statement calling for the imposition of the
death penalty was made to the judge, after the penalty phase, during
the sentencing hearing. There is no possible way that this statement
could have influenced the jury's recommendation. Even if the
statement was improper, "judges are presumed not to consider
improper evidence during sentencing," and Appellant has provided no
evidence to surmount that presumption.
Appellant's last contention that the jury was not
properly instructed on how to consider victim impact testimony or
what standard of proof to apply to that evidence is also lacking in
merit. Similar claims have been repeatedly rejected by this Court,
and having ruled on these issues previously, and having examined
this claim thoroughly and finding no error of law, an extended
opinion on these issues would have no precedential value.
In Appellant's points III and IX he raises
several claims of trial court error in association with the guilt
and penalty phase closing arguments. First, he asserts that
sustaining the State's objection to his penalty phase argument that
Appellant's family and friends would be "very, very, very distraught"
if the jury recommended a death sentence deprived the jury of
relevant evidence that would have rebutted or mitigated the victim
impact evidence put on by the State. Appellant also claims that
multiple statements made by the prosecution during the guilt and
penalty phase closing arguments constituted prosecutorial misconduct
and prejudiced his case.
"A trial court maintains broad discretion in the
control of closing arguments." "The rule is that unsworn remarks of
counsel in opening statements, during the course of trials or in
arguments are not evidence of the facts asserted." "Although courts
are to be careful to refrain from unduly restricting closing
arguments, they have the power to confine the arguments to issues
raised by the pleadings and the evidence." "A party may argue
inferences justified by the evidence, but not inferences unsupported
by the facts." "Review of the trial court's rulings during closing
argument is for abuse of discretion." "An argument does not require
reversal unless it amounts to prejudicial error."
"Defense counsel should have wide latitude in
drawing inferences from the record." "If the court prevents defense
counsel from making a point essential to the defense, the court has
abused its discretion," and "[t]he court should exclude only those
statements that misrepresent the evidence or the law, introduce
irrelevant prejudicial matters, or otherwise tend to confuse the
Appellant's claim that sustaining the State's
objection to his penalty phase argument somehow deprived the jury of
evidence in mitigation is erroneous. The argument was not evidence.
The argument was an attempt by Appellant to draw an inference from
testimonial evidence that was properly admitted and before the jury
to consider. While the trial court sustained the objection, the
State did not request, and the court did not sua sponte deliver, a
limiting instruction to the jury telling them that they could not
consider Appellant's argument. Even assuming, arguendo, that the
trial court abused its discretion when sustaining the objection, the
jury, having the argument to consider and having not been deprived
of the actual evidence from which the inference was drawn, was not
prejudiced towards Appellant's case.
Appellant also contends that numerous statements
made by the prosecutor during the guilt and penalty phase closing
arguments constituted prosecutorial misconduct and prejudiced his
case. In situations involving prosecutorial misconduct, the test is
the fairness of the trial, not the culpability of the prosecutor. "Where
prosecutorial misconduct is alleged, the erroneous action must rise
to the level of 'substantial prejudice' in order to justify reversal."
"The test for 'substantial prejudice' is whether the misconduct
substantially swayed the judgment."
The prosecutor's statements that Appellant claims
constitute prejudicial misconduct are:
(1) "Did he deliberate – did he
deliberate after the first shot? He had time. Did he
deliberate after the second shot? He had time again. After
the third? He had adequate time then. He kept shooting,
(2) "Now, is the fact that you knowingly shoot somebody
enough to be deliberation? In and of itself, no. But
certainly if you pull the trigger twice, was there time to
deliberate? You bet there was. And he shot Harriett Smith
five or six times."
(1) "I submit to you when you – when you get shot in the leg,
and shot in the palm, and shot in the wrist, and shot in the
torso, and then twice in the head, and again, there is no
reason to keep shooting somebody if they're already dead."
(2) "Your second option is – the second thing is you must
find that the statutory – that the aggravating circumstances,
that is, all the facts in the case taken as a whole are not
outweighed by the mitigating circumstances. And if you find
unanimously that that is so, then you will have that final
point of decision we talked about, with all options open."
(3) "Society, just like each one of us as an individual has
the right to self-defense, even if that right of self-defense
includes killing in order – against an unprovoked attack . .
. Society has the right to defend itself . . . you are
society. We look to you to defend us."
(4) "He says putting him in prison is enough, for life. You
know, well, unfortunately, there are people in prison too:
prisoners and staff and guards. It's not like he going to be
inside a concrete box with no access to anybody so society
is still at risk."
(5) "Remember the incidents described by Lt. Trudeau and
Officer Ridenour high speed chases . . ."
(6) " . . . the defense made a rather eloquent plea for
mercy, but I want you to understand what mercy is. Mercy is
something that is given by the powerful to the weak and the
innocent. You have power. He's not innocent."
(7) "I'm tempted to say and I think I will. How many people
do you get to kill before you stop them cold? If not now,
when? If not here, where?"
(8) "I was struck when I read some of what Edmond Burke had
to say, English philosopher . . . All that is necessary for
evil to triumph is for good men to do nothing. You could
send him to prison. He knows all about prison. I suggest to
you that that's tantamount to doing nothing."
(9) "Show me remorse in this case. Remember what Officer
Belawski said? He said he simply asked how Joann was. Why?
Because he knew that shooting a cop is one thing, killing a
cop is something else altogether and he knew it."
The State, just like the defense, has wide
latitude in drawing inferences from the record when presenting its
closing argument. A review of the record and trial transcripts
confirms that the prosecutor's guilt phase arguments were
appropriate inferences based upon the facts in the record. Similarly,
of the penalty phase arguments listed above, statements 1, 5, and 9
are appropriate inferences based upon the factual record. Statement
2 references the law in terms of statutory aggravators and it too
was made without error.
Statements 3 and 4, putting forth the argument of
societal self-defense, has previously been upheld by this Court and
the United States Supreme Court as being permissible and not
violative of a defendant's rights to a fair trial. Statements 6, 7,
and 8 all interrelate with the concept of whether the jury should be
merciful to Appellant.
"Prosecutors may discuss the concept of mercy in
their closing arguments because mercy is a valid sentencing
consideration, and in that connection may argue that the defendant
should not be granted mercy." Appellant provides nothing other than
speculation that exclusion of these statements would have changed
the outcome of his trial. Appellant's point alleging prosecutorial
misconduct is denied.
Appellant's points IV, V, XI, and XII raise
claims of error with numerous jury instructions. Appellant contends
that the written guilt phase instruction 4 and penalty phase
instruction 19, as well as the oral instruction, defining reasonable
doubt and patterned after MAI-Cr3d 300.02, were defective, thus,
subjecting him to conviction and sentencing based upon a lower
quantum of guilt. He also challenges penalty phase instructions
28-30, patterned after MAI-Cr3d 314.44; and penalty phase
instructions 34-36, patterned after MAI-Cr3d 314.48, claiming these
instructions failed to inform the jury that the State bore the
burden of proving aggravating circumstances beyond a reasonable
Finally, Appellant contends that guilt phase
instruction 5, on voluntary intoxication patterned after MAI-CR3d
310.50, shifts the burden of proof to the defense. Appellant
believes the wording of these instructions allowed the jury to infer
that the burden of proof was not beyond a reasonable doubt.
Appellant also claims that the State's information was defective for
failing to plead the statutory aggravating circumstances it intended
to submit at trial.
On claims of instructional error, "[a]n appellate
court will reverse only if there is error in submitting an
instruction and prejudice to the defendant." MAI instructions are
presumptively valid and, when applicable, must be given to the
exclusion of other instructions.
This Court has previously rejected these and
similar arguments concerning these MAI patterned instructions and
the defective information allegation. The information was not
defective, and these instructions in no way preclude the jury from
giving proper effect to the overall burden of proof or the burden
with proving aggravating circumstances and properly weighing the
mitigating evidence. None of these instructions shifts the burden of
proof to the defense. Having ruled on these issues previously, and
having examined these claims thoroughly and finding no error of law,
an extended opinion on these issues would have no precedential
value. The jury was instructed properly, and jurors are presumed to
follow the court's instructions.
In Appellant's point VI, he claims the trial
court plainly erred by failing to sua sponte admonish
the prosecutor and declare a mistrial when the prosecutor objected
to recognizing two of Appellant's witnesses as being experts. During
penalty phase, Appellant offered the testimony of doctors Michael
Gelbort, an expert in neuropsychology, and Lee Evans, an expert in
psychiatric pharmacology. The State objected to certifying them as
experts, but the trial court overruled the objections and certified
them as experts for the testimony they offered. Appellant requests
plain error review, acknowledging that he did not preserve his claim
by objecting to the prosecutor's statements.
"Issues that were not preserved may be reviewed
for plain error only, which requires a finding that manifest
injustice or miscarriage of justice has resulted from the trial
court error." Appellant's claims that the prosecutor's objections
amount to pronouncements of legal conclusions that prejudiced his
case are purely speculative and not supported by the record. The
doctors were certified as experts and the jurors were properly
instructed that objections are not evidence. Jurors are presumed to
follow the court's instructions. The trial court did not err
for not admonishing the prosecutor and for not declaring a mistrial.
In point VII, Appellant claims trial court error
with accepting the jury's penalty phase verdicts, arguing that the
verdicts were inconsistent. Appellant contends that because the
murders of Harriett Smith and Michael Wells were committed in close
proximity to each other in terms of time and location, that for the
jury to find that the murder of Smith was committed during the
murder of Wells but fail to issue a reciprocal finding creates
inconsistent verdicts that must be overturned. Appellant also
challenges the sufficiency of the evidence supporting the verdict
that Smith's murder was committed during Wells's murder. Because
Appellant failed to preserve these claims at trial with an
appropriate objection, this Court reviews for plain error.
Appellant's assertion that the jury was required
to find identical statutory aggravators for the murders of Smith and
Wells is erroneous. Wells was murdered first, and it was reasonable
for the jury to find that Smith's murder was committed during
another unlawful homicide, but not visa versa because Wells was
presumably dead at the time of Smith's murder. Moreover, even
assuming arguendo that the verdicts were inconsistent, "[a]n
inconsistent verdict ... does not require a reversal provided there
is sufficient evidence to support the jury's finding of guilt."
The gravamen of Appellant's sufficiency of the
evidence argument is that because Wells was killed first, Smith
could not have been killed during the commission of another unlawful
homicide. Appellant provides no authority to support the proposition
that multiple murders must be committed simultaneously, as opposed
to being committed during the same criminal transaction, in order
for sufficient evidence to exist to establish this statutory
aggravator. This Court has already held to the contrary. To succeed
on a claim for plain error review "requires a finding that manifest
injustice or miscarriage of justice has resulted from the trial
court error." The evidence was sufficient to support the jury's
finding. There was no trial court error to warrant proceeding to the
second prong of plain error review.
Appellant's point VII claims error with the trial
court's striking two venirepersons for cause. Appellant contends
that these individuals only indicated that they would have
difficulty signing a death verdict, not that they were incapable of
objectively considering giving a recommendation for the death
"A juror may be stricken for cause if it appears
that he or she cannot consider the entire range of punishment, apply
the proper burden of proof, or otherwise follow the court's
instructions in a first degree murder case." "The qualifications of
a prospective juror are not determined conclusively by a single
response, but are made on the basis of the entire examination." "The
trial court is in the best position to evaluate a venireperson's
commitment to follow the law and is vested with broad discretion in
determining the qualifications of prospective jurors." "A trial
court's "ruling on a challenge for cause will not be disturbed on
appeal unless it is clearly against the evidence and constitutes a
clear abuse of discretion."
During voir dire, the venirepersons in question
indicated they would have extreme difficulty in voting for the death
penalty. This was not a simple matter of these individuals being
unable to sign a recommendation for death. A full review of the
transcripts indicates that the trial court did not abuse its
discretion when striking these potential jurors, because objectively
they appeared to be unable to consider the full range of punishment.
In point X, Appellant argues that the trial court
erred when overruling his motion for acquittal and by failing to
sua sponte declare a mistrial when the prosecutor argued that
the facts supported a determination that he deliberated while
committing the homicides. Appellant also claims that section
565.020, defining first-degree murder, is unconstitutionally vague
for failing to adequately distinguish first from second-degree
Contrary to Appellant's contentions, the
prosecutor did not improperly define or argue the issue of
deliberation. The record reveals that the State argued that the
evidence of multiple victims, multiple wounds, and the timing
between shots warranted a proper inference of deliberation. The
prosecutor did not equate these facts with the definition of
deliberation, thus making the determination for the jury as
Regarding Appellant's constitutional claim of
vagueness that section 565.021 does not adequately distinguish first
from second-degree murder, this Court has rejected this claim
numerous times before. Having examined this claim thoroughly and
finding no error of law, an extended opinion on these issues would
have no precedential value.
This Court independently reviews the
proportionality of all death sentences.
Under section 565.035.3, RSMo 2000, this Court is required to
(1) the sentence of death was imposed under the influence of passion,
prejudice, or any other arbitrary factor;
(2) Whether the evidence supports the jury's or judge's finding of a
statutory aggravating circumstance as enumerated in subsection 2 of
section 565.032 and any other circumstance found;
(3) the sentence of death is excessive or disproportionate to the
penalty imposed in similar cases, considering both the crime, the
strength of the evidence, and the defendant.
Having thoroughly reviewed the record, this Court
concludes that there is no evidence to suggest that the punishment
imposed was a product of passion, prejudice, or any other arbitrary
The trial court's findings are next reviewed to
determine if the evidence supports, beyond a reasonable doubt, the
existence of an aggravating circumstance and any other circumstance
found. In this case, the jury unanimously found three statutory
aggravating circumstances as a basis for considering the death
sentence. The evidence supports, beyond a reasonable doubt, a
finding that the Appellant murdered Harriett Smith while committing
another unlawful homicide and for the purpose of receiving something
of monetary value. Appellant also murdered Michael Wells for
pecuniary gain, and he murdered Joann Barnes while she was engaged
in the performance of her official duty.
Finally, this Court has upheld sentences of death
in similar cases where the defendant committed multiple murders. The
death sentence in this case is neither excessive nor
disproportionate to the penalty imposed in similar cases,
considering the crime, the strength of the evidence, and the
The judgment is affirmed.
Earl Mitchell Forrest