State’s high court let’s Woods retrial decision stand

Published 12:01 am Monday, May 21, 2018

The Mississippi Supreme Court on Thursday refused to reconsider its March 1 decision to order a new trial in the murder conviction of Casey Woods.

On March 1, the Mississippi Supreme Court reversed and remanded Woods’ second-degree murder conviction for a 2015 homicide, ordering a retrial of the case in the Sixth District Circuit Court in Adams County on the basis that Woods did not receive adequate assistance of his legal counsel.

That ruling was appealed and the high court on Thursday rejected that appeal and stood by the decision for the retrial.

Email newsletter signup

Woods of Natchez was found guilty in 2016 in the Sixth District Circuit Court for the shooting of Pierre Tenner.

State Supreme Court Justices, Chief Justice William L. Waller Jr.; Presiding Justice James W. Kichens; Associate Justice Leslie D. King; and Associate Justice David M. Ishee concurred with Thursday’s decision, stating: “Woods’s argument that insufficient evidence supported the verdict was waived and is not properly before the Court. However, we reverse the judgment and remand the case to the Circuit Court of Adams County for a new trial due to ineffective assistance of counsel for the failure to file a motion for a new trial based on the evidence presented. A reasonable probability exists that the trial court would have granted a motion for a new trial had it been given the opportunity.”

Associate Justice Robert P. Chamberlin concurred in part and dissented in part with separate opinion joined by Presiding Justice Michael K. Randolph; Associate Justice James D. Maxwell II; and Associate Justice Dawn H. Beam.

The partly concurring and partly dissenting opinion, written by Chamberlin, reads in part: “Because I disagree with the majority’s conclusion that ‘there is a reasonable probability that the trial court would have granted a motion for a new trial,’ I respectfully dissent … While I agree that the failure to make any post-trial motions was ineffective assistance, I would not disturb Woods’s conviction, as he cannot demonstrate prejudice …”

Woods’ appeals to the original conviction were two-fold: he claimed that insufficient evidence existed to overwhelmingly convict him of murder rather than acting in self-defense, which the state supreme court rejected. His second claim, however, that his attorney provided ineffective assistance by failing to file a post-trial motion for a new trial was accepted by the court.

Defendants are guaranteed effective assistance of legal counsel by the constitution, and the court ruled that a failure to file the motion violated Woods’ rights.

In August 2015, a grand jury indicted Woods on a count of first-degree murder for shooting and killing Pierre Tenner, the estranged husband of Woods’ girlfriend.

The shooting was the culmination of a domestic dispute between Tenner and Woods’ girlfriend, Doris Tenner, that came three weeks before the incident, court documents suggest.

After going to Doris Tenner’s Hampton Court residence on May 24, 2015, and seeing Woods’ truck in the driveway, Pierre Tenner reportedly kicked open the front door while carrying a 12-gauge shotgun. When Pierre Tenner saw a man with his wife in the residence, Doris Tenner ran and locked herself in a bedroom before Pierre Tenner fired a round through the bedroom door, court documents state.

The incident ended with Pierre Tenner’s arrest, after which he was released on bond.

Three weeks later, Woods was again out his girlfriend’s residence when Pierre Tenner called Doris Tenner, who said she suspected her estranged husband had been drinking. Later, Pierre Tenner arrived at the residence while Woods was outside preparing to wash his truck.

Doris Tenner then made her first call to 911 at 12:15 p.m. and requested that police patrol the area, court records show. The facts of the case further state that he informed the dispatcher about the shooting incident from three weeks prior and also that she believed Pierre Tenner was drunk.

Following some arguments between Woods and Pierre Tenner, who was standing across the street with a neighbor, Doris Tenner called 911 again at 12:20 p.m., asking police to hurry.

The argument escalated when Pierre Tenner went to his truck, rolled the window down, put his hand in the truck and then put his hand behind his back before walking toward Doris Tenner’s residence, jurors were told at trial. While doing this, Pierre Tenner reportedly told Woods, “I missed you the first time, but I won’t miss you this time.”

Eventually, Woods grabbed a shotgun from the laundry room of the residence, which Doris Tenner reportedly did not know was on her property.

A neighbor testified that when Woods came out with the shotgun, Pierre Tenner began to advance toward Woods before Woods fired his shotgun and hit Pierre Tenner in his right thigh.

After hearing the gunshot, Doris Tenner made a third 911 call at 12:33 p.m. and “frantically told police that there had been a shooting.”

Police responded to the scene but found no weapons there.

Pierre Tenner’s blood alcohol content at the time of the shooting was reportedly determined to be .242, approximately three times the legal driving limit.

Thursday’s decision affirms that the case will be remanded back to the Sixth District Circuit Court in Adams County.