MISSISSIPPI – Larry Matthew Puckett, march 20, 2012 – EXECUTED


The FACTS from court documents.

LARRY MATTHEW PUCKETT v STATE OF MISSISSIPPI

On October 14, 1995, shortly before 5:00 p.m., Mrs. Rhonda Hatten Griffis, age 28, was found lying in a large pool of blood next to the couch in the living room of her home on 198Sunrise Road, Petal, Mississippi. Mrs. Griffis was found wearing a t-shirt, and the only clothing on the lower part of her body was around her left foot. She had several gashes on the back of her head. There were other injuries to Mrs. Griffis’ head, back, and chest, including a deep laceration and three to four hesitation marks to the neck. She was also bleeding from her vagina. She had several defensive wounds on her hands, arms, and elbows. Mrs. Griffis died as a result of the injuries; the cause of death was cranial cerebral trauma, secondary to blunt force trauma. A wooden stick or club covered with blood was recovered outside the residence.

Rhonda’s mother, Nancy Hatten, lived next door, roughly 150-175 feet from the Griffis’ trailer. On the day of the murder, Mrs. Hatten helped Rhonda’s boys, Justin, age 7, and Jeffrey, age 5, put up Halloween decorations in the yard. Rhonda was not feeling well that day, suffering from a headache and bad sinus problems. Later that afternoon, Mrs. Hattenwas in her front yard when she heard a “scream and a thud” come from the Griffis’ trailer. Mrs. Hatten then ran home and telephoned the trailer. The phone rang four or five times, but there was no answer. Mrs. Hatten hung up and dialed again, but there was still no answer. She then immediately went to the trailer.

As Mrs. Hatten neared the trailer, she saw David Griffis, Rhonda’s husband, and their two boys driving up to the trailer. David had been hauling pine straw all day and was returning with his last load. A blue truck was parked in the vacant lot beside the residence. Nancy entered the trailer door at the kitchen/dining room area and called for Rhonda but there was no answer. Puckett came from the hallway into the kitchen/dining area and raised a club back and started towards Nancy. As Nancy backed away from Puckett, Jeffrey entered the house followed closely by David. Justin was still outside. Nancy then took the children, ran to her house, locked the boys in the bathroom, and called 911. This 911 call was received by the 911 system at 5:01:15 p.m. and answered by the 911 operator at 5:01:20 p.m. At 5:01:41 p.m., Nancy was placed on hold, as 911 received a call from the Griffis’ trailer. Mrs. Hatten identified State’s Exhibit Number 3 as the club that Puckett had in his hand in the trailer.by  The Griffis family knew Puckett because he was once employed  While Puckett was employed by David, the employees would gather at the Griffis’ house before leaving for work.

Jeffrey Griffis testified that when he entered the home, he saw Puckett with a club in his hand and holding on to Mrs. Hatten’s shirt. David Griffis testified that when he entered the home, he saw Mrs. Hatten with Puckett standing in front of her with the club in his hand raised over his head. David indicated that Puckett was wearing army-type coveralls. The club had blood and a white substance on it. David asked Puckett what he was doing in his house and Puckett said he had hit a deer on the road and came to get David’s help and to 4 use the telephone. David called out for Rhonda but no one answered. However, Puckett told David that Rhonda was down at her mother’s house. David asked Puckett about the blood on the club and Puckett indicated that it was blood from the deer. David then dialed 911 from a portable phone that was laying on the counter beside him. This 911 call was received by the 911 system at 5:01:27 p.m. and answered by the 911 operator at 5:01:41 p.m. This (David’s) call was terminated at 5:04:42 p.m. At some point, David and Puckett struggled and David got the club from Puckett. David tried to keep Puckett in the trailer until the police arrived. However, Puckett took off running towards the door. As Puckett was running for the door, David swung the club and hit Puckett on the shoulder. Then, as Puckett ran out the door, David threw the club at him. Dr. Michael West testified at trial that the club, State’s Exhibit 3, was consistent with the wound pattern found on Puckett’s back.

Once Puckett exited the trailer, David entered the living room and reached for his pistol that was usually on a gun cabinet just to the left of the living room door. However, the pistol was not there. David did not see Rhonda’s body lying in the living room at this time. David then ran into the bedroom to retrieve a rifle from the bedroom closet. The bedroomdoor is straight ahead as you turn towards the cabinet. As David exited the bedroom and re-entered the living room, he then saw Rhonda laying on the floor. He saw that Rhonda was injured and dialed 911 again to inform the police. David’s second 911 call wasreceived by the 911 system at 5:05:01 p.m. and was answered by the 911 operator at 5:05:07 p.m. This call was terminated at 5:11:45 p.m. The time between the end of David’s first 911 call and the beginning of his second 911 call was 18 seconds. Sheriff’s deputies and paramedics arrived within minutes.

Before David fired Puckett, David considered him to be a decent employee and even wrote a letter of recommendation for Puckett to become an Eagle Scout. Another former employer of Puckett’s, Ray Watkins, testified that shortly before Rhonda’s murder, a maul handle was broken at his work site. Watkins had the maul handle for several years,between seven (7) and ten (10) years, and believed the maul handle to be State’s Exhibit No. 3. Watkins also testified that he had seen the handle in Puckett’s truck on several occasions.

Puckett was seen around 3:30 p.m. the afternoon of the murder at the same house from which David Griffis was collecting pine straw. Puckett’s blue 4-wheel drive truck was alsoseen passing the Griffis’ residence at approximately 4:41 p.m.

Puckett’s truck was recovered the next night in a wooded area in Perry County. On October 16, 1995, Puckett was apprehended near his mother’s home in Perry County. At the time of his arrest, Puckett nervously commented to his mother that “[t]his is a lot of law enforcement for somebody who just committed a burglary.” A duffle bag containing various items including a pair of coveralls was recovered from Puckett at the time of his arrest.

5.Puckett did not deny being in the trailer at the time of the murder, but testified that he witnessed David Griffis murder his wife. He indicated that he had originally planned only to burglarize the house in order to find money to pay his truck note. He stated that the idea to burglarize the house just popped into his head at the time he went by the Griffis’ house. Puckett testified that he parked his truck in a vacant lot beside the Griffis’ trailer and put his coveralls on. Puckett saw Rhonda’s car at the trailer, but proceeded to the door anyway and knocked. Puckett said that Rhonda let him in and they began to talk. Puckett said that he saw the stick (State’s Exhibit No. 3) lying on the living room floor. He stated that he and Rhonda began kissing and he then began acting out his sexual fantasy of undressing a woman while he remained fully clothed. He said that Rhonda then saw her mother approaching the trailer, grabbed her clothes and ran into the bedroom, and told Puckett to get rid of her mother. Puckett said heran into the dining room area and had picked up the stick and decided to scare Mrs. Hatten away with the club. Puckett further stated that after Mrs. Hatten fled with the children, David accused Rhonda of sleeping with Puckett and began hitting her with the stick that David took from Puckett. After beating his wife, David struggled to keep Puckett in the trailer, but Puckett was able to escape while David was calling 911. At trial, Puckett indicated the whole incident took four or five minutes. Puckett said he hid in the woods for two days because he was afraid of David.

Update : march 20, source :http://www.wlbt.com

Advocacy group calls for clemency in Puckett execution

watch the video click  here

Update : march 19,2012 sourcehttp://www.wtok.com

Group Protests Executions
Jackson, Miss.
A group that opposes the death penalty protested two executions scheduled in Mississippi this week.

Thousands of people have signed an online petition seeking to block the execution of death row inmate, Larry Matthew Puckett.

He is scheduled to die by lethal injection Tuesday at 6 p.m.

Puckett was convicted of sexually assaulting and killing his former boss’ wife when he was 18 years old.

His lawyers petitioned the U.S. Supreme Court last week to block the execution.

A group opposed to capital punishment spoke out Monday at the state capitol.

Mississippians Educating for Smart Justice want Gov. Phil Bryant to grant clemency to Puckett, as well as condemned killer, William Mitchell, who is also scheduled for execution this week.

“Neither of these men, William Mitchell or Matt Puckett, have had a fair trial,” said attorney Jim Craig. “Neither of them have had a real appeal. It’s time to quit hiding behind this fraud and accept the fact that our system is deeply flawed. And these two cases prove it.”

As of Monday, there were nearly 4500 electronic signatures on a petition called ‘Save Matt Puckett: stop an innocent man from being executed.’

Update : march, 15, 2012 source  : http://www.sunherald.com

JACKSON — A Mississippi prison inmate has asked the U.S. Supreme Court to block his execution Tuesday based on the argument that his lawyers didn’t do a good job and prosecutors discriminated against blacks during jury selection.

Larry Matthew Puckett is scheduled to receive a lethal injection for the 1995 sexual assault and beating death of Rhonda Hatten Griffis of Forrest County. His lawyers filed the request Wednesday to block the execution.

March, 16,2012 : Jamie Arpin-Ricci  Author & pastor, Little Flowers Community talks about matthew’s innocence

[…]In less than a week another friend of mine, Matt, is going to be dead — killed as surely and finally as the other two. I will not see his death, but because the setting of his death is determined (and by some, celebrated) I am already haunted by the images of him dying. It has not happened yet, but I feel as powerless to prevent his death as I am with the others.

You see, my friend Matthew Puckett is being executed by the state of Mississippi on Tuesday, March 20. Matthew has been tried and convicted of a brutal murder. Doubtless there are those who believe that deserves this end and will take great joy when his sentence is carried out. I am not one of those people.

While I know many of my fellow Christians do not agree with me on this point, my faith makes it impossible to condone capital punishment. I will not attempt to argue that position here, for there isn’t the space nor is it the primary point. Whether you believe in the death penalty or not, what I hope we can agree on is that, should we use this form of punishment, we had better be damn sure there is no question of their guilt. As I look at Matt’s case, there are simply far too many uncertainties to make such a sentence acceptable.

I believe that Matthew Puckett is innocent. For those not convinced, I hope that you will examine his case and recognize that he was not given the kind of justice our society boasts as being the right of every person. Given that reality, I ask that you consider signing this petition to save Matt’s life and/or contacting Mississippi’s governor, Phil Bryant, and ask for a stay. Allow Matt at least the chance to live his life, even if behind bars.

read full article

Supreme Court of United States

No. 11-6550      *** CAPITAL CASE ***
Title:
Larry Matthew Puckett, Petitioner
v.
Christopher B. Epps, Commissioner, Mississippi Department of Corrections
Docketed: September 26, 2011
Lower Ct: United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit
  Case Nos.: (09-70032)
  Decision Date: May 19, 2011
  Rehearing Denied: June 22, 2011
~~~Date~~~ ~~~~~~~Proceedings  and  Orders~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
Sep 19 2011 Petition for a writ of certiorari and motion for leave to proceed in forma pauperis filed. (Response due October 26, 2011)
Nov 2 2011 Order extending time to file response to petition to and including November 28, 2011.
Nov 28 2011 Order further extending time to file response to petition to and including December 1, 2011.
Dec 8 2011 Brief of respondent Christopher B. Epps, Commissioner, Mississippi Department of Corrections in opposition filed.
Dec 9 2011 Order extending time to file response to petition to and including December 8, 2011.
Dec 14 2011 Reply of petitioner Larry Matthew Puckett filed.
Dec 22 2011 DISTRIBUTED for Conference of January 13, 2012.
Jan 4 2012 Record Requested .
Jan 13 2012 Record received from the U. S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit (one envelope).
Jan 23 2012 Record received from United States District Court Southern District of Mississippi (two boxes).
Jan 26 2012 DISTRIBUTED for Conference of February 17, 2012.
Feb 21 2012 Petition DENIED.

~~Name~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ ~~~~~~~Address~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ ~~Phone~~~
Attorneys for Petitioner:
Keir Michael Weyble Cornell Law School (607) 255-3805
    Counsel of Record 103 Myron Taylor Hall
Ithaca, NY  14853
Party name: Larry Matthew Puckett
Sheryl Bey 4268 I-55 North (601) 351-2400
Meadowbrook Office Park (39211)
P. O. Box 14167
Jackson, MS  39236
Party name: Larry Matthew Puckett
Attorneys for Respondent:
Marvin L. White Jr. Assistant Attorney General (601) 359-3680
    Counsel of Record 450 High Street
P.O. Box 220
Jackson, MS  39205
Party name: Christopher B. Epps, Commissioner, Mississippi Department of Corrections

Supreme Court, state case 

On November 5, 2009, Puckett filed an appeal with the Fifth Circuit over the denial of his habeas petition in Federal District Court.

On May 19, 2011, the Fifth Circuit affirmed Puckett’s death sentence.

Petition 

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