from Baldwin Circuit Court (CC-15-1577)
Sheffield was convicted of murder, see §
13A-6-2, Ala. Code 1975, and was sentenced to life
imprisonment. The Baldwin Circuit Court ordered Sheffield to
pay a $1, 000 fine, a $1, 603 crime-victims-compensation
assessment, and court costs.
and Procedural History
State's evidence at trial tended to show that Sheffield
shot and killed Jeffrey McMillian. On July 19, 2014, Kimberly
Paige and Latitia Lamley were bartending and Cathy McCary and
Alfred Bean of the musical duo "Al and Cathy" were
performing at Trader's Bar in Baldwin County. Paige,
Lamley, McCary, and Bean testified that McMillian, Sheffield,
and Sheffield's wife, Sheila, were at Trader's that
evening. Bean testified that, during a break in his
performance, he sat down at the bar to speak with a friend.
Bean saw Sheila sitting at the bar, and McMillian was
standing next to her. Bean testified:
"I heard a--I would say a shouting. And I turned and it
was--Mr. Sheffield was coming out of the bathroom and
he--shouting. And I think--and what I say was he hit Mrs.
Sheffield in the back of the head with a slap.
"When I heard him shout, I turned. And he came over
behind her and hit her in the back of the head (indicating)
with his palm. And at that point, Mr. McMillian pushed him
and said, 'What's your problem?' And Mr.
Sheffield punched him back."
(R. 187.) Bean heard Sheffield tell Sheila "that she
could get a ride home with him, meaning Mr. McMillian."
Wilson, who went to Trader's on July 19, 2014, to see Al
and Cathy perform, spoke with McMillian several times
throughout the evening. At one point, he and McMillian went
to the area of the bar where Sheila was sitting between two
open spots. Wilson stood to Sheila's left, and McMillian
stood to Sheila's right and began talking to her. Wilson
then witnessed Sheffield--whom he identified in
court--approach Sheila, slap her head, and pull her hair.
Wilson heard Sheffield say to Sheila, "[Y]ou can
fuckin' go home with him." Wilson saw Sheffield turn
toward McMillian, say something that Wilson did not hear, and
gesture toward McMillian with his finger before leaving
saw Sheffield shove Sheila and say that he was ready to
leave. Lamley testified:
"Jeff [McMillian] kind of sat there and talked to me for
a little bit. I had just given him another beer, so he sat
there and talked to me. And he couldn't believe that Mr.
Sheffield punched him in the face.
"He kind of just kept over-thinking the situation, and
then he asked me to watch his beer, he was going to go
downstairs. I said, 'Well, they have already left, just
let it go.' I tried to get him to stay in the bar but he
just was upset with the whole situation and felt like he
needed to go talk to Mr. Sheffield."
Falkenberry, V.J. Autrey, Mike Smith, and Terri Smith were
talking in the Trader's parking lot on July 19, 2014,
when they each heard a "pop" that they assumed was
a firecracker. Falkenberry "didn't think anything
about it at the time" but when she turned to walk to her
car, she saw McMillian lying on the ground and realized that
the sound she heard was actually a gunshot. Falkenberry
testified: "When I saw [McMillian] laying there, I
ran--I ran over and I remember yelling and saying, 'What
just happened? What did you just do?' And [Sheffield]
said that he shot him and not to touch him. And then I turned
around and screamed at my friends." Falkenberry
testified that Mike Smith then ran over and "went off on
Mr. Sheffield." Falkenberry testified:
"[Mike Smith] was yelling at [Sheffield], 'What did
you just do? Why did you do this?' And then [Mike Smith]
was--um, he was--he was hitting on [Sheffield]. He was--
"And then, um, he, Mr. Sheffield, said, 'I just used
this once'--and had the gun right there. Said, 'I
just used it once, I'll use it again."
(R. 343.) Falkenberry, Autrey, Mike Smith, and Terri Smith
testified that they did not hear an altercation before
hearing the gunshot and that the conditions in the parking
lot were such that they would have heard an altercation had
one occurred. Falkenberry identified Sheffield in court as
the person who admitted to shooting McMillian.
Richard Chenoweth with the Spanish Fort Police Department
responded to the shooting. A .40 caliber Glock brand
semiautomatic pistol was recovered from Sheffield; no other
weapon was recovered from the scene, and McMillian appeared
to have been unarmed. Investigator Chenoweth transported
Sheffield to the police station and informed him of his
Miranda rights. Sheffield gave an audio-recorded
statement, and the State played the recording for the jury.
Briefly summarized, Sheffield's account of the incident
went as follows:
Sheffield and Sheila arrived at Trader's between 9:30 and
10 pm on July 19, 2014. Throughout the evening, Sheffield
observed McMillian speaking to several groups of people.
Sheffield stated McMillian was "hitting on" and
dancing with various women, and he believed McMillian was
intoxicated. At one point, Sheffield stepped outside; when he
returned, he saw McMillian "over there on top of"
Sheila and assumed McMillian was drunkenly bothering her.
Sheffield told McMillian to get away from his wife and said
to Sheila, "Let's go, let's get out of
Sheffield left Trader's and was pulling his truck up to
the entrance when McMillian came outside. Sheffield could not
remember whether Sheila had made it to the truck, was walking
down the entrance-way stairs, or had gone back inside
Trader's at that time. Sheffield was outside the truck so
he could help Sheila get into the truck when he realized
McMillian was "hollering" that he was going to
"beat my ass, " but at that moment, Sheffield did
not know to whom McMillian was referring. McMillian then
descended the stairs, jumped on Sheffield, threw him against
the truck, and started beating the top of his head. McMillian
knocked Sheffield's glasses off and his dentures out of
his mouth, breaking them. Sheffield could not get McMillian
off him, so Sheffield pulled his .40-caliber Glock from his
right side and attempted to "pistol whip"
McMillian. Sheffield had his finger on the trigger while he
struggled to unholster the gun, and he feared McMillian might
try to wrestle the gun away from him. Sheffield had his hand
on the handle while he swung the gun down in an attempt to
get McMillian off him. During the altercation, the gun went
off, even though Sheffield had not intended to shoot
McMillian. Sheffield initially thought he had not shot
McMillian or that perhaps he had shot McMillian in the arm
because McMillian "went away from" Sheffield,
causing Sheffield to think McMillian had run away. McMillian
twisted around and fell; McMillian did not move, and
Sheffield saw blood and "couldn't believe it."
Sheffield told Sheila and others to call emergency 911. A
woman and a man approached, and the man pinned Sheffield to
his truck and began hitting him until police arrived.
Sheffield, who claimed he was in fear for his life, stated,
"I thought I was acting in self-defense, ... the guy was
beating the hell out of me. I'm an old man, I can't
get out there and fist fight .... I didn't have no
intention of shooting nobody." (State's Exhibit 84.)
Stacy Turner, a medical examiner with the Alabama Department
of Forensic Sciences, testified as an expert in the field of
forensic pathology. Dr. Turner, who performed McMillian's
autopsy on July 21, 2014, testified that McMillian died as a
result of a gunshot wound to the head and that "the gun
was pressed up against the skin at the time it was
fired." Dr. Turner recovered a bullet fragment from
McMillian during the autopsy.
hearing held outside the presence of the jury, the trial
court considered the State's motion to introduce into
evidence recorded telephone conversations between Sheffield
and Sheila under Rule 804(b)(3), Ala. R. Evid.--the
statement-against-interest exception to the rule against
hearsay. The State argued that because Sheila had invoked her
spousal privilege, she was an unavailable witness, and, as
Sheffield's wife, Sheila's statements against
Sheffield's penal interest were therefore also contrary
to Sheila's pecuniary and proprietary interest. In
response, Sheffield argued, among other things:
"We don't see how the statement that he murdered
somebody is against her pecuniary or proprietary interest. I
mean, he doesn't have a job. If anything, him going off
to prison could be within her pecuniary and proprietary best
interest. She makes statements on there about wanting to
divorce him and leave him. Those would be along the lines of
wanting to get rid of somebody. They're certainly not
against her interest to courier in her opinion."
trial court allowed the State to admit the recordings under
Rule 804(b)(3), Ala. R. Evid., because, the court stated,
Sheila was an unavailable witness, and a reasonable person
would not want her spouse to be sentenced to prison. The
court offered to issue an instruction with respect to
Sheila's unavailability as a witness and Sheffield's
lack of opportunity to cross-examine her, but Sheffield
declined such an instruction. The State played the recordings
for the jury:
"SHEILA: Well, what caused the incident (unintelligible)
"SHEFFIELD: Say what?
"SHEILA: Huh? Alcohol? No. No. Not me. You were smoking
a joint outside, and you, you turned your jealousy on some
innocent soul, took his life, and now you're worried
about your son? Okay.
"SHEFFIELD: Is he my son?
"SHEILA: Yes, he is.
"SHEFFIELD: Then what are you doing this to me for,
"SHEILA: I'm not going through this hell anymore,
Larry. I am not going through it.
"SHEFFIELD: Ain't nobody done it to you, Sheila. All
I done is ask you what's going on and you talking
"SHEILA: What have you done? What have you done? You
have hurt me. You have broken bones. You have killed innocent
people. You have accused me of shit that I have not--
"SHEFFIELD: Sheila, the guy come down there. He come
down there and jumped on me, Sheila. I was gone. I was
through. I was through with him. You told me he went by me, I
quit and left. That's--
"SHEILA: Larry, I know what happened. I know, I relive
it every night ...