Offenders: Terry Hye Jr., 16, & Darwin Wells, 15
Victim: Michael David Porter, 44
Crime location: Moss Point
Crime date: October 23, 2008
Crimes: Attempted robbery & murder
Accomplice: Alonzo Kelly, 17 (left beforehand)
Murder method: Gunshots
Murder motivation: Robbery
Convictions: Hye-capital murder; Wells–murder by deliberate design
Sentences: Life in prison
Michael was killed during an attempted robbery after he and his wife Linda stopped at a gas station to ask for directions to their grandson’s high school football game. Kelly, Hye, and Wells were charged with the crime. Tevin Benjamin, who was 14 at the time of the crime, was also charged. He was convicted and sentenced to life in prison though Mississippi’s Supreme Court threw out his conviction and ordered a new trial. He was then acquitted of the murder but was later imprisoned for other crimes. Kelly, who left before the murder, pleaded guilty to being an accessory after the fact to capital murder and testified for the state. Hye was convicted of capital murder and sentenced to life in prison. Wells, the “trigger man,” was convicted of murder by deliberate design and sentenced to life in prison and is eligible for parole at age 65.
Moss Point killer gets new sentencing hearing in court decision
Published: May 29, 2013
JOHN FITZHUGH — SUN HERALD
2012 ruling bans mandatory life sentences for minors
JACKSON — Terry Hye Jr. was a teenager when he was convicted and sentenced to life in prison without parole in the 2008 slaying of a father who had stopped at a Moss Point store asking for directions to a prep football game.
On Tuesday, the state Court of Appeals threw out his life sentence without parole and ordered Hye resentenced. The court upheld Hye’s capital murder conviction in Jackson County.
Hye’s age — 16 at the time of the shooting death of Michael David Porter — prompted the ruling by the Appeals Court.
A U.S. Supreme Court ruling in 2012 banned states from imposing mandatory life sentences on juveniles.
Appeals Court Judge Joseph Lee, writing for the 9-1 majority, said the attorney general’s office agreed Hye should be resentenced.
Appeals Judge Virginia Carlton, in a dissent, said the majority was ignoring a portion of the Supreme Court decision that allows judges to look beyond the crime at other factors such as a prisoner’s age at the time of the offense, the person’s background and perhaps evidence that an inmate has changed while incarcerated.
“Here, the record contains ample evidence of Hye’s maturity, deliberateness of his participation in the crime, his disdain for the law, and his disrespect for the value of human life,” Carlton said.
Carlton said those factors make the life without parole sentence appropriate in Hye’s case.
Carlton also said Hye was convicted before the Supreme Court ruling.
Hye’s trial lawyers maintained their client was in the wrong place at the wrong time and prosecutors didn’t prove Hye participated in the slaying.
Prosecutors told the jury Hye wasn’t an innocent bystander, and that Porter, a veteran Marine, could have fought off a single attacker.
Prosecutors said a group of teens attempted to rob Porter, who struggled with them. Porter and his wife had stopped at a Conoco gas station in Moss Point to ask for directions to their grandson’s football game in Pascagoula.
Prosecutors said Porter was shot in the left side as he was getting back into his car.
Two other teenagers were convicted in the case and a fourth pleaded guilty.
JOHN FITZHUGH/SUN HERALD Terry Hye Jr. was ordered resentenced Tuesday after he was convicted as a teen in the 2008 slaying of a man who stopped at a Moss Point gas station and asked for directions. Hye was previously sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole.Moss Point man wins new sentencing hearing in 2008 slaying case
Life without parole: Terry Hye Jr., 18, sentenced in gas station shooting death of visitor on way to football game
Updated Jan 02, 2019; Posted Mar 06, 2010
PASCAGOULA, Miss. — Terry Hye Jr., 18, of Moss Point was convicted of capital murder and sentenced to life without parole Friday for his role in the 2008 shooting death of Michael Porter of Hattiesburg.
The 12-member jury, selected in Lauderdale County because of media coverage of the case, deliberated slightly more than an hour.
Jackson County Circuit Court Judge Dale Harkey sentenced Hye immediately after the verdict. Because of Hye’s age — he was 16 at the time of the crime — life without parole was the only sentence possible. A capital murder charge in Mississippi usually carries the death penalty as a possible sentence.
“Come see me Saturday,” Hye said to family members in the courtroom as he was led away.
Hye will be transferred to the Central Mississippi Correctional Facility in Rankin County within the next 30 days.
District Attorney Tony Lawrence said justice was served with the verdict.
“For someone to come into our community and have this kind of crime committed on him was horrible,” Lawrence said.
Hye’s attorney, Arthur Carlisle, said he was disappointed and planned to appeal.
“I truly believe in my client’s innocence 100 percent,” Carlisle said. “I don’t know what went wrong.”
Hye is the second teenager to be convicted in the death of Porter outside the Conoco gas station on Grierson Street in Moss Point on Oct. 23, 2008.
The 44-year-old Porter and his wife, Linda, stopped to ask directions to their grandson’s high school football game between Gautier and Forrest County at War Memorial Stadium in Pascagoula, testimony revealed this week.
Darwin Wells, 17, who was described as the triggerman, received a life sentence in October after a jury found him guilty of murder by deliberate design. Wells, of Moss Point, will be eligible for parole at age 65.
A third Moss Point teen, 16-year-old Tevin Benjamin, is scheduled to go on trial May 3 on a capital murder charge.
Prosecutors alleged that Hye and Benjamin jumped Porter as he was trying to get into his convertible Mercedes to drive away, and that Wells shot Porter through the car window.
Hye’s defense claimed that Wells and Benjamin were responsible for Porter’s death and that Hye was walking home.
A fourth Moss Point teen, 19-year-old Alonzo Kelly, pleaded guilty to accessory after the fact to capital murder and testified Tuesday for the state. He placed Hye at the robbery and shooting scene.
Porter’s widow also testified Tuesday. Some of Hye’s supporters directed derogatory comments to her when she entered the courtroom and while she spoke on the witness stand.
“I was not happy with the way certain individuals behaved when Mrs. Porter came back to our community to receive justice,” Lawrence said. “I think that was despicable.”
Harkey issued a stern warning Friday before the verdict was read aloud for a standing-room-only courtroom.
“There will be no expressions of approval or disapproval when the verdict is rendered and published in court,” Harkey said. He warned that any violators would be “removed and arrested.”
On October 23, 2008, Michael and Linda Porter stopped at a Conoco gas station in Moss Point, Mississippi, to ask for directions. Linda testified that Michael got out of the car and began to walk toward the service station. Linda noticed three young black males standing near the car. One of these men had a white towel draped over his head. As Michael returned to the car, two of the men attacked him. Michael was able to get into the car, shut the door, and put the car in gear. Linda testified she saw the man with the white towel on his head walk toward the car, pull out a gun, and shoot Michael through the car window. Linda stated the car sped forward down the road. Linda tried to manage the car, eventually running the car into a ditch. Linda then sought help for Michael, who died from his injuries. Linda was unable to identify these three men.
The shooter was later identified as Darwin Wells, who was fifteen years old at the time of the murder. Wells was convicted of deliberate-design murder and sentenced to life imprisonment. Wells’s conviction was affirmed by this Court in Wells v. State, 73 So.3d 1203, 1204 (¶ 1) (Miss.Ct.App.2011). Three other men were questioned about Michael’s murder: Hye, Tevin Benjamin, and Alonzo Kelly. At the time of the murder, Hye was sixteen years old, Benjamin was fourteen years old, and Kelly was seventeen years old.
Kelly testified for the State at Hye’s trial. Kelly was initially charged with capital murder but ultimately pleaded guilty to accessory after the fact and served eleven months in jail. According to Kelly, earlier that day he, Hye, and Benjamin met Wells at a store, the Little Super. Benjamin and Wells stated they needed money, and Wells said he would “hit a lick.” Kelly stated this meant getting money by any means, legally or illegally. The group left the Little Super and walked to Kelly’s house. On the way, Wells got into a fight with another person on the street. The police responded, and all four men were searched. No weapons or drugs were found on the men. After this, Wells left the group for the afternoon.
The group met again a few hours later at the Little Super. Wells stated again that he needed to “hit a lick.” Hye indicated he needed to find someone to buy him cigarettes, so the group walked to the Conoco. On the way Wells showed his gun to Kelly. Kelly’s testimony indicates the whole group, including Hye, knew Wells was carrying a gun. Once the group neared the Conoco, Kelly decided to leave and turned around at a stop sign one block away from the Conoco. Kelly was concerned that “every time we go down there or something, we always get locked up for something.” As he was turning away, Kelly said he heard a gunshot and saw Wells, Benjamin, and Hye run past him. However, at one point, Kelly testified Hye and Benjamin were still standing in the road when Wells approached the Porters’ car.
Hye testified in his own defense and denied any involvement with Michael’s death. Hye stated he thought Wells wanted to sell drugs when he said “hit a lick.” Hye said he found someone to buy him cigarettes at the Conoco, but he never set foot on the property. According to Hye, after the Porters drove up, Wells ran from the side of the store but slipped and fell. Only then did Hye notice Wells had a gun. Hye said he and Kelly were walking away when he heard a gunshot.
Benjamin and Wells were called to the stand but refused to testify, each invoking his right against self-incrimination. Zachary Kelly, Alonso [sic] Kelly’s cousin, was called to testify as to a conversation he had with Kelly. Zachary also invoked his right against self-incrimination.
Hye, 2013 WL 2303518, at * *2–4.
¶ 3. This Court granted Hye’s Petition for Writ of Certiorari by order entered on January 9, 2014. On June 12, 2014, this Court ordered supplemental briefing regarding “[w]hether Griffin v. State, 533 So.2d 444 (Miss.1988), and its progeny, authorizing ‘lesser non-included’ offense instructions[,] should be overruled.”
¶ 4. Having reviewed the supplemental briefing regarding the question outlined in the June 12, 2014, order from this Court, we find that Mississippi’s practice of instructing the jury on lesser nonincluded crimes is “fundamentally unsound.” We, therefore, overrule Griffin and its progeny. Additional facts, as necessary, will be related in our discussion.
March 21, 2014
Tevin James Benjamin, the youngest of four teenagers arrested in the 2008 slaying of Michael David Porter in Moss Point, has been acquitted of capital murder in a second trial on the charge.
The trial had been moved from Jackson County to Lafayette County because of pretrial news coverage of the case.
The Mississippi Supreme Court threw out Benjamin’s conviction last June and ordered a new trial.
Authorities said Porter and his wife had gotten lost driving from Hattiesburg to their grandson’s football game in Moss Point in 2008. Authorities say he was shot during a robbery attempt at a gas station.
Benjamin, who was 14 at the time of the shooting, was convicted of capital murder and sentenced to life in prison in 2010 in Jackson County. The Supreme Court ruled that a trial judge “erred in denying Benjamin’s motion to suppress his statement to the police, which was given in violation” of his Miranda rights.
Court records show Benjamin denied participating in the shooting, instead saying he was at a fair. Authorities say that was an alibi the group concocted and that it in itself implicated Benjamin.
The Lafayette County jury returned the verdict Thursday.
“I am shocked and disappointed with the verdict handed down,” District Attorney Tony Lawrence said in a statement.
Lawrence said the Supreme Court prevent the jury from hearing “a critical piece of evidence against the defendant because we were unable to use his statement at this trial.”
Two others — Darwin Wells and Terry Hye Jr. — have been convicted in the case.
Wells was convicted of a reduced charge of murder by deliberate design in October 2009. He was sentenced to life and is eligible for parole at age 65. He was 15 at the time of the slaying. His conviction is under appeal.
Hye, who was 16 at the time of the shooting, was convicted of capital murder in March 2010 and sentenced to life without the possibility of parole.
Last May, the state Court of Appeals upheld Hye’s capital murder conviction but threw out his sentence due to his age. Hye is now asking the state Supreme Court to vacate his conviction or give him a new trial.
A fourth Moss Point teen, Alonzo Kelly, was charged with accessory after the fact to capital murder and pleaded guilty in 2009. Kelly, who was 17 at the time of the incident, is serving five years in prison. There is no appeal pending.