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State v. Gaines

Court of Criminal Appeals of Tennessee, Nashville

August 22, 2014


Assigned on Briefs June 17, 2014

Direct Appeal from the Criminal Court for Davidson County No. 2012-B-1557 Cheryl A. Blackburn, Judge

Jeffrey A. DeVasher (on appeal), Sarah King (at trial), and Kristin Neff (at trial), Nashville, Tennessee, for the appellant, Ladarron S. Gaines.

Robert E. Cooper, Jr., Attorney General and Reporter; Andrew C. Coulam, Assistant Attorney General; Victor S. Johnson, III, District Attorney General; and Bret Gunn, Assistant District Attorney General, for the appellee, State of Tennessee.

Norma McGee Ogle, J., delivered the opinion of the Court, in which Jerry L. Smith and Roger A. Page JJ., joined.



I. Factual Background

At the appellant's May 2013 trial, Officer Will Amundson of the Metropolitan Nashville Police Department (MNPD) testified that about 6:00 p.m. on February 1, 2012, he and his partner were in their marked patrol car in a parking lot at the intersection of Douglas and Lischey Avenues and conducting "some traffic enforcement." Officer Amundson described the intersection as a "four-way stop." He said that it was "just getting dark outside" but that the intersection was well-lit by street lights and lights from buildings. As the officers were watching the intersection, they observed a 2000 white Ford Taurus travel through the intersection without coming to a complete stop. Officer Amundson saw the driver and said the driver was a large, bald, African-American male.

Officer Amundson testified that he pulled onto Douglas Avenue and sped up to catch the Taurus. After about five seconds, he turned on his patrol car's lights and siren to initiate a traffic stop. Instead of stopping, the driver of the Taurus sped up to about seventy miles per hour. Officer Amundson stated that Douglas Avenue was a two-lane road in East Nashville, that the area was commercial and residential, and that the speed limit was forty to forty-five miles per hour. Officer Amundson said that the Taurus approached an alley and that the driver slowed down "just enough to cut a hard turn on the alley and not bottom out." The driver then "floored it down the alley" and "got up to about fifty." Officer Amundson followed the Taurus into the alley. When the Taurus got to the end of the alley, the driver did not stop and "just kind of flew back into the roadway." Officer Amundson stated that 6:00 p.m. was "rush hour traffic" and that "traffic was having to stop and cars were having to kind of work around [the Taurus] to not get in accidents and not get hit by [it]."

Officer Amundson testified that he and his partner decided to stop pursuing the Taurus due to the risk to the public. However, Officer Amundson had seen the first two numbers of the Taurus's license plate, 8 and 2, and they began canvassing the area, looking for the car. About two to four minutes later, they found the Taurus parked about one and one-half miles away. He stated that the car was "kind of pulled into a back alley slash driveway area" at 1001 Pennock Avenue and that its license tag number was 828 ZRD. Officer Amundson said that it was cold outside and that he felt the hood of the Taurus. The hood was very hot, indicating that the car "had just been recently running either for a long time or at a high rate of speed." He also smelled "burnt brakes from braking a lot [and] stopping." The car was locked, and Officer Amundson saw no signs that it had been stolen.

Officer Amundson testified that he reported the Taurus's tag number to dispatch and learned the tag was registered to Shemeka Goliday at 1500 Porter Road. While Officer Amundson and other officers were standing around the Taurus, Iconia Jean Andrews arrived in a maroon Chrysler. Officer Amundson said that upon seeing the Taurus, Andrews was in shock, was very upset, and said, "[O]h, my God, what has he done[?]" Andrews gave the appellant's name to the officers and told them the Taurus belonged to "Meka." Andrews also told them that she and the appellant had a child together but that the appellant was cheating on her with Meka and driving Meka's car. Andrews claimed the appellant had asked her to come there and pick him up. In the officers' presence, Andrews telephoned the appellant and tried to get him to "come out." However, he told her "that it was too risky, to just go ahead and leave."

Officer Amundson testified that while he and his partner were still on the scene, his partner received a telephone call from Kimberly Meneese, who lived at 1006 Pennock, about someone trespassing on her property. Meneese claimed that she had seen a man run from a car and jump over her fence and that "she had that recorded on video." The officers went to Meneese's home, and she showed them a still picture on a television screen of a man climbing over her fence. Officer Amundson pulled up a photograph of the appellant on the computer in his patrol car, and the appellant looked like the man climbing the fence. He stated, "It was -- it was pretty obvious to everyone that was in the room that had seen the photograph in the computer and seen the still photograph that this was the individual that had run from us and who we looking for." Officer Amundson asked Meneese if the police "might be able to get a copy of the video for evidence." However, he never returned to her home to get the copy. That night, he obtained a warrant for the appellant's arrest. He arrested the appellant on March 22, 2012, at 1500 Porter Road.

On cross-examination, Officer Amundson testified that he followed the Taurus westbound on Douglas Avenue for two or three blocks, that the Taurus turned left into the alley, and that he followed the Taurus into the alley. Officer Amundson turned off his patrol car's lights and sirens in the alley. He said that the Taurus turned left out of the alley and that he "saw some of the cars having to stop and having to look out for [the Taurus] and everything." He acknowledged that he did not get a clear look at the driver's face but said that the driver was wearing a dark-colored, long-sleeve t-shirt. When the officers found the Taurus at 1001 Pennock, Officer Amundson spoke with the people who lived there, but they did not know anything about the car's owner. The officers did not search the car or try to obtain fingerprints from it. Officer Amundson acknowledged that Maneese lived "across the street from 1001 Pennock and three houses down."

Kimberly Meneese testified that she lived at 1006 Pennock. She said that she had had problems with people trespassing, that she had a fence around her property, and that she had a video surveillance system monitored by seven security cameras. On February 1, 2012, Meneese was standing at her living room window and saw a man walk in front of the window. She described the man as African-American, "nice-looking, " and bald. She said that she had never seen him before, that she was "freaked . . . out, " and that she telephoned the police immediately. When they arrived, she showed them a "full facial" picture of the man from her security system. She said that she had had the security cameras for about seven months at that time and that she later tried to make a copy of the video but did not know how. After two weeks, the images were recorded over. She identified the appellant in court as the man she saw on February 1, 2012.

On cross-examination, Meneese testified that the appellant was walking, not running. She did not call 911 when she saw him but called an officer who previously had helped her with issues in the neighborhood. It was dark when she saw the appellant, and she only saw him for a couple of seconds. She said that he was wearing a jacket and matching pants and that the lighting in her yard made his clothing look "white or like an acid blue jeanish white or something like that." The police asked her to keep a copy of the surveillance video. However, she thought the appellant got away and did not think the police would ask her for it. Also, she did now know at the time that the video would be recorded over after two weeks. Therefore, she did not have the video for trial.

On redirect examination, Meneese testified that she had "new high-tech bulbs" lighting her back yard. The lights were on all the time.

Shameka Goliday testified that she lived in an apartment at 1500 Porter Road. In February 2012, she owned a 2000 white Ford Taurus. The State asked her where her car was on February 1, 2012, and she answered, "I don't even remember what day it was that I didn't have my car. But the only time I can recall not having my car is when I let the mechanic look at my car." She said that the mechanic had the car "sometime last year at the beginning" and that it needed a new fuel pump. When the mechanic returned the car to her, it was not fixed. She said that the mechanic's first name was "John" but that she could not remember his last name or telephone number. She said ...

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